untitled-design

Let’s Talk About Nutritionists

Food, News

With so much conflicting health and diet advice being so casually thrown around, sometimes knowing what to fill your fridge with can be a nightmare. For someone deep in the throws of disordered eating and struggling with its complexities, a qualified nutritionist can seem like a light at the end of the tunnel. No one knows better what we should and shouldn’t be putting in our bodies than a nutritionist right?

Well that’s exactly the problem. Now anyone can become a ‘qualified’ nutritionist (note my use of quotation marks here) by embarking on an online course which takes just 6 days to complete. The issue was flagged up in the recent BBC Three documentary, Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets – which is well worth a watch, by the way – in which presenter and blogger Grace Victory was able to enrol on the course at literally the click of a button, despite her openly having a history of disordered eating.

It is extremely unsettling that what should be an accomplished and respected profession is so readily accessible. For someone who suffers from troubled eating behaviours, whether presently or in their past, becoming involved in one of these courses is like adding fuel to an already roaring fire. Nourishing the obsession in such a way would undoubtedly have a drastically detrimental affect on their health.

Then you have those who believe that calling themselves a nutritionist entitles them to give sound dietary advice, reeling off long lists of foods to be avoided at all costs and pushing their latest money-making plant based craze on vulnerable followers. Yet what’s worse, is that their so-called qualification means we believe it, however far from accurate and extreme the advice may be.

In the UK, more or less anyone can call themselves a nutritionist because it is not a restricted title. To be a dietician however, requires at least four years of studying at university and to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Qualified dieticians undertake clinical placements and are trained to interpret blood results and medical notes, in other words, they can detect other deficiencies and health concerns caused by disordered eating. Even professionals who call themselves nutrition therapists are often self-regulated and have not completed this essential clinical training and are therefore not suitable to work with someone suffering with an eating disorder.

It is vitally important that anyone struggling with eating seeks the right help from someone who is going to give the right advice. Their Instagram bio may describe them as a ‘qualified nutritionist’ but they could just be another wellness blogger.

For those seeking help from a nutritionist, ensure that they are registered and are a full member of the Association for Nutrition.

There’s Nothing ‘Super’ About These Foods…

Food, News

Our health is priceless, so why are the supposedly healthiest foods so outrageously expensive?

People are starting to speculate about the so-called ‘superfoods,’ if one food is better than all the others, it must do or contain something pretty spectacular. Yet there is very little, to no evidence, to suggest that they do. These particular foods, which have become something of an elite club, are no better for us than the diet staples we have been eating for centuries. The only thing suggesting that these foods are ‘super’ is the price tag.

I’ve taken a select few members of the ‘superfood’ club and offered an equally beneficial alternative that won’t have you breaking out in a cold sweat at the checkout – in fact they’re probably already in your fridge.

 

kale

Kale

Alternative: Cabbage/Broccoli

Let’s get this straight, there is nothing exotic about kale. It contains the same amount of nutrients as any other green veg and it can easily be grown in your own back garden. Green veg such as cabbage and broccoli are half the price and just as good for us, they just aren’t as Instagram friendly right now.

goji berry

Goji Berries 

Alternative: Strawberries/Raspberries

The goji berry, famously used in Chinese medicine for it’s healing powers and equally famous for being outrageously expensive in the supermarket. There is no evidence to show that the goji berry is more beneficial than any other fruits and a BBC documentary showed that fruits such as strawberries contain the same amounts of vitamin C. Fresh raspberries even contain less sugar and are therefore a better option for our diets and our purses.

 

coconut

Coconut Oil

Alternative: Rapeseed Oil

Coconut oil has just as good of a rep in the bathroom as it does in the kitchen, but this reputation comes with a hefty price tag and the many benefits it is applauded for are apparently unfounded. Much better to invest in an oil such as rapeseed which contains healthy fats, or just stick to good old vegetable oil. Though I’m not sure I’ll be applying these to my hair and skin just yet.

quinoa

Quinoa

Alternative: Lentils

Quinoa is famously a good source of amino acids, great news for vegans as isn’t animal-based. However, the store cupboard staples, lentils and rice are proven to contain just as much in amino acids and even more in fibre and protein and are much, much cheaper. baked beans and peanut butter on wholegrain toast are also effective ways for vegans to get those essential nutrients without having to take out a loan.

wheatgrass

Wheatgrass

Alternative: Spinach

For some reason, wheatgrass has had a bit of a moment, becoming a favourite at health spas and gaining a reputation as the ultimate detox drink. It claims to boost red blood cell production and salve inflammation of the colon, however there either no evidence of this or it is inconclusive. The nutrient content is equivalent to that of the more common vegetable such as broccoli or spinach and a single shot – the fashionable way to consume it – doesn’t even count as one of your five a day. Need I mention that it tastes awful?

chia

Chia Seeds

Alternative: Sesame Seeds

The chia seed phenomenon has been quite something. Filtered photographs of them filling our Instagram feeds, sprinkled on top of cereals or mixed into a suspicious looking slop known as chia pudding. What happened to the good old sesame seed? They are far cheaper, contain almost double the amount of iron, with higher levels of calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6.

blueberry

Blueberries

Alternative: Blackberries

Blueberries are certainly healthy and a welcome addition to the bowl at breakfast time. However, these two fruits are roughly the same price in the supermarket and blackberries contain twice as much vitamin C.

salmon

Salmon

Alternative: Sardines

While there is evidence to support the fact that oily fish is a beneficial addition to our diets, this doesn’t mean we have to spend a fortune on it. Sardines are almost half the price of salmon but have none of the positive hype surrounding them. While they contain similar amounts of Omega-3, sardines contain more vitamin B12.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people should eat whatever they want and whatever makes them feel good. I just don’t believe that we should be spending a small fortune every time we do the weekly shop because a wellness blogger tells us one vegetable is better than all the others, or because everyone is sharing photos of their wheatgrass smoothies on Instagram. Especially when more often than not there is absolutely no scientific evidence to back up the claims. I wanted to show that there is no such thing as a ‘superfood’- all food is super because it keeps us alive.  As for a ‘superfood diet’, I’d prefer to call it a balanced one.

 

 

Have You Been Body-Shamed By The High Street?

Fashion, Uncategorized

Sifting through the racks in your favourite high street store, you feel that buzz of excitement at laying your hands on what appears to be the perfect garment. There’s an instant connection. It’s love at first sight. The elation, however, is short-lived – you get to the changing rooms only to discover that you can barely get the item over one limb. Yes, it is definitely your usual size, you’ve checked the label three times by this point. You wrestle with it for a bit before giving up, broken-hearted and half the woman you were when you walked in. I can assure you, you haven’t gained two stone over night, you are not fat, you are yet another shopper who has been body-shamed by the high street. It’s not you, it’s them.

As a human, who occasionally buys clothes, you’ll probably be familiar with the situation I am referring to and if you read the news or have a Facebook account, you’ll probably have heard of student, Ruth Clemens, who became a social media celebrity last week when her Facebook post to high street store H&M went viral. Ruth shared a photo of herself trying on a pair of supposedly size 16 jeans in the Manchester store, but despite only usually being a size 14, the photo clearly shows that the jeans barely make it over her hips. She posted the photo on the company’s Facebook page, alongside a strongly worded comment addressed to the store, bringing a number of issues to light, when she asks, “Am I too fat for your every day range?” and “Why are you making your jeans that are unrealistically small?”

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/student-slams-hm-sizes-jeans-11477647

ruth-postJPG

 

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It seems that being body-shamed by the high street is a regular occurrence for women everywhere, as Ruth’s post was met with messages of support from high-street shoppers across the globe.

Hollie Wilson replied saying, “I’ve had the same problem. I am a size 10 (sometimes a 12 on the bottom, usually in Topshop) and couldn’t get their size 10.”

Emma Hall wrote, “I’ve had the same trouble in H&M. I’m a size 14-16 and can never find anything that fits. Their size 16 is like a size 10!! X.”

While Louise Fairbrass hit the nail on the head, writing, “So glad it’s not just me. I don’t ever buy bottoms from H&M as they are TINY sizes!!!!! It’s quite disheartening to fail fitting into a pair of trousers 2 sizes above what you normally wear. Such a shame H&M because some of your clothes are really nice….. i guess you only want single figure sizes wearing them?!”

I can wholly relate to these frustrations, as I’m sure many can. This post went viral just as I had returned from my own shopping trip, on which I found myself on the verge of tears in the changing rooms of Topshop, when the struggle to get a tank top (in my usual size 10) over my head left me in a rather compromising position. I will also admit to owning a pair of size 10 H&M jeans, which only make it out of the wardrobe on very slim days.

While I understand that sizing can vary depending on style, fabric and cut – the very excuse that H&M offered in their half-hearted apology to Ruth – it seems that this is an ongoing issue with certain stores, making their clothes in unrealistically small sizes. As the average women’s dress size in the UK is a 14, a hell of a lot of women are being persecuted, however unintentional it may be.

What saddens me is that it seems a lot of us have readily accepted the fact that in some stores, such as H&M (although they’re not alone in this,) the sizes are renowned for being too small and simply choose not to shop there. While some may think that this loss of custom is the comeuppance the store deserves, what I can’t help thinking is, why should we accept this? We should be able to enjoy the pleasure that shopping and clothes can bring, in any store, confident that when we head into the changing rooms with that great pair of jeans the sizing will be accurate and realistic. We shouldn’t have to forgo our favourite stores because the sizes are so ridiculously small. The high street is supposed to be the go-to place for real women of real dress sizes, affordable and accessible to all – sort it out please.

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Weight Is Just A Number

Uncategorized

No one likes stepping on the scales to be faced with the horrible reality that they probably ate too many slices of cake last week. The chances are you’ve had your suspicions about those extra couple of pounds for a while but have been in a firm state of denial with yourself. Finally, you pluck up the courage to see for certain and can deny it no longer – the numbers don’t lie after all. While to most, a little weight gain is a minor confidence blip, an inconvenience, for me it’s a minefield. No matter what size I am, I spend my life both dreading it and trying to avoid it, in equal measure.

So when I started to return to health after an illness that saw me shrink to just under 8 stone, the joy and relief of recovery was tainted by the fact that I would inevitably gain weight. I knew it was something that needed to happen – I was the thinnest I’ve ever been, even when in the throws of an eating disorder, I just wasn’t prepared for how horrific it would be when it started to become physically noticeable.

I didn’t notice for a while, I was too busy thinking about what I was going to eat next, high on the excitement of being able to enjoy food again and while I was aware that the food I was shovelling into me wasn’t particularly good for me, I was powerless to my appetite. White bread, smothered with Lurpak became the staple of my diet, I would go to bed dreaming about McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and my boyfriend watched in awe as I devoured sticky toffee puddings every weekend at dinner. Concerned by these new eating habits, I broached the subject with my dietician and of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. My body was starving. I should point out that by this point I had been ill for a considerable amount of time, struggling to eat barely anything most days and what I did manage to eat, my body wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from. It turns out the human body is a pretty intelligent organism and it knows what it needs. I was craving these calorific foods, high in fat and carbohydrates, because my body was severely lacking the nutrients that they provide. The dietician reassured me that once my health and weight began to return to normal these cravings would stop and my diet would stabilise and she was right. Now that my body is nourished again, the bizarre cravings have stopped and I’m back to eating the balanced diet I had before, I’m back to myself again.

What isn’t quite as simple however, is accepting myself. As much as I know that gaining weight is a good thing, I can’t help but be disgusted every time I look in the mirror. When I step on the scales and the dial inches up a few more notches, my heart sinks a little bit more. Each time I’m offered a well-meaning compliment along the lines of,  “You’ve gained weight,” I die a little bit inside.

My arms – the only part of me I have ever considered as slim enough – now appear twice the size they used to be, my collarbone is no longer protruding and the gap between my thighs is getting smaller by the day. While all of these are positive signs, physical indicators of good health, I hate each and every one of them and I also hate the fact that I hate them. I’m happy my body is healthy again, yet I can’t accept it in its healthy form.

The worst part is not knowing if what I’m seeing in the mirror is as it really is or if my mind is lying to me, distorting my view with it’s dysmorphic tendencies. I might feel bigger than I’ve ever been, but the scales say I’m no heavier than I was before I fell ill – a healthy weight – and the numbers never lie, right?

I may be healthy physically, but mentally there’s still some work to be done. I need to listen to my body and to trust it, if I’m craving that slice of cake it’s not because I’m fat and greedy as the voice in my head would have me believe, it’s because my body needs sugar. I need to train my mind to work with my body rather than against it so that the dinner table is no longer a battlefield. I need to learn to love my body and to look after it, because it is healthy and for that I am grateful. For me gaining weight is the first hurdle, but the real recovery begins after.

Be Balanced Not Clean – The #EatClean Backlash

Food, Uncategorized

1

The ‘clean eating’ phenomenon has been clogging up our Instagram feeds for too long. It is finally starting to face its inevitable backlash and I for one, am glad. The ‘eat clean’ hashtag has been deceiving us for long enough, with Instagrammers and food bloggers convincing us that their raw, vegan, plant-based or superfood diet is not in fact a diet, but a simple lifestyle change resulting in a healthier way of living. We are led to believe that not only will eating clean help us lose weight, it will give us clear skin, shiny hair and resolve a whole range of health issues from digestive disorders to reducing the risk of certain cancers. Sounds too good to be true right? That’s because it is, unfortunately behind all those filters lies an unhealthy truth.

The irony is, that I actually enjoy many of the foods that fall into the ‘clean eating’ category, but it’s the term that I dislike. Describing a particular way of eating as ‘clean’ implies that any other way of eating is ‘dirty’ ‘unclean’ and generally negative, therefore shaming those who are not on the bandwagon. It’s that issue again of labelling certain foods and in this case, even entire food groups, as ‘bad’ and if we consume them, that makes us bad too. This is not just true when it comes to others, but also ourselves, leading to self-persecuting behaviours which are at best a very unhealthy way of thinking and at worst the early symptoms of an eating disorder. Lets remind ourselves that being healthy is not just about the body but the mind too.

Great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh, who has spoken publicly about her battles with eating disorders, has been one of the first to lash out against ‘clean eating’, penning a controversial column for Vice in which she attacks food bloggers – and now authors of their own cookbooks – such as Ella Henderson (now Mills) and the Helmsley sisters, the leaders or shall we say, instigators of the clean eating craze.

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ruby-tandoh-eat-clean-wellness

Like Tandoh, I bought into the clean eating concept, believing that I was heading towards a healthy lifestyle and that eating clean was a positive way to deal with recovery – I could concentrate on what I was eating, rather than not eating at all – and not only were these foods okay to eat but were actually good for me. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I was actually not recovering from my eating disorder at all, just channelling in a different way. I became obsessed with what I could and couldn’t eat, overcome with an astonishing sense of guilt if I so much as looked at a carb. For me, and for many, eating clean is just another way of controlling what you’re putting into your body.

Orthorexia, an eating disorder which stems from an obsession with ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ foods, is not yet officially recognised by the medical profession, but this doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous. I don’t want to presume, but the fact that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from this disorder in recent years, correlating with societies preoccupation with clean eating, I think speaks for itself. Food snaps and selfies of post-workout abs on Instagram, are just a part of the latest wave of thinspiration. These images which fill up our news feeds are just as detrimental as the photos of thigh-gaps and collarbones which I used to scroll through on Pro-Ana sites. Only now, the problem is that it brands itself as ‘wellness’, fooling us into believing it is a positive, healthy lifestyle. ‘Wellness’ is a term that should mean caring for and nourishing the body, but in this case, it is quite the opposite. While it is true that not everyone who chooses to ‘eat clean’ will develop an eating disorder, we need to be aware of the dangers and we need to stop branding these trends as healthy, preferable ways to live.

To me a healthy lifestyle is about being balanced, not clean. Cutting out entire food groups unnecessarily is not balanced and certainly not healthy. Eating healthy is not a new concept or a latest trend, it is what we’ve been doing for years – eating three meals a day which include fruit, veg, meat, fish, dairy and carbs. There’s a reason that these foods make up a balanced diet and that is because they contain the nutrients that our bodies need to survive. It’s incredibly simple, so why is this so often forgotten? Food is a resource for life, not the object of living.

Near the end of Tandoh’s column, she cites an experiment in which a group of women were fed foods they knew and enjoyed and then the same foods in a pureed form. The results showed that their bodies absorbed more nutrients from the meal they had enjoyed eating than from the less-palatable pureed form, proving that taking pleasure from what we eat leaves us better nourished.

So there you have it, scientific proof that enjoying your food is good for you. What you enjoy is down to you, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to diet and the best part of being balanced is finding foods that both you and your body love. Try new foods, experiment with recipes, learn to cook, go out to dinner and most importantly, ditch the #eatclean for #balancednotclean.

luxury blog image

What Does True Luxury Mean To You?

Uncategorized

Luxury

[luhk-shuh-ree, luhg-zhuh-]
noun, plural luxuries

‘free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being’

The dictionary defines a luxury as an indulgence, something beyond necessity, a pleasure to be sought after and enjoyed. We grow up with pre-conceived ideas about luxury, the thrill of fast cars, the feel of soft Egyptian cotton against your skin, the exhilaration of champagne bubbles slipping down your throat, white sand between your toes. To put it simply, luxury is usually inextricably connected to money and possessions. In reality though, it means something different to everyone. Who is to say that what gives one person the ultimate enjoyment out of life is the same for everyone else. In reality, luxury is much less a materialistic thing and more the ability to have a certain experience or a particular outlook. A feeling rather than a thing.

I recently read a blog post by about what true luxury means to someone who suffers from anxiety and it pretty much summed up all my thoughts on life right now. What luxury means to me has suddenly and dramatically changed, whereas I’ll gladly admit I used to have those very same materialistic concepts about luxury which I mention above, luxury for me now couldn’t be more different.

Luxury for me now is being able to eat a meal of my choice and actually enjoy it. At no point in my life did I ever think it was possible to get so excited about having a cup of tea in the morning – I actually go to bed looking forward to this very prospect. Speaking of which, another luxury is actually sleeping through the night, as is going to work every day. Luxury is waking up in the morning and wanting to go outside, to make plans with friends and to be able to stick to them, to not flinch or pull away when your partner touches you. Laughing and making someone laugh is one of the greatest luxuries life has to offer.

I used to read articles in magazines about people who had found a new love for life after overcoming illnesses and personal battles but these stories never resonated with me. I found them touching, sure, but emotionally they never really scratched the surface. Now it turns out, I can not only relate to these accounts but I have one of my own. I have had the epic realisation of how enjoyable every day life is once a heavy burden, such as illness, is lifted and I am probably happier than I was even before the burden was put upon me. Throughout the worst of it, it seems I was too busy concentrating on simply getting through another day to realise how much my illness was affecting me. Slowly eating away at every aspect of my life. It sounds grim and it is, but when you come out the other side and begin to reclaim each of these aspects, the happiness is overwhelming. It’s like discovering everything you love for the first time again.

It’s safe to say that there are very few benefits to living with chronic illness, a lot of the time it sucks, but the times when it doesn’t and I am well, I feel a sense of genuine happiness which I truly believe – knowing myself, as I think I do quite well by now – I would never have felt had I not had to feel all the bad stuff. That to me is true luxury.

Destination, Barcelona.

Features, Uncategorized

People travel for many different reasons. To find themselves, to lose themselves, to escape daily life and to experience the unknown. Travel is a mental journey, just as much as a physical one. For me, travel is what I turn to when I don’t know where I’m headed. When my life reaches a sudden point of change and I am forced to decide on the next step, that step is usually in the direction of the nearest airport check-in desk.

It all started when I finished school and didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. Instead of dealing with this unnerving prospect, I decided to take a gap year and booked a flight to South East Asia. I spent six months backpacking through various countries and while I was there decided I wanted to study many things, photography, psychology and nutrition, to name just a few. I ended up choosing none of these subjects but having one of the best experiences of my life. Fast forward three years and I graduated from university and was faced with the even more daunting task of entering the ‘real world’ and perhaps even finding a job, so me and my best friend – neither of us particularly thrilled by this prospect – began planning a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year, despite the fact that just getting out of bed was the last thing I felt like doing, I cautiously packed my bags and spent two weeks travelling up the Croatian coastline with my boyfriend. The amount of prescription drugs I was carrying was enough to get me stopped at security, but the best medication was being in a new country, experiencing the unknown, discovering the undiscovered.

This habit of reaching for my trusty old backpack when things get complicated has stuck with me as the years have gone on – although admittedly now it is often a suitcase I’m packing for a weekend mini-break, rather than a six month expedition. When I’m feeling low or unfulfilled I find myself scrolling through stranger’s beach snaps on Instagram, manically Googling holiday deals online and day-dreaming about my next adventure.

Recently, my agreeable nine to five existence came abruptly to a halt and I was faced with whole load of those dreaded, daunting decisions, so naturally I reached for my laptop and Lonely Planet and began planning a trip.

Funnily enough, one thing I don’t mind deciding on is where to travel to on my next journey. This time I settled on four nights in dynamic Barcelona. A city bustling with art, culture, history, shopping, beaches and of course, nightlife. I would go so far as to say that Barcelona is the pretty much the perfect destination for a mini-break, whether you have in mind a romantic escape for you and your other half or an energetic girls weekend away. Culture buffs, sun-worshippers, shopaholics and alcoholics, Barcelona will prevail. Absorb yourself in Gaudi’s awe-inspiring architecture, soak up some sun on the beautiful coastline (the weather was just about warm enough for sunbathing when we visited, although I didn’t brave the bikini) or treat your tastebuds to the illustrious tapas dishes and sip copious amounts of Sangria. Do any or all of these things. This city is what you make it.

Is What You Eat Making You Ill?

Food

funny-ice-cubes-plate-dinner

To say I have always had a complicated relationship with food would be an understatement. Me and food have been in a volatile, long-term relationship since I can remember, while various phases of my life have come and gone, good old food has been my ever loyal companion. It has certainly not been a relationship lacking in passion, it has destroyed me and then it has helped to heal me – we have both hated and loved one another, sometimes to dangerous extremes and often at the same time. It’s been rocky, but food has never given up on me.

There’s nothing quite like being diagnosed with a chronic illness to make you re-evaluate some stuff and for me, a huge part of this stuff was my diet. While there is little scientific evidence to show that diet has any direct impact on the disease, there is no question that food affects the symptoms. The problem is that these are different for every sufferer, for every individual it is a case of trial and error and painstaking food diaries until you eventually figure out what works for you – and even then this is subject to change. So my life became centred around food once again, only this time for entirely different reasons. After years of counting calories, shunning food groups and dreading meal times, now all I wanted was to be able to eat a what I considered to be a ‘normal’ meal. It’s kind of ironic really – in that cruel way life likes to laugh at you from time to time – eating was literally making me ill.

Knowing as you do by now my affiliation with food, it won’t surprise you that when I heard about a food intolerance test a local health food shop was offering, you couldn’t sign me up fast enough. Admittedly, people are sceptical of such things and rightly so, I’m not entirely sure how it works myself, although I’m led to believe it has something to do with the pulse. These tests aren’t cheap (decent ones, anyway) and they’re not as reliable as a medical diagnosis, but they don’t pretend to be either. They are aimed at people who suffer from a range of medical conditions, from IBS to Eczema and are there to help you figure out if what you’re eating is worsening your symptoms or making you ill. Although my nurse may be inclined to disagree, food does have an impact on the body – it can improve symptoms just as it can worsen them – sure a gluten-free diet may not be as affective as a heavy course of steroids but looking to the long-term it’s a more realistic approach (plus, its side-effects don’t include leaving you looking like you’ve shoved too many Maltesers in your cheeks.)

I left the test feeling fantastic, brimming with information and advice – given to me by a very helpful dietician – about how to manage my illness, what supplements I should be taking and the actual effect that food could have if I played by the rules. It was the best decision I ever made, until I sat down, studied my results properly and realised that I could no longer eat anything. When I say anything, I mean gluten, dairy and sugar, which to someone who loves bread, pasta and cheese as much as I do, is basically everything. As well as the main culprits, it also turns out I am “sensitive” – the correct non-medical term, as they are not diagnosed allergies – to sweet potatoes, mushrooms, beef, grapes and strawberries to name just a few.

A few weeks down the line, I wish I could say I have embraced this new lifestyle with open arms and now exist on a completely free-from diet filled with plants and beans, but I am only human. It’s tough and it’s a work-in-progress that I will no doubt share with you if you care enough to follow. However, whilst I regularly rue the day I ever took the food intolerance test – particularly as the boyfriend devours his double cheeseburger with sweet potato fries – it was certainly an eye-opener. As mere human beings food is a huge part of our lives but we really have no idea what we are putting into our bodies or what the hell is going on inside there. More and more people are announcing their intolerances and cutting out certain foods, even if their reasoning is as simple as it makes them feel better, we’re starting to realise that food isn’t just fuel, it is medicine.

In an ideal world, I would have everyone take a food intolerance test, but then in an ideal world I would be able to eat pasta for every meal without consequence. I believe we could all benefit from knowing if what we eat is making us ill. In the meantime, my love-hate saga with food continues, but the relationship is blossoming – I’ve purchased recipe books and even started to bake. I’m slowly learning to love the food that loves me back, it’s not easy but I’m in it for the long-haul this time.

Too Fat or Too Thin, Stop Body-Shaming Full Stop

Opinion

I can honestly say that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (or Cole, if you prefer) is not a figure who has ever been of particular interest to me. I have never disliked her, but equally I have never liked her enough to care. Sure, I have found her accent mildly irritating at times and have experienced the occasional hair envy, but until now that’s about as far as it went. Recently however, I have found that I am not indifferent to Cheryl’s extremely high profile media persona any longer. I have found myself standing quite firmly alongside the rest of Team Cheryl, I am even cheering from the sidelines.

What could have possibly brought on this sudden shift in opinion? For that, we need to talk about body-shaming. You’re probably used to hearing the term quite often by now, because we live in a culture obsessed with doing exactly that, body-shaming. Society does it, the media does it, even we as individuals do it – whether we share this outwardly or keep our guilty, intrusive thoughts to ourselves. For some reason, which is utterly lost to me, we live in a society which is obsessed with slagging others off, and our favourite genre is the body, particularly – but not exclusively – the female body.

This is not news of course, it has been happening forever – or at least since the Daily Mail was let loose on society – but I’m bringing it to attention now because of two instances which in my eyes, highlight just how ridiculous this body-shaming thing really is.

Example one: newlywed Jennifer Aniston returns from her honeymoon, positively glowing and presumably still on a high – as you would be if you had just married Justin Theroux and spent the last few weeks at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora – only to be publicly body-shamed, ridiculed and humiliated by everyone’s favourite newspaper tabloid. What did she do to deserve this? Supposedly ‘over-doing the dinners’ and relaxing her diet whilst on honeymoon, heaven forbid. Apparently we live in a world where people, or rather those people over at the Daily Mail who actually consider this to be a work of journalism, are more comfortable criticising someone for their body (what happens to actually be an extremely enviable body, I feel I must add) instead of just being happy for them. Sorry Jen, we can no longer label you the poor, jilted women, we’ll just have to call you fat instead.
  jennifer-aniston

Then at the other end of the scale there’s Cheryl, who has also fallen victim to the body-shaming culture. Her crime? She’s far too thin. Cheryl’s noticeably slim figure has had tongues and tabloids wagging non-stop since the start of the X-Factor, accusing her of being ‘too thin’ a ‘bag of bones’ and even a negative influence on young girls. Even though Cheryl had already spoken out honestly about her weight loss, putting it down to illness and stress caused by a recent personal trauma, the skinny-shaming was so insistent that Simon Cowell jumped to her defence, reassuring us that Cheryl was in fact eating properly.

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As I have also lost weight recently due to illness, I too, have of course found myself at the receiving end of body-shaming comments (whether these are intentional and malicious or not, the end result is the same) you’ll now understand why I am completely resonating with Cheryl on this one. It is equally as hurtful and frustrating to be labelled as “too thin” and constantly told to eat more and gain some weight, as it is to be told the exact opposite. So if no one can win, why can’t we just stop the body-shaming full stop? Public shaming, in the cases of Jen and Cheryl are not just one-off media assaults on individuals, they are attacks on all women, proving to us that no matter what we do or perhaps more importantly, what size we are, we will never be good enough. At least not in the eyes of the Daily Mail anyway.

A Complete Guide To The Mental Health Policies

News

 

Today marks the start of a big week. After a month of political party broadcasts, heated TV debates and desperate public appearances, the election is almost upon us. Yet even in this position, less than a week before we must make the informed, intelligent decision on 7th May, 40% of us are still unsure how we will vote.

I totally get it. Even after completing The Quiz, tuning into all of the debates and engaging in my fair share of politically charged discussions, I still can’t say that I am 100% certain about my vote. In fact, I struggle to see how anyone can be.

But for me, theres a game-changer. While I care about all the issues addressed the manifestos, its the party’s mental health policies that could potentially swing my vote.The fact that mental health is even addressed in the parties manifestos this time around (the first time, ever) is encouraging, maybe even hopeful, but who is actually saying what?

Below, I have copied each parties policies on mental health, so if you’re still undecided and the thought of voting in a few days is making you freak out, here’s what they’re all saying about mental health.
Conservatives

• Ensure there are therapists in every part of the country providing treatment for those who need it.
• We are increasing funding for mental health care.
• We will enforce the new access and waiting time standards for people experiencing mental ill-health, including children and young people.
• We will ensure that women have access to mental health support during and after pregnancy, while strengthening the health visiting programme for new mothers
• We will ensure proper provision of health and community-based places of safety for people suffering mental health crises
• We will review how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions back into work.
• People who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work. If they refuse a recommended treatment, we will review whether their benefits should be reduced.
• New support for mental health, benefiting thousands of people claiming out-of-work benefits or being supported by Fit for Work

Labour

• People will have the same right to psychological therapies as they currently have to drugs and medical treatments.
• NHS staff training will include mental health.
• Increase the proportion of the mental health budget that is spent on children, and make sure that teachers have training so they can identify problems early
• To support young people’s health and wellbeing, we will encourage the development of social and emotional skills
• Set out a strategy with the goal of ensuring that the great majority of patients can access talking therapies within 28 days, and that all children who need it can access school-based counselling.
• Overhaul the Work Capability Assessment
• Ensure there are no targets for sanctions in Jobcentre Plus
• Commission a new specialist Work Support programme, working with local authorities to give disabled people more support in employment.

Liberal Democrats

• Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards
• Ensure no one in crisis is turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care
• Radically transform mental health services, extending the use of personal budgets, integrating care more fully with the rest of the NHS, introducing rigorous inspection and high-quality standards, comprehensive collection of data
• Introduce care navigators so people get help finding their way around the system
• Develop a clear approach on preventing mental illness
• Support good practice among employers in promoting wellbeing
• Establish a world-leading mental health research fund
• Continue to support the Time to Change programme to tackle stigma against mental health
• Ensure all frontline public service professionals get better training in mental health
• Simplify and streamline back-to-work support for people with disabilities, mental or physical health problems.
• Raise awareness of, and seek to expand, Access to Work, which supports people with disabilities in work.

Green Party

• Ensure that no one waits more than 28 days for access to talking therapies
• Ensure that everyone experiencing a mental health crisis, including children and young people, should have safe and speedy access to quality care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
• The use of police cells as ‘places of safety’ for children should be eliminated by 2016, and by the end of the next Parliament should only occur for adults in exceptional circumstances
• Ensure that everyone who requires a mental health bed should be able to access one in their local NHS Trust area, unless they need specialist care and treatment.
• Implement a campaign to end the discrimination and stigma associated with mental health through supporting the Time to Change programme
• Offering employment support to those with mental health problems.
• Pay special attention to any mental health issues of mothers during and after pregnancy, children and adolescents, Black and Minority Ethnic people, refugees, the LGBTIQ communities and ex-service people and their families.
• Give higher priority to the physical healthcare of those with mental health problems.
• Consider offering more personalised job-seeking support for people with mental health problems
Plaid Cymru

• Plaid Cymru will increase access to talking therapies, as well as funding support for eating disorders, and drug and alcohol treatment.
• We will also increase resources for mental health services for young people in Wales
• We will encourage employers to provide adequate support for staff experiencing mental health difficulties.
• In order to help prisoners with mental health and drug or alcohol problems we will improve co-operation between the prison service and health and substance misuse services.
• We will help people who have the most difficulty finding work, including those with a disability and who have limited skills and qualifications, to find a suitable job.
• This will be achieved by dealing with people fairly and by focusing on what individuals can achieve on a day to day basis without the threat of sanctions.
Scottish National Party

• We’ve already committed £15 million to a mental health innovation fund and will seek to increase this investment to £100 million over the next 5 years.
• Resources will be directed towards projects that will improve mental health treatments
• The fund will also enable further investment in child and adolescent mental health services.
• Scotland was the first country in the UK to introduce waiting time targets for these services, and we have increased the workforce by 45 per cent.
• We will demand an urgent review of the conditionality and sanctions regime. The review will take particular account of the needs of people with mental health issues.
UKIP

• Directing patients diagnosed with a debilitating long-term condition or terminal illnesses to mental health professionals when appropriate
• Recognising there is often a link between addiction and mental illness and offering appropriate treatment where this is the case
• Offering direct access to specialist mental health treatment for pregnant women and mothers of children under 12 months of age
• Fighting the stigma around mental illness and supporting those seeking to get back into work.
• Patients experiencing distress or exhibiting mental ill-health issues when admitted to hospital should have both their physical health and mental wellbeing assessed.
• We will end the postcode lottery for psychiatric liaison services in acute hospitals and A&E departments.
• To fund these initiatives, we will increase mental health funding by £170 million annually, phasing this in through the first two years of the next parliament.
• We will end unfair ATOS-style Work Capability Assessments and return assessments to GPs or appropriate specialist consultants.