RIP Sally Brampton: Who could see joy in the ordinary

On my bathroom wall there’s a page torn from the back of my favourite magazine, Psychologies. It’s a column by Sally Brampton, who killed herself last month, after a long and much-documented struggle with terrible, colour-sapping, joy-slaughtering depression.

As I never knew her personally, Brampton’s death came as a shock. I discovered it, as I do most things, by faffing around on Twitter, and it took only a cursory Google to confirm it was true.

That Brampton apparently walked into the sea seems a heartbreaking yet curiously apt method for a woman who had often written of her love of the seaside, the happiness of meeting friends on the beach, and finding meaning in the tranquil ‘boredom’ of her life since moving from London.

Although she was much heralded as a brilliant editor, razor-sharp yet kind commissioner, and the architect of a new style of women’s magazine, I only discovered Brampton through her writing on depression and life in Psychologies.

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“Just write”, she said: On the wisdom of Laura Barnett, author of The Versions of Us

Last night I went to see Laura Barnett at a book event at Clapham Library, and found myself inspired not just by her beautiful novel, but also her honesty and clarity, and her very human appreciation of how very hard it is to find time to write

Laura Barnett, author of the wonderful 2015 novel The Versions of Us, is rare.

As her first ever published book, the novel was a Sunday Times bestseller, has been translated into over 20 languages, optioned for a TV series, and has enabled Barnett to put aside her previous journalism work and take to writing fiction full time. For a writer, it’s the dream.

Except, it wasn’t quite her first book. As she explained at her very own literary event at the opening night of the Omnibus Clapham Literary Festival last night – twinkly, friendly, articulate, funny, blonde and stylish as she was ‒ it was actually her third novel, and had been, at times, bloody tough to write.

Not that you could tell from reading it. It’s lyrical, beautiful; stunning in both description and characterisation – the individuals within it as real and flawed and insecure and loving and sexy and fragile and scared and fabulous as any actual human ‒ and as expansive and detailed in its descriptions as in its depiction of life and all its infinite tiny decisions and worries.

Much of it is set in Cambridge (my old uni), whose colleges are centuries-old and whose streets are seemingly impervious to the restless decades, and Rome (one of my all-time favourite cities), and Cornwall (where one of my best friends lives), so much so that I felt like it was almost written for me.

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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