“Self-care” – 4. & 5. On sweat, my favourite yoga videos, and eating less pizza

Here’s the third post in my “self-care” series, after I wrote last week that although the term “self-care” wasn’t in my childhood or teenage vocabulary, it’s become something I’ve learned is crucial, from listening to wonderful podcasts and reading great blogs on “lifestyle design”, mental health issues, and figuring out how to live and breathe in today’s changing and demanding world.

For the next week or so, I’m going to share some of the best things I do to give myself a little space, even when I’m so busy or anxious I feel like I barely have time to pause. Today, food and exercise (SIGH).

  1. Reducing carb and sugar intake, aka, limiting my Franco Manca visits
food-salad-healthy-lunch

(Credit: Pexels.com)

There are more arguments around this than people on the planet, but basically, through trial and error and diets and periods of eating rubbish I’ve found that I feel better and healthier if I generally avoid carbs with my food about 90% of the time. Everyone has to do what works for them.

I’m still fatter than I want to be and I still have a serious sweet tooth (and bread tooth, and cheese and gin) but even leaving behind all the crap about Atkins and paleo and cutting out food groups and ascribing morality to certain foods – top tip, don’t do it – I know that I feel better if I don’t eat pasta, bread, potatoes or rice, or any of their friends.

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Let’s stop with the negative self-talk, OK?

True, that

True, that

Really thought about this advert from Whole Foods during my workout today. I see this poster every time I walk into the Tube at the moment, and you know what? It’s so right.

I did another HIIT workout this morning, even though yesterday’s workout meant my thighs and calves were killing me (even after a bit of stretching), and it wasn’t easy. I felt tired and weary, and try as I might my legs felt heavy pretty much all the way through.

I kept going, of course, but damn if a tiny negative voice started piping up, going “No point doing it if you’re not going to do it properly”, “jump higher, how lazy are you?”, “ENGAGE the muscles, stop cheating when you bend down, commit to it, for god’s sake”. Etc etc. All the good stuff (not).

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“Bodyshaming on bodyshaming”? Why bashing the Protein World poster isn’t the same as bashing the model in it

This week I wrote a blogpost criticising a poster that’s been cropping up around
London – a now-infamous Protein World advert selling protein powder to help women
get their body ‘ready’ for the beach.

Credit: @Seja75 on Twitter

The poster has been widely mocked for its perceived sexism and suggestion that only
one kind of body – a thin, traditionally-beautiful one – is ‘ready’ for the beach. There has been a petition against it, the Advertising Standards Agency is investigating it, and there is a planned demonstration against it in London’s Hyde Park this Saturday.

However, my main problem with it wasn’t the sexism (although wow, how lazy do you need to be to use a woman in a bikini to sell something?), or the predictability of asking women if their body is ready for the beach in spring. It’s staggeringly unoriginal, but you know,
whatever – that’s not my point.

My point was that it showed only one kind of body – the kind that is ALWAYS shown as
ideal – as the absolute pinnacle of beach-body-ness. However, neither was I especially thrilled with the ad’s use of photography or the expression on the model’s face. Legs apart, her back to the wall, scantily-dressed, an ambiguous and not-particularly-happy look on her face, the model didn’t seem that empowered or happy with her protein powder. Which kind of misses the point, no?

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The 8 stages of getting yourself out of bed for a morning workout

It’s been over a year since I started working out 5 to 7 days a week.

As a total night owl who rarely feels human until about 10am or later, I started my routine by doing my workouts in the evening, knowing that if I tried to do them in the morning, they’d never get done. For me, establishing a daily workout habit was tough enough – contemplating doing it in the morning before work seemed like a nightmare too far.

It worked for a bit. I did my workout even if I’d been out for dinner, or if I got home a little late. It was tough, but do-able.

But then, life started to get in the way. I’d go out to meet a friend for dinner and not get back until far too late, I joined a choir with evening rehearsals, I moved flats and it started to look a little anti-social to work out at half ten at night.

And suddenly, the workouts stopped getting done. I felt lethargic, fat, dissatisfied, and unhappy that I couldn’t seem to maintain my new habit.

Suddenly, morning workouts seemed the only way: get it done before anything else, and still have a life in the evenings. Sorted! Ahem, well, yes, but…

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“Are YOU beach body ready?” Oh, do f*ck off

Apparently, if you don’t like this ad, you don’t like being healthy. Well, bollocks, frankly

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

I was particularly affronted to be greeted with this monstrosity of an advert on my daily commute this morning. Funny, I thought I was just minding my own business in my usual spot on the Jubilee line platform. But NOPE, actually I should be PERMANENTLY stressing over whether my body is “beach ready”. Duh.

Credit: @Seja75 on Twitter

Luckily, I’m not the only one to be affronted. A Change.org petition against the ads has nearly 30,000 signatures already. Sign it here! Also follow the link to see lots of people’s reasons for signing, including sexism, promotion of eating disorders, constant bombardment of these sorts of images…

But actually, my problem with it isn’t the usual “OMG sexism, skinny women’s bodies on show, bikinis, argh” outrage.

From my point of view, it’s about promoting one kind of body over all others, and suggesting that one magic protein powder will do that.The response of the company, Protein World, is particularly infuriating.

In the inimitable words of the TimeOut London Now Here This website: “Protein World do not appear to give a shit about any of the criticism. They argue that the the adverts are okay because the model has a healthy BMI. They also say: ‘It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren’t focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger.’“.

That’s suggesting that if you don’t like this ad, you don’t like being healthy. Well, bollocks, frankly.

Because don’t get me wrong. I love being healthy. I even like working out, because of how it makes me feel. I care about my fitness and health, spend time planning my meals and trying to make good choices when I eat and workout, and aspire to a strong, healthy body that looks good.

BUT this ad is promoting ONE type of body – on a rather miserable-looking model, at that – above all others, and making weight loss about looks, and being “beach ready” rather than strength, health and mental positivity, and suggesting that some protein powder rubbish will do that for you. All kinds of wrong.

Body positivity isn’t about shaming or being thin – it’s about feeling good in your skin. It means different things to different people – for me, it’s about being strong and functioning well, as well as being at the best weight for my figure. For others, it’s something else – recovery from an eating disorder, the freedom to eat what they like without worrying, or not conforming to others’ views of how they should look.

Credit: @DoveUK and @MTWTHRL on Twitter

So GTFO of my commute, Protein World, and PLEASE, stop talking to me about beaches when I’m on the way to work, yeah? Ta.

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

My boyfriend is disabled, so what?

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

The first time my boyfriend took his leg off for sex, it was a little weird.

The next time, it wasn’t really weird at all.

Now, I honestly barely notice ‒ or care ‒ that he has no foot from the left shin down (for which he wears a prosthetic leg). To answer your next question: he was born with it, due to amniotic band syndrome, which can restrict growth of limbs in the womb. And your other question – we met online (after I’d suffered my fair share of heartbreak in 2014).

One of the Valentine's Day cards Scope produced this year as part of the campaign, which my boyfriend and I actually found pretty funny :P

One of the Valentine’s Day cards Scope produced this year as part of its End The Awkward campaign, which my boyfriend and I actually found pretty funny 😛

Incidentally, he also has a corrected club foot, a scar from a corrected cleft lip, and problems with his fingers on both hands. No major deal though, (apart from the fact that he’s also gorgeous). Move along. Right?

Or so I thought. Turns out, according to the latest figures from charity Scope, released for the Valentine’s Day season, that 67% of people in Britain “feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people”. Apparently, my generation, the maligned “millennials”, feel twice as uncomfortable as other groups, with 21% saying that they had even “actually avoided talking to a disabled person”.

This has prompted Scope to launch a campaign called “End the awkward“. I’m genuinely flabbergasted that it’s even needed.

Because I’ve been on a lot of first dates, and let me tell you about awkward. Silence between two people who have nothing in common is awkward. Making a joke and having the other person not laugh at all is awkward. Hell, even accidentally making intense eye contact with a stranger on the train is awkward.

But honestly? When my now-boyfriend first told me, on our first date, about his disabilities, my reaction was “Huh, interesting, why’s that, hmm these meatballs are really good, tell me more, let’s have another cocktail so we can keep talking please?”. And I don’t think I’m unusual, or being especially “good”, just to be clear. It just felt like common sense.

I mean, obviously, I do ‘notice’, in the sense that I can see. But is it really “awkward”? Er, no.

As far as dating goes, it’s generally something to accept and get used to, like someone’s stupid laugh, or their inability to grasp why you care so much about the Bake Off.

It is lucky (for him!) that my boyfriend doesn’t need help doing stuff, and he isn’t confined to a wheelchair, which might be harder to manage. And no, of course it doesn’t hurt that I find him ridiculously sexy, and that he himself is pretty open about things.

But I do accept that there are certain issues. I’d be lying if I said I’d never worried about whether we’ll ever be able to do typical “couple-y” stuff like go on really long country walks or city breaks (because too much walking can hurt) or, I don’t know, hike Machu Picchu.

I sometimes worry about other people’s potential reactions, in case it might hurt or annoy him rather than because I give a toss what people think. I don’t like it when his leg causes him pain, and I feel sad that the disability means he hasn’t always been as confident as he might have been.

But you know, I’m sure – if our relationship is “meant to be” ‒ we’ll figure it out. Do a bit less hiking up hills or around cities, and a bit more sitting in country pubs, bars, taxis or trains. It’s hardly purgatory, is it?

Disability is just not a dealbreaker for me in the same way as someone being rude, stopping texting for no reason, or just generally behaving like a dick. And as anyone who’s done any dating in a city will tell you, at length, you don’t have to be disabled to do that.

Admittedly, before I met my boyfriend, I didn’t know anyone disabled, and hadn’t given “them” much real thought.

But then, I still don’t give “them” (as if they’re one big group…) much thought even though I’m dating someone who qualifies. Because often, they don’t need you to treat them hugely differently. Yes, people with reduced mobility might need you to consider access or transport alternatives, and those with intellectual disabilities might need you to slightly alter your expectations of what they can do.

But the key thing here? They’re all people. The same damn rules apply. Treat others how you want to be treated. Everyone has flaws, successes, insecurities, passions, and issues. Some people’s are just more visible.

My boyfriend may not have all his limbs or fingers, but he’s still a whole human being. That won’t ever change.

If the Scope research does its job, and makes people realise that a bit more, perhaps we – especially people my age – can all focus less on the fact that disabled people are “awkward”, and more on the really important relationship issues.

You know, like giving him a hard time for how long he takes to text back, taking issue with the fact he doesn’t like whisky (WHAT? I LOVE IT), and groaning at his sarcastic jokes…

There are plenty of things in a new relationship that can be awkward, as anyone who’s ever dated anyone will know. But your partner’s disability? Not so much.

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here