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

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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

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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

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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.

What Does True Luxury Mean To You?

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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.

7 Ways to Make Sure Your Easter Isn’t Ruined by Your Eating Disorder

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If were being honest, for most of us Easter is about one thing, chocolate. It is for this reason, that after Christmas, Easter comes in a close second as the most difficult time of year for people with an eating disorder. For some, Easter means overindulging on chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, or sitting down to catch up with family over a traditional holiday meal, for those with eating disorders, Easter often means guilt, anxiety and fear. There is no avoiding the fact that holidays are stressful – I mean, they do involve family and food, at the same time –  but there are some ways to take control and make sure your Easter isn’t ruined by your eating disorder.

  • Talk to someone close to you and that you trust, about your concerns. It’s easy to get trapped in your own head, getting an outside perspective can make a huge difference. A problem shared and all that.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to be seeing family and friends who haven’t seen you for a while, be prepared for any questions that might come and think of your responses in advance. This way you don’t feel unprepared or put on the spot.
  • Be Mindful. Practice some Mindful Eating techniques throughout the day to help you stay in control. For example: eat small or moderate amounts every few hours, before eating ask yourself, am I hungry? Am I thirsty? What type of food or drink do I want? Eat slowly and think about the taste, texture, smell and sound of the food. Check in with your hunger signals every few minutes. Stop eating just before you feel full, and wait at least 20 minutes before eating again if you are still hungry.
  • Relax. Whatever your plans are over the weekend, make sure you allow some time for yourself. Take time out to do something you enjoy, and something that doesn’t revolve around food. Go for a walk, listen to music, read a book – it is supposed to be a holiday after all.
  • Remember that holidays were made for overeating. People will eat too much chocolate and then they will talk about eating too much chocolate. Remind yourself that these comments are not aimed at you.
  • Remember also, that all eyes aren’t on you. Although it feels like it everyone is watching you, judging how much – or how little – you are eating, this is not the case. Most people are actually too preoccupied with their own food – humans are pretty self-involved, especially at meal times.
  • Enjoy the fact that it is totally acceptable to eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and at various intervals in between if you so desire. Guilt is inevitable, but keep it under control by being aware of how you feel, you know better than anyone what your limits are. Easter or not, it’s your body and your mind, you decide what they can cope with.

Happy Easter!

Meet the Models Who Are Changing the Face of Fashion

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While Cara Delevinge and Jordan Dunn are busy holding their own against Carole White’s comments that British models are “shit,” aren’t driven enough, and eat too much, there’s a selection of models who are making their own movements in the fashion industry, changing the way we see models for good.

Personally, I hate the term “plus-size”, with its negative implications and stereotypes. This is what the five models featured in Bust Magazine’s photoshoot are branded because their body types differ from that of the average size 0 models we are used to seeing up and down the catwalk. The magazine portrays five up and coming models all with athletic and curvy silhouettes, but more importantly with confidence and self-assurance.

This is why I admire these women and why these are the women young girls should be looking to for role models, not because of they are “plus-size.” In fact, not because of their looks at all – although they are all undoubtably gorgeous – they are role models because they are comfortable in their own skin. They are happy, the most attractive quality of all.

“I’ve been called a plus-size model for 15 years, I don’t have any shame in it; I don’t really care. If you want to call me plus, that’s fine, but at the end of the day I know I’m a model. My name is Ashley Graham and I am a model.” – Ashley Graham

Meet some of the models who are changing the face of the fashion industry.

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Ashley Graham

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Julie Henderson

Inga Eiriksdottir

Inga Eiriksdottir

Marquita Pring

Marquita Pring

Danielle Redman

Danielle Redman

Candice Huffine

Candice Huffine

Myla Dalbesio

Myla Dalbesio

Time to Talk Day – Take 5 To Blog

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It’s Time to Talk day. People across the nation are taking 5 minutes to have a conversation about mental health, whether it be at work, with friends or online, and the response has been huge. Here is my #Take5ToBlog entry, have you taken your 5 today?

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1. My name is Sarah and I have experienced depression and Anxiety and have also suffered from the eating disorders Anorexia and Bulimia.

2. My mental illness has affected me in both positive and negative ways. Over the years, it has negatively affected every aspect of my life including family, friendships, relationships, and university. However, it has also helped to shape the person I am today. I would never choose to live with a mental illness but it has strengthened my character and become the source of inspiration for much of my work.

3. My greatest source of support has been… I wouldn’t say I have had one consistent source of support. More recently, there is one friend who has seen me at my absolute worst, never judged or abandoned me and was the catalyst for my recovery. After feeling consistently let down by the NHS over many years my blog has been my main source of support and motivation for getting better and staying healthy. Then there’s my boyfriend, who is responsible for making me happy on a daily basis.

4. My hope for the future is that people will no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their mental health and that mental illness will be recognised and accepted just as physical illness is. I believe that if we can diminish the stigma we will save more lives. Mental health is not a taboo.

5. I’m taking 5 on Time to Talk day because openly speaking and writing about my experiences has helped me in overcoming my mental health problems and facing some of my biggest fears. I consider myself extremely lucky to have survived my mental illness and to be in a position where I can help others to do the same. My hope is that my words will encourage just one person to speak out, seek help or even simply, to not feel so alone.

If This Girl Can, so can you

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Sport, a word that instantly fills me with dread and conjures up uncomfortable flash backs of desperate attempts to get out of P.E lessons, which involved disgusting maroon hockey socks, chin pads and the girls changing room. This changing room has made such an impression in my memory that despite not being subjected to it for at least seven years, thinking about it now I can almost smell the sweat and mud as we peeled those hockey socks off our legs. I can practically feel the shame and embarrassment sweep over me as I wrestled to change my shirt in the corner without anyone catching a glimpse of my stomach or my M&S AA-cup. Obviously I know now that these feelings were much exaggerated by puberty and the fact I was a 13 year old girl in a room packed with other 13 year old girls. The shame I felt then was totally unnecessary, but due to my severe lack of self-confidence I spent six years of my school life not just dreading, but going to extreme lengths to avoid sport.

For this reason, I am not at all surprised to hear that there are 2 million fewer women partaking in sport than men in the UK. I am finally free of it, why would I put my self through that again by choice? And for enjoyment?

Although my issues with sport are deeply rooted, most women are familiar with the fear of judgement that comes hand in hand with exercising. Whether it’s when getting changed at the gym, making the walk from the changing rooms to the poolside or your thighs jiggling when you run past someone in the park.

The “fitspiration” that plagues the internet is just as damaging as the “thinspiration” found on Pro-Ana sites and has made exercising about being thin, ripped, tanned and flawless. It might not be perfect, but Sport England have done their research and recognise that something positive needs to be done. The campaign is their attempt to encourage women to get involved with sport – and it works.

Playing sport is about teamwork, friendship, stress-relief and enjoyment, which is why I think the This Girl Can campaign is great. It does exactly what it claims to – watching it made me
want to get active, it made me want to play sport, a feat which I never thought possible. The women in the advert look happy, healthy and they’re doing it because they love their body, not because they hate it. They look like women I know and if they’re doing it, why can’t I?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toH4GcPQXpc

10 Superfood’s to Add to Your Shopping List

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In my previous post I wrote about why we shouldn’t be “detoxing” this January, but that is by no means to say that we shouldn’t be trying to live and eat healthily. The problem with detox diets is that they more often than not – well pretty much always, actually – rely on cutting certain foods, and sometimes entire food groups out of your diet. I prefer to focus what I can add to my diet to improve it, rather than what I have to take away, or deny myself.

I’m getting personal now, but for me, restricting certain foods can be triggering, and what starts out as a seemingly innocent quest for a healthier diet, soon turns into an obsessive, guilt-ridden nightmare, over which I have no control. I find that concentrating so hard on what I can’t eat – the forbidden fruit, so to speak – sparks negative thoughts and sets me up for a fail from the very beginning. You know that old saying “we only want what we can’t have” yeah, that pretty much sums me up.

So, I have eventually learnt from my track record and am now taking a different approach to improving my diet, by adding new foods. Nope, not taking anything away, just adding some new ones into the equation – and yes I am feeling okay! For once, I am actually trying to eat better for the health benefits rather than to lose weight and I have to say I think I could get used to it.

Of course, I’m not just talking about adding any old thing you fancy to your diet, I’m talking about the foods that have proven health benefits, the foods that can do great things, I’m talking about, drumroll please, the superfood’s.

Obviously this list could go on and on, but here’s just a few of my favourites to inspire your tastebuds!

Quinoa

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Spinach

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Beetroot

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Sweet Potato

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Blueberries

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Greek Yoghurt

Pomegranate

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Avocado

1ed9afbac9cdcf378b222a7f1f0ba614Cabbage

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