There’s Nothing Aspirational About Exhaustion

News

A website called ‘Fiverr’ which allows people to offer their freelancing services to others for rates reported to be as low as £5 has, quite rightly, been subjected to a social media shit storm. Their new advert was spotted in a London Tube station and shared on Twitter where users have labelled it “deeply depressing”, “irresponsible” and damaging”. It is all of these things and worse.

The advert which features a photograph of a model with hollowed cheek bones and unkept hair, yet still looking admirably glamorous, reads: “You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

It then signs off as: “In doers we trust”. Sorry, what?

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Photo by @b_cavello on Twitter

 

“Eating coffee for lunch” and choosing “sleep deprivation” as your “drug of choice” might mean you are a “doer” but it also means you are well on your way to some serious health issues. Not getting enough sleep alone, leaves you prone to a whole catalogue of problems, don’t even open the Pandora’s Box of caffeine addiction and skipping meals.

There is nothing sexy about pushing yourself to the brink.

Working hard is great, but so is self-care. At some point we all have to realise that nothing is as important as our health and wellbeing. Nothing even comes close. I came to this realisation far earlier in my life than I had intended to. I had envisioned that my twenties would be a whirl of working and playing hard, spending long hours and late nights pursuing my career. Alongside this, I thought I would also be able to balance a social life, relationship and exercise regime and had even hoped that I would travel, when time and money permitted. These weren’t unique or even unobtainable aspirations, as my generation goes they were pretty average.

However, a chronic illness had other ideas and it soon became clear that I would be lucky if I could manage two of these successfully. On a good day – and thankfully there are more good than bad – I can get up early, drive the hour commute to work, be productive for the most part of eight hours, drive home, cook dinner, have a bath and wash my hair. Not exactly rock and roll is it? On a bad day though, these basic, fundamental tasks are a real struggle, if manageable at all.

My point is that there is nothing glamorous about exhaustion; take it from someone who deals with the effects of it far more often than they would care to. There is nothing glamorous about bursting into tears after taking a shower because it has used up every single drop of energy you had managed to muster. There is nothing aspirational about not being able to progress at work because the brain fog has replaced your once highly functioning brain with cotton wool. There is nothing at all cool about not being able to get out of bed because, even though you had a full eight hours sleep last night, your body is aching from head to toe. And no, you didn’t run a marathon yesterday or dance until the early hours, you went to work.

To get back to the advert, I don’t think there is any question that to promote exhaustion in such a way is beyond awful. To advertise working long hours at the cost of your health and wellbeing, is not only irresponsible but sickening. As one Twitter user pointed out, are we really supposed to feel guilty for eating something at lunch time and making sure we get enough sleep? And all for a company who’s freelancing rates start at £5? Well no thanks, Fiverr. You simply can’t put a price on  someone’s health.

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.

“If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?” #HeForShe

Features, News, Opinion

I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked play on the video of Emma Watson’s U.N speech, which is now rapidly overtaking social media. Until coming across this video, I doubt many of us even knew that she was a U.N Women Goodwill Ambassador, and now her “game-changing” speech has sparked global passion, causing a remarkable stir across the internet and getting people rooting for feminism.

Watson’s speech signifies the launch of the #HeForShe campaign, which aims to get one billion men on board, as advocates, for equal rights for women globally. The campaign is taking a refreshingly different approach to other women’s rights campaigns, by directing itself at men, rather than just focusing on women. The speech highlights how equal rights effect males too, for instance, not having to suffer mental health problems in silence, being able to talk openly and being able to show vulnerability.

Watson goes on to say what we are all thinking, making light of herself, the “Harry Potter girl” who might not have been taken seriously to begin with, but within a few minutes of speaking, has captivated her audience. She is no longer the school girl with the magic wand, she i a strong, influential woman standing up and speaking about something that she truly believes in.

Perhaps what I find most significant in Watson’s speech is how she talks about the actual word “feminism,” recognising and clarifying today’s common misconceptions.

“I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

Unfortunately, I also find this to be true. Women can often be ashamed to be thought of as feminists because it would mean they were too aggressive, too strong and of course, too man-hating. Why is it that feminism has become something to shy away from? How can an idea that men and women should be equal be seen as something negative?

The truth is many people can’t shift the idea that feminism simply means “anti-men.” Even though most people are informed enough to know that this couldn’t be further from the truth, it is a stigma which seems to be sticking around. I know young women who would never admit to being a feminist, particularly in front of men, for fear of being mocked or causing outrage, but what is so outrageous about an idea, a movement, where everyone in the world has equal rights?

If the young women of today cannot call themselves feminists and do not believe in this idea then what hope do campaigns such as #HeForShe actually have? This is but one of the reasons why Watson’s speech holds such importance and has made such a far-reaching impact.

If everyone – male and female – who watches the speech, while scrolling through Twitter, thinks for a second about what feminism actually means, not just for women, but for everyone, and not just for today, but for the long-term, then Watson’s speech has made a difference.

Too often we think to ourselves,”Who am I to talk about that?” “Who am I to make any difference?” Well, who was Emma Watson? She’s the girl who asked herself and us,

“If not you, who? If not now, when?”

Mind the Gap – The ‘Thigh Gap’, That Is

Opinion

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Type “thigh gap” into Instagram or Twitter, and you have yourself a huge collection of photographs of women’s slowly disintegrating legs. You will also find the Twitter page @CarasThighGap. Yes, it is exactly what it says on the tin, a Twitter account dedicated to Cara Delevingne’s thigh gap, with various photographs and tweets from followers, paying their great respects to the nothingness between her limbs. Cara is one of the the few women on the planet who can have (if it is possible to ‘own’ thin air, I am not entirely sure of the correct terminology here) a thigh gap, without becoming completely emaciated – though I’m fairly sure you won’t catch her down McDonalds. The problem is, that young girls, teenagers and to be honest even some “fully-grown” women see this obsession sweeping across social network sites and believe that, in order to be good enough, they too must look like this. This is partly down to low self-esteem, bad body image and the media, but a large part of it is down to other women.

We, women, are so judgmental of each other in all aspects of life, but when it comes to weight, it is every woman for herself in a viciously competitive world, where there are no real winners at all. We shouldn’t be marketing these forms of body hatred and dangerous obsessions to vulnerable girls, who are already struggling with their bodies and self-esteem and do not need any encouragement from social media. Once the idea of the “thigh gap” has lodged itself in the mind, it is extremely difficult to get rid of, resulting in young women everywhere starving and torturing themselves in an attempt to achieve something completely unrealistic.

We should know better than this. We should be uniting against ‘thinspiration’ and extreme body hatred, such as the thigh gap, not witnessing it as a worldwide Twitter trend. Extreme and unhealthy obsessions on social media, like that of the thigh gap, need to stop, if we have any chance of moving on from this culture of eating disorders and emaciation.

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Robyn Lawley – Fashion’s Breath of Fresh Air

Fashion

Robyn Lawley

 

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Robyn Lawler: chair

 

The strikingly beautiful model in these photographs has modeled for Ralph Lauren and appeared in Vogue. She is Robyn Lawley who, at 6ft 2in and 12st is classed as a “plus-size” model. Since appearing on the cover of Vogue Italia, Robyn has won various awards for her work and now has her own swimwear line and food blog. She has defied all obstacles of today’s fashion industry to become a supermodel who is recognised for her jaw dropping features and indisputable talent, rather than her size zero frame. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that she is a downright inspiration to all women alike.

However, it would seem not everyone agrees. When a photo of Robyn wearing a corset was posted on Facebook recently, users replied with an array of hurtful comments such as “Pig” and “too fat.” This is because, despite having more sex appeal than all the models at fashion week put together, Robyn doesn’t have a “thigh gap.” Yes, like the most, her thighs touch, but according to the latest women’s body craze this is just not acceptable, even though, for most women, a “thigh gap” is a physically impossible body shape to achieve.

Robyn’s response to the comments was sensational, writing on the Daily Beast ‘You sit behind a computer screen objectifying my body, judging it and insulting it, without even knowing it’ and ‘The truth is I couldn’t care less about needing a supposed “thigh gap.” It’s just another tool of manipulation that other people are trying to use to keep me from loving my body. Why would I want to starve and weaken my natural body size?’

It is responses like these which lead me to believe that Robyn truly deserves to feature on the fashion covers she has graced and has every right to travel the world enhancing the truthful idea, that healthy is beautiful. These are the exact views and attitudes that the fashion industry should be encouraging.

The fact that Robyn Lawley is classed as a “plus-size” model means, shamefully, she might never be “perfect” in the critical eye of the public, but in my eyes she is the most refreshing supermodel out there.

 

Great British ‘Slate’ Off

Food, Opinion

 

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As Britain’s most talked about cooking show came to it’s much anticipated finale this week, more than eight million viewers tuned in to find out which of the three bakers would take home the title – and the prize of the glass cake stand, of course! However, it was neither the cupcakes, nor the puff pastry which attracted my attention to the reality cooking show, which, as well as making baking a hot topic among Britons everywhere, has caused a ridiculous amount of controversy on the internet. I was shocked to discover that a show which, essentially is just about people baking pretty cakes, could have caused such outspoken and vicious opinions to surface.

“Not much skills, female tears and a winner so thin who makes me doubt her love for cooking,” wrote TV chef Raymond Blanc on his Twitter page, about finalist Ruby Tandoh. Another classic example of good old weight stereotyping. It is not unfamiliar now, for us to hear about a woman’s weight being used as a way to judge and attack her other, usually unrelated, skills, but yet I still find myself in a state of disbelief at how someone could be so narrow-minded and think that this is a perfectly reasonable statement to tweet to their hundred thousand followers.   article_3682adc07d4e587c_1382507536_9j-4aaqsk

However you felt about Ruby Tandoh as a contestant, there is simply no need, or reason, to use her weight as a weapon against her. Does the fact that she enjoys cooking (and happens to be pretty good at it) mean that she must sit there stuffing consecutive cupcakes into her mouth, barely giving them a chance to cool? Do you have to be overweight in order to be successful in the kitchen now? If this is the case, it’s one social stereotype I must have missed.

The media is constantly warning about obesity and slating people for being fat, but when a slim girl wants to make a cake, it is simply not acceptable. It just won’t do. It is almost as if society has gone to such extremes that we can no longer fathom the fact that there are svelte women out there who do eat food, with calories in it and everything.

If this isn’t enough, then there’s the rest of the attacks which were made about the three female finalists. Too meek, too confident, seducing and manipulating the judges, and of course using those “female tears” as a tool to get to the top. I personally, wasn’t aware that a female’s tears were any different from a male’s. Not forgetting the predictable debate on which of the finalists was the most “shaggable.”  I just can’t help but wonder how different, the tweets and comments which went spiraling across social media might have been, had it been three males in the final. Then again, I’m sure those trusty internet trolls would have devised some other nasty stereotypes as they sat poised behind their keyboards.

When a TV show about baking becomes a national platform for judging, slating and stereotyping, perhaps it is time to chill out and just let them eat their cake.

 

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