Before going ‘no-poo’ after an eating disorder – what you should know

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I do a lot of posts on the blog about hair loss, because it’s something I get asked about a lot, as many people suffer from some sort of hair loss during or after an eating disorder. Understandably – it’s devastating losing your hair and when it happens you feel like you’ll do anything to ‘fix’ it.

Having recently regrown my hair from a fairly bad bout of hair loss last Summer, (not fully regrown, just a thick 3 inch fringe of baby hairs!) and finding recently my body is struggling with the combined effects of winter and my anxiety, I have been back reading up on the negative effects of using chemicals artificial entities such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Silicones which are widely present in commercial shampoos and are less than good for scalp health.

I knew this before, of course – I even bought a Morocco Method shampoo which was lovely but just didn’t have the familiar old gloopy consistency I knew and loved from a shampoo. I’m not very patient and have a very short attention span, so in all honesty I gave it a couple of washes and gave up, without giving it the time I’ve heard is needed to really go for ‘no-poo’. After I gave up I completely forgot about it and went back to using expensive chemical products!

I went on holiday with my beautiful friend Faye in October. We have very similar hair types – sleek, brown, difficult to get body into (she likes it that way, I don’t!) She lives in Spain, so when she came over I hadn’t seen her for a good few months. And her hair was amazing – so amazing in fact I couldn’t stop looking at it and messing with it and asking her how she’d managed to get hair like that. This was a role reversal for us because when we met years ago at college, she always used to ask me about my hair, which at the time was so thick and long (that’s how I know it’s not how it should be now!).

She told me that because of the hot weather and not having to see anybody in Spain, she was only washing her hair once a week. For the rest of the time, it was up in a bun. She hardly ever used conditioner and attributed the massive growth, beautiful condition and thickness down to a combination of the sun and no-washing. Now I can’t magic the sun to the UK (I can’t tell you how much I wish I could!) but I did immediately cut my washing down from every other day (3-4 times a week) to just once a week. Yep it hasn’t always been pretty but my hair is getting used to it now – and dry shampoo is my saviour on any particularly dodgy in-between days!

Coupled with this revelation, my recent research had frightened me again into thinking that maybe   using chemicals on my hair (and everywhere, really) might be harming my body in more ways than I realised, and I wanted to go further to getting back my beautiful college hair.

Google ‘natural shampoo’ and you’ll find all sorts. Google ‘no poo’ and you’ll also find all sorts – but mostly you’ll find a lot of people talking about Baking Powder (or Baking Soda) and Apple Cider Vinegar. Neither of which I really fancied putting on my hair! Baking powder just sounded like it would be too harsh, and the vinegar element had me worrying I’d be walking around smelling like a bag of salt and vinegar crisps.

I did a little more research and came across this excellent post by Kanelstrand. Basically, she found that actually, this method is not so good at all because baking powder is very acidic, even when dissolved with plenty of water. It’s especially one to avoid if you are suffering acute hair loss.

So what to do now? Well I googled natural shampoo (again) and found lots that weren’t natural and a few that were. Some of these were bars, like bars of soap – something I hadn’t thought of using since I was very much younger and had one from Lush and one from the Body Shop. These bars are 100% natural, so they shouldn’t damage your hair or scalp and also contain ingredients which should aid in combatting hair loss.

I’ve come to the conclusion personally that if you are only washing your hair once a week as I do, you’re virtually ‘no-poo’ anyway. If you can choose a shampoo which is as saintly as it possibly can be, but that you enjoy using, then at least that is better than washing your hair every day or every other day and stripping it with chemicals regularly. Korres, The Body Shop and Organix have natural, silicone and sulfate-free ranges so browse the internet and try a few to see which one is your favourite. You might already be using one! In between washes I also use Klorane sensitive natural dry shampoo – it adds loads of body, keeps hair soft and clean and is easy on the scalp and hair.

In my last post about what to do when you’re losing your hair, I talk about the best standard shampoo ranges on offer (which all contain chemicals – however some are highly effective). But if you do want to go down the all-natural route, you can read my updated ‘What to do’ post here. Let me know how you get on!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Dalai Lama – a source of spiritual inspiration (even if you are not spiritual)

 

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Even if you are not Buddhist, there is a lot to be learned from the Dalai Lama. His wise observations on life are really thought-provoking – they simplify things whilst not trivialising our own personal struggles. My favourite is the Paradox of our Age:

Is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers

Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints

We spend more, but we have less.

We have bigger houses, but smaller families

More conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees, but less sense

More knowledge, but less judgement

More experts, but more problems

More medicines, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often

We have learnt how to make a living, but not a life.

We have added years to life, but not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back

But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.

We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.

We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.

We’ve higher incomes, but lower morals.

We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character;

Steep profits, and shallow relationships.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare,

More leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces;

Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom.

A time when technology can bring this letter to you,

And a time when you can choose,

Either to make a difference …. or just hit, delete.

 

The Dalai Lama was also asked what he found most confusing about humanity. His answer was incredibly resonant:

“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.

Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Isn’t this so true?

How can we get out of this mentality though? We are conditioned to run the rat race, after all.

Do you have any favourite quotes of the Dalai Lama to share?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Eating Disorder Facts

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There’s a lot said in the media about eating disorders, but how much of it is fact? As part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I’ve compiled my most important (a little unconventional) have-to-know eating disorder facts – to raise awareness and encourage a better understanding all-round of what is still a misunderstood mental illness.

  • People with eating disorders are not ‘selfish’ – There’s a particularly annoying misconception that people with mental illness, but eating disorders especially, are somehow selfish because they are ‘choosing’ not to eat. An eating disorder is not a choice. An eating disorder is a savage, damaging mental illness which is intertwined with your personality making it look like the things you say and do are a product of your own psyche when of course they are not. Saying that somebody with an eating disorder is selfish is just as bad as saying someone with cancer is selfish, so please, don’t do it, and don’t let anyone make you feel that way either.
  • It’s not that easy to ‘just eat’ – For anyone with a ‘normal’ relationship with food (I say it like that because I don’t believe anyone in Western society really has a ‘normal’ relationship with food!), the action of eating is very simple and easy. It doesn’t have any other connotations other than putting food in your mouth. For someone with an eating disorder, it constitutes a whole lot more. Anyone who has not had an eating disorder will probably never be able to appreciate the absolute horror, dread and upset that fills you when you are faced with eating in the midst of an eating disorder. It represents so much more for you at that time – and that’s something which is hard for others to understand. If you’re reading this as somebody who has never had an eating disorder then please, don’t ever say ‘just eat’ to somebody going through hell. It’s not helpful and it achieves nothing.
  • Eating disorders are secretive – That’s partly why they’re so dangerous. Official statistics for the UK estimate that millions are suffering from an eating disorder (a figure which worryingly is rising year on year) – but those are only the ones we know about, the ones which have been diagnosed. GPs still find it difficult to recognise an eating disorder in a patient and of course it’s likely the patient might not identify it themselves, or hide it if they do.
  • Not everybody who is very thin has an eating disorder – ‘Anorexic’ has become a disdainful adjective used to describe anybody skinny but there are lots of people who are naturally very thin who suffer abuse because of that. Firstly – nobody should suffer abuse for having an eating disorder. Think about the strong possibility that they have an eating disorder which has been caused by some sort of bullying in the past. Secondly – nobody should suffer abuse for how they look full stop. Some people are very thin and probably have already noticed that, and already feel self-conscious about it. Try to be kind.
  • Recovery IS possible and it is what you deserve – Lots of people feel, and might be told, that it’s not possible to recover fully from an eating disorder. Well I’m living proof that this is bullshit! Aside from that, I don’t think anyone with an eating disorder needs discouragement – it’s the very last thing that’s needed. Instead we should be promoting recovery, showing people that it is possible and that it is the right thing to do – and more than that, that they are worth recovery. They’re amazing people with indescribably good futures ahead of them. They have more to offer, in fact, because they have had this experience. I talk about this in Tough Cookie – it’s something I’m really passionate about.
  • Resources are sparse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recover – There’s lots of bad press about the NHS provision for eating disorders and to be honest, I don’t know anyone who has been through an eating disorder who hasn’t been let down in some way by the NHS, some more than others. But bashing the NHS doesn’t serve any purpose – it certainly won’t magic a load of money and resources to help people with eating disorders. I think it’s time to look at different solutions. I was ‘left to die’ as campaigners so delicately put it – but I recovered on my own with the support of my parents, so that shows that it is possible to recover outside of the NHS. I’m not discouraging anybody to seek professional help here – that is a MUST – but if the help is lacking in urgency or you are struggling to access help, don’t feel that you can’t recover or that you are a lost cause. It’s possible. That’s why I wrote Tough Cookie.
  • You are not alone – Having an eating disorder can be very lonely. Generally you’re surrounded by people who through no fault of their own don’t understand what you’re going through, and if you’re not in a specialist unit, you’re discouraged from interacting with fellow sufferers for obvious reasons – plus the internet is to be avoided as we all know the horrors that are on there which can make eating disorders worse. Please don’t feel alone! So many people are going through what you are going through. Plus remember that even if your family and friends say or do the wrong thing, they probably mean well. They love you very much and even though you feel alone, you’re not.

This blog, my books, and me as a person, are there especially for people with eating disorders to prevent you from feeling alone. Please feel free to contact me via the form on the site if you feel you have nobody to talk to who understands, or alternatively if you don’t have access to any professional help, seek out free counselling in your local area. Just having someone as a sounding board can be invaluable.

 

Eating Disorder Awareness Week for me is all about having a platform with which to help people to feel they can access help and feel better, but also to educate the public and front line professionals on what can and should be done for those with eating disorders, and how they should be treated. What are your own personal facts that you’d like to see more widely publicised?

 

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Regrets of the Dying – a Must Read

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When you’re young, you feel like you have forever, even though you know you don’t. An inherent complacency influences every decision we make (even when we are older) until we realise we don’t have forever left.

In a lot of ways, I think that those who are unfortunate enough to experience the possibility of life being cut short are blessed. They gain a sense of urgency, the elimination of the fear that hampers and holds the rest of us back as we complacently drift through life believing we have all the time in the world to fulfil our dreams and fantasies.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing – yet there are some tips that can help us appreciate the time we have more and have the courage to do the things we want to do. A lot of my friends are older than me and they tell me to enjoy myself while I am young, yet as I have spoken about before on the blog when you live on a modest income, it’s a difficult balance between enjoying yourself whilst making provisions for later in life.

Nurse Bronnie Ware began a blog documenting the trend she saw in what people told her their biggest regrets at the end of their lives were.

It’s a poignant time in which we are able to, with clarity and urgency, reflect on what we really want, when ironically it is all too late to change our circumstances.

She compiled a list of the most frequently expressed wishes, and they really do make you think. I believe it’s important to share these, especially with younger people because they almost force us to re-evaluate and realise what is really important. Take a look and as always, please share your thoughts!

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

 

  1. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

 

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

 

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

 

  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

The above is Copyrighted Bronnie Ware from her blog, Inspiration and Chai.

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Photoshop Leak – Cindy Crawford  

Last week saw two sets of unretouched (shock, horror) celebrity photographs leaked on the internet – with varied responses from the public and the media. As an avid campaigner for reducing the use of Photoshop and advocate for more realistic images in the media, I had to post on this one!

Cindy Crawford was actually the subject of one of my Inspirational Women posts a while back – she’s always been a natural beauty who of course is stunning and someone we all aspire to look like, yet she’s retained that real-ness and has aged gracefully, continuing her modelling career whilst remaining a positive role model for her daughters and for women all over the world.

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This photo is part of a spread shot for Marie Claire, and apparently Cindy herself insisted that the photo was released in its raw state to show the stark difference between the before and after, which we’ve yet to see.

If this is true then I am really, really impressed with Cindy’s bravery for putting herself out there for the inevitable criticism of the small-minded, jealous people who will undoubtedly slate her (and actually already have) for her ‘less than toned’ stomach, or the ‘cellulite’ or the ‘saggy skin’.

I would like to say that I think Cindy looks FABULOUS for her age (she’s 48!) and more than that she looks real. It’s so refreshing and not at all displeasing to see someone looking so fantastic but so genuine and I really applaud whoever leaked the photos, especially if it was Cindy herself.

I make no secret of the fact that I would like to see many, many more unphotoshopped images in the media. Many people I speak to are surprisingly unaware of the extent that photoshop is used in the media – and in fact the press have been full of articles shocked at the stark differences between the edited and unedited photos emerging, questioning the heavy use of photoshop in our magazines and marketing.

What do you think? Were you aware that photoshop is used to such a great extent? Would you like to see more un-photoshopped images?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Rosemary Hair Oil treatment for hair loss

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I’ve been using this treatment for a while now and I love it so much! It makes my hair lovely and soft and thick feeling – but it also washes out fairly easily which is a bonus as sometimes natural hair masks can take a few washes and leave an unpleasant residual stickiness behind. It also smells AMAZING!

People ask me a lot about hair loss so I wanted to post this recipe for everyone to try. It’s dead simple to do and absolutely worth doing, especially if you’re re-growing your hair. It’s made up of three simple ingredients:

  1. Castor Oil – If you’ve read my post on Castor Oil you’ll know I absolutely love it – I was always dubious about putting oil on my hair because it’s naturally very sleek and straight and I always want more body in it – but I have always been more than ecstatic with the way Castor Oil makes my hair look and feel.
  2. Coconut Oil – Coconut is an all-round superstar in my book – I eat a HELL of a lot of it, but I also use it for my hair. An increasing number of people use coconut oil for lots of different beauty uses – from make-up cleanser to body cream – but it’s been shown to be really good for hair growth too. That’s because it penetrates deep into the scalp and hair follicles to stimulate growth – maintains a healthy scalp and moisturises the hair to prevent breakage. If you can, source a cold-pressed, virgin organic coconut oil – Tesco do one now which is very reasonably priced too!
  3. Pure Rosemary Essential Oil – Rosemary oil is renowned for its hair-loving properties. It has antibacterial qualities which stop hair follicles from becoming clogged, can help prevent a flaky scalp – plus it has also been shown to stimulate the scalp (like peppermint and caffeine), bringing blood flow to hair follicles which can help with hair loss. It helps maintain natural shine and bounce and has been used for years in Ayurvedic medicine and Mediterranean and Indian cultures.
  4. Almond Oil – Almond Oil is absorbed really well by the hair and contains high amounts of Vitamin E. It moisturises any broken or split ends, helping to repair them and prevent breakage.

 

Method:

  • Combine 2 tsp Castor Oil and 2 tsp Almond Oil with 2 tsp Coconut Oil (Coconut Oil is solid at room temperature in the UK so you’ll need to scoop it out and measure as best you can) in a microwaveable container.
  • Pop the mixture in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds – this should warm it up enough but not too much. Make sure you test it with your finger before slopping it on your head!!
  • Add 4-6 drops pure Rosemary essential oil (plus any others!). Mix and then dip your fingers into the mixture. Keep dipping and massaging in all over your scalp.
  • I pile my hair up on top of my head and leave the oil on for 2-3 hours if I can, half an hour at the very least. Some people like to wear a warm towel to further seal in the oil but I find it works well without this hassle!
  • Rinse out well with shampoo – you may need two washes and make sure you have covered all the hair with oil on it in shampoo to ensure you don’t get any greasy strands left.

I use this every week or every two weeks if I’m feeling lazy and I really rate it. I’d love to hear about your experiences – if you try the mix let me know how you get on!

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Photoshop Leak – Beyonce

L’Oreal and Maybelline – along with the rest of the beauty industry – are amongst some of the worst photoshop usage culprits. In fact, there are often stories in the press and involving trading standards surrounding the unrealistic advertising of beauty products and make-up and the obvious over-use of photoshop in their marketing. Impossibly smooth skin, slim noses, plump lips, sparkling eyes – these adverts are undeniably beautiful to look at, but they really don’t represent reality in any way at all.

This week saw leaked images of Beyonce and Cindy Crawford – causing a media storm. Beyonce’s images were for her latest L’Oreal campaign, and they did represent a fairly stark difference between the officially released images and the raw images. But that’s not because Beyonce is ugly or defective in any way – far from it! She still looks STUNNING in these photos. She’s been under fire for editing her own photos for Instagram, but even unedited paparazzi and concert photos of Beyonce prove that she is unquestionably a natural beauty. Her skin is certainly not the ‘photoshop smooth’ of the L’Oreal photos – but it isn’t awful. Her face is still the same shape – her nose isn’t as contoured, her skin is darker. In fact, in her official L’Oreal images she looks a little too-perfect, a little alien-like, pale and almost unrecognisable. Surely seeing her in her natural state would be much nicer – and much better – for society, especially the young women who look up to her.

I’m not saying that L’Oreal should release these raw images as an advert for their make-up. They have to be expected to use some sort of editing, they’re a business after all. But wouldn’t it be nicer to see more realistic images – less plastic-doll-perfect? I think that the editing used on skin in the beauty industry is way too harsh and completely unnecessary. What do you think of these unretouched images and their retouched counterparts? Which ones do you prefer?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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6 things we can learn from Maya Angelou

Many people had never heard of Maya Angelou until her passing earlier last year. Yet she was a woman who spoke her mind and turned the adversity she faced throughout her life into a catalogue of insightful, inspirational commentaries to encourage and bring positivity to others.

There are simply too many of her quotes that I take inspiration from to list here, but I’ve managed to shortlist just 6 to share with you today.

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‘If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.’

We are under so much pressure to conform in this life. If we stand out or are different, we are ostracised and singled out, we are ‘wrong’ somehow. But what is ‘normal’? We are all different. Plus, conventions are different no matter where you go – and everyone can ‘fit in’ – you just have to find like-minded people. What is ‘cool’ or ‘fashionable’ in one country or one era differs from one to the next – doesn’t that show that none of us are ‘wrong’? Trying to be someone else wastes everything that’s good about you; and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

‘You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.’

It’s easy to see one more negative thing at the end of a string of unfortunate events as the ‘last straw’. But think back now to something which at the time was equally as challenging – chances are you feel fine about it now, and possibly can even laugh about it. Part of life, and individual aspects of life, is dealing with the downs as well as the ups. Without the downs, there wouldn’t be any ups! And allowing yourself to go through them and deal with them means you can enjoy the ups even more.

‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’

I often say that perspective is everything. This quote is very black and white – most of the time if we are stressed over something, chances are we can’t change it – that’s why we’re stressed. Especially if we have control issues.  

Often the worst things that happen to us are blessings (wearing a very good disguise!) and with a bit of reflection we can find something good in them. As human beings we are fighters, we rarely accept defeat. It’s this dogged determination that keeps us ploughing on. And how do we do that? We adopt a different attitude, see the positives and continue.

‘If you only have one smile in you, give it to the people you love.’

It’s easy to reserve the best side of ourselves for strangers, taking out our anger and frustration on our loved ones because they are there for us unconditionally. These people are there for you no matter what – they won’t judge you for how you treat them, but think about the effect it has on them. They deserve your kindness – and whilst of course it’s important (and sometimes imperative) to spend energy on people we dislike or who don’t deserve it, make sure you reserve at least a little bit for the best people in your life.

‘We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely acknowledge the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.’

Success doesn’t come overnight. Our society with its vacuous celebrity culture perpetuates the mistaken view that quite simply and with little talent or experience each one of us can be destined for great things. But it’s simply not true.

Each one of us has experienced our own struggle – even the ones who appear to have ‘made it’ have bad days and good days. We need to praise people for their achievements but also ask them: ‘What have you gone through to achieve this?’ Recognise that nobody is perfect, and behind every success there have often been hardships, failure and missed opportunities along the way.

In addition the more good you have and in being successful, the more you lose sight of how lucky you are and become greedy for more – that’s why gratitude is so important.

‘I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.’

Everything ‘negative’ that happens takes a little piece of us, sets us back a little bit. But often in time we replace that little piece which allows us to grow and move on. I think this is just a little reminder that we can and should learn and grow from bad experiences, rather than be reduced little by little to eventually be broken down by life.

It’s very much easier said than done – however I genuinely believe that it can be achieved with a shift in perspective.

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What’s your favourite Maya Angelou quote? (If you can pick just one!)

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The Generation Gap  – how and why do expectations differ?

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‘Life begins just outside your comfort zone’

For a twenty- or thirty- something in today’s society, there are a heck of a lot of pressures and stresses which seem only to have transpired in the last 10 years. Is it technology? Feminism? The economy?

As I have spoken about in ‘You can’t do it all’, women are expected to be and do lots of different things, all to a high standard. Yet we can’t do all of these things – at least not all of them very well. None of us are superhuman.

When I look at my parents and speak to them about their own experiences, I see stark differences worlds apart from even the chasm between their generation and that of their own parents.

In the 1980’s (which wasn’t THAT long ago), women still trailed behind men considerably in the workplace and in education. In schools, there was still a tendency to encourage girls to do subjects such as home economics and boys to do woodwork. Whilst many shunned the norm and set us on a path to where we are today, many women did just as their own mothers had done; met someone at school, had children, bought a house and became a housewife.

Nowadays, women (and men) of our generation are told they can ‘be whoever they want to be’. We are all talented, we can all do whatever we wish to do – we just have to believe and work hard and we will succeed. An increasingly materialistic society has only been encouraged by social media, upon which we are assaulted by an onslaught of photographs depicting luxury resorts, fast cars and millionaire beach houses.

What’s the problem with this? Well, it’s unrealistic. We can’t all be successful. There are always people at the top of the pile, people at the bottom, and people in between. Telling people they can all be successful and have potential if they work hard is really an untruth – hard work doesn’t always equate to financial abundance. There are other factors such as luck, economy and skill, and of course what you choose to go into.

If a woman is seen to be dependent on a man, or looking for a man to ‘settle down with’, she is looked upon with a certain level of disdain by today’s society. Where’s the ambition? How dare she expect a man to share his fortunes with her? Why can’t she or doesn’t she have her own?

I myself am fiercely self-sufficient, and I often find myself harbouring the same views on other girls who tell me it is their ambition to ‘find someone rich to marry’. Yet I also find myself struggling to afford the lifestyle society tells me I should have (and am entitled to) as single woman. If I focus solely on my career, I can’t have an amazing body because I have no time or energy for the gym. I can’t go out every week because I am knackered. Yet if I don’t focus on my career, I could keep up an unsustainable party lifestyle on a low wage for an inordinate amount of time but then where would that leave me? I’d have all sorts of memories, but I’d also be 30 and still living with my parents. Something I very much wish to avoid.

‘Life is for living’, yes, but how? And isn’t that often motivated by what we want but dictated by what we need? A difficult balance to achieve, if you ask me.

I think the important thing to remember is that whilst a lot is expected of us from many different parties (parents, friends, partners, work, society), all that really matters is our own personal happiness. Your instincts and personal preferences dictate what you really want in life – and even though it’s scary to take a leap of faith (especially when everyone is categorically telling you it’s a bad idea) regretting not taking a chance is much worse than ‘failing’ (as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as failure!) The best things are apparently ‘outside our comfort zone’ – yet our comfort zone is exactly that – a protective bubble which we place around ourselves for a reason.

This is something I am convincing myself of at the moment. I think we all are! I know it is true – but risk-taking really is scary and I understand that.  Watch this space as I travel out of my comfort zone to see what’s really out there and prove it’s not as scary as we all think!

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‘An Eating Disorder can happen to anyone’ – is this a helpful message?

I saw an awareness poster recently at a hospital for eating disorders this week, and I really didn’t like it.

Unfortunately I can’t find it online to share it with you, but it said ‘Aged 20-30? It could happen to you/ that doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you’ – as if it can be prevented or is a choice? Eating disorders don’t ‘happen to people’. They have causes – understandable causes – behind them.

An eating disorder does not discriminate, it’s true- but it is not your responsibility to ‘protect yourself’, like eating 5 a day in the hope you might not get cancer. Obviously we can try to ‘prevent’ eating disorders by perhaps having a complete overhaul of how we see ourselves and society’s immense pressure and perception of beauty – but even then, factors such as bullying, traumatic life events or distress and terribly low self-esteem simply can’t be accounted for. Yes, it can happen to anyone – but none of us know when or how we can be affected by a mental health problem, and sometimes even when you are in the thick of it you can’t identify that it is happening.

Instead, shouldn’t we be having posters making people aware of the signs of an eating disorder so they can spot it in themselves or a loved one? Making them aware of services, charities and professional help they can access? And more campaigns like the fabulous This Girl Can and no-photoshop petitions to improve our overall self-esteem? Posters making people aware of eating disorders, how they affect people and encouraging better understanding and empathy? Since eating disorders are still so misunderstood, and sufferers struggle to access help or get a diagnosis, I think this would be much more helpful. What do you think?

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