Love Your Cellulite

 

A few weeks ago, I was away on holiday with my family (hence the lack of posts!) Unsurprisingly, the holiday inspired a body-image related post – with an especially unusual name (I bet you haven’t heard those two in the same sentence before). Yes, it might seem like an oxymoron to reference cellulite alongside ‘beautiful’; because we are told that the two don’t mix. We are told that we should banish and eliminate cellulite using expensive creams, lotions and surgery. It is often given unhelpfully negative personifications such as ‘unsightly orange peel’ – so naturally, we want to get rid. We’re also sold this misconception that if we have cellulite, we must be fat. So here I am (cellulite and all) to banish these theories and to prove to you that actually, cellulite ain’t that bad.

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I noticed that throughout our holiday, my mum was especially self-conscious. She seemed to be constantly comparing herself to others and putting herself down.  In the end I found this pretty annoying because really, there is nothing wrong with my mum! But I know it’s something I have done often in the past, so instead I tried my best to support her and help her to feel better.

One of the things she was especially hung up about was her cellulite. Now to me, it really isn’t that noticeable – but to her, it’s hideously obvious and ‘ruins her legs’. Understandably this makes wearing swimming costumes and bikinis a bit tricky – but unfortunately she had little choice in 45 degree heat!

I did my best to convince her throughout the holiday that the cellulite wasn’t really that bad at all – and besides, it only made up a small part of her. Women of all shapes, sizes and ages have cellulite – I have cellulite. It really is very much part of being a woman and something which I can understand people being self-conscious about, but really believe shouldn’t be such a sticking point. We don’t often see super-slender, airbrushed models with cellulite (especially advertising numerous anti-cellulite products which in themselves imply it is something to be banished!) – but in real life, (i.e, on a beach) you see it on nearly every woman. Sitting on a beach of many women, all of varying ages, shapes and sizes, I noted that over 70% had cellulite. Yet they were all individually beautiful! In addition, many of them seemed perfectly confident lying in the sun or splashing about in the sea even though they possessed this ‘defect’. I pointed this out to my mum continually, but it didn’t seem to have much effect.

On the last day, I found a wonderful example which I hoped would change her mind. I’d spotted a beautiful girl being ogled by blokes as she lay on her sunbed – wearing a red bikini with dark skin, waist-length wavy dark hair which shone in the sun with oversized sunglasses shading her eyes. It was clear that she was beautiful, even though she was lying down in the shade. Several hopeful guys sauntered up to catch her attention and try to talk to her within the space of a couple of hours. Then late in the afternoon, she was asked to translate in Russian for the sunbed guys, who were desperately trying communicate with the couple on the loungers next to us who couldn’t understand why they needed to pay. She stood with her back to us as she explained that the sunbeds would cost so many dollars – and as she did I couldn’t help noticing that actually, she wasn’t as slim as I’d had her down to be when I’d seen her on the sunbed from a distance. Standing before us now, I realised that she was actually a size 12 or 14, maybe even a 16, with wide hips and lumpy thighs, topped with a large bottom which was covered with ripples of cellulite. Yet this didn’t detract one little bit from her beauty. In fact, these features enhanced her beauty. She was gorgeous – cellulite or no cellulite.  I watched as she walked back to her lounger and waded out into the sea with her friends. She seemed carefree, happy; unaware of how beautiful she was but completely oblivious to her so-called ‘imperfections’. This was so refreshing for me – and straight away I pointed out to my mum how beautiful she was – to which mum agreed. Then I asked her if she had noticed her cellulite. She said she had – but that it hadn’t changed how beautiful she was. So then I turned it round for her and asked – ”why should it make any difference to your beauty, either?’

In Tough Love I talk about how we see others differently from ourselves – and this is most certainly an example of that. We tend to see the merits of other people before we see our own – or worse, we don’t see anything positive at all when we look in the mirror. But actually we fail to see when we have positive things which reflect in others – and the so-called ‘negatives’ which we have come to believe are embarrassing or defective parts of us because of harmful outside influences are magnified in ourselves but ignored when we look at other people. It’s holiday season – so try to be kind to yourself and remember that you are beautiful just the way you are – no matter what you may think is ‘wrong’ with you.

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Hair Loss – What NOT to do

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There are so many articles on what to do when your hair starts falling out – what products to use, what to eat, how to style it. From experience these can be a little bit mind-boggling and of course everybody has different hair types, different types of hair loss and therefore widely varying opinions on products and methodology. Here’s my run down of the top ten things NOT to do when your hair starts falling out:

  1. Don’t panic

This one comes under the category ‘easier said than done’ – I know. Stress and anxiety is a massive cause of hair loss – at best it exacerbates existing hair loss. It’s difficult not to be distraught when you start losing your hair and start obsessing over each lost strand, staring longingly at everyone else’s hair and feeling generally crap and upset. Our hair is often our comfort blanket , our crowning glory – your hair (or lack of it) can make a huge difference to how you look and ultimately, how you feel. I know that. Try your best to distract yourself from what is going on with your hair. Make a plan of action and feel assured knowing you’re doing everything you can to help your hair.

  1. Don’t overbrush

Brushing your hair can be therapeutic and distracting; yet it can also become an obsessive ritual of seeing how much you have left and how much comes out when you do brush it. Some hair loss advice calls for regular brushing but experts say it is possible to over-brush your hair, and especially where hair loss is concerned over-vigorous brushing will only cause more harm than good. Use a natural bristle brush to distribute your hair’s oils evenly and minimise breakage. The same goes for washing – try not to overwash your hair even if it gets greasy and even if you are using a hair loss shampoo. This strips the oils and increases exposure to chemical nasties which do not do your scalp or hair any good. Using your hair loss shampoo twice a day won’t make any difference to your growth compared to if you were using it every other day – but it may damage your hair and have the reverse effect instead.

  1. Don’t go buying expensive shampoos

Sadly, there’s lots of people who’d like to cash in on your hair loss because they know how upset and vulnerable you are, and that most (me included!) are desperate to try anything, no matter what the cost, to get their hair back as quickly as possible. Please don’t be drawn in by anything which appears ‘too good to be true’. Equally, don’t go buying every single hair loss shampoo and product out there. They all work differently, they are different for different people, and their efficacy also depends on what sort of hair loss you have. Read reviews (you can read my post on Hair Loss Shampoos here) and make a decision on what is best for you. Give it a good month or two to see if it is working; you won’t see results in days or even a week or so no matter what anybody says. If it still isn’t working, try something new. I’ve made this mistake before and the best thing I did was eventually to buy one shampoo and conditioner and stick to that regime for over a month – that’s when I saw amazing results. Equally, I’ve tried shampoos, given them a month or two, and realised they are not working, kicked them to the curb and tried something new. Perseverance is the only way to be sure of what works and what doesn’t.

  1. You don’t have to cut it all off

When my hair fell out after my eating disorder, my hairdresser categorically told me to cut it all off. The best solution, she said, was to cut it all down to at least shoulder length and keep cutting it until it reached the length of my baby hair. That way, it could all grow at the same rate. 14 years old and recovering from an eating disorder, I was desperately clinging on to the hair I still had left. Losing it had been a shocking additional blow a few months into my recovery. There was no way I was going to cut it off.

My hair admittedly looked awful for at least a year. I lost mine from underneath, so stringy strands hung over bald patches which were gradually filled with lots of wispy baby hairs. As they grew they formed a fringe on my forehead and a fluffy ‘do beneath my old hair around the rest of my head. It wasn’t the best look, but it allowed me to keep my hair and eventually 3 years later my hair looked incredible. For a year or so I’d worn clip in extensions which helped me to feel more confident and forget about the state of my hair, and one day, I realised my hair was exactly the same without them. The baby hair had matured and was long and thick and as a whole it looked fabulous.

Since then, I’ve found some hairstyles and a few techniques you can use to help ‘mask’ hair loss whilst you are – of course temporary extensions, wigs and hair pieces are also handy. You can read about them here.

Of course if you’re brave enough to have it all cut to one length then this is good for hair health and growth and will ensure even regrowth – it is completely your decision. But know that if, like me, you are very attached to your hair, you can hold onto it!

  1. Don’t leave it unchecked medically

Hair loss is becoming more common in women especially due to the increased stress and pressure in our lives. Therefore it’s easy to put it down to stress or hormones. But there are other medical causes of hair loss which should be noted and it’s important to be vigilant for in case your hair loss is caused by an underlying health problem. If your hair loss is persistent, make an appointment with your doctor just to be sure there’s nothing else going on. They may even refer you to a trichologist for help with your hair loss.

  1. Don’t overstyle it

We all love our hairdryers, curlers, straighteners, rollers – but it goes without saying, these are NOT good for your hair, especially when it is in a weakened state. I made a conscious decision to stop using the hairdryer (unless it was an emergency – you know we all have those) and I rarely use straighteners or curlers but these were vetoed too. It may well be torture but it is worth it to help your hair to recover and alleviate the anguish that comes with seeing clumps of hair all over the floor after styling. There are lots of nifty tutorials on Pinterest for creating curls (and other hair styles) with no heat and little pulling or breakage on the hair, so if you are naturally curly embrace them and take a look online for inspiration.

  1. Don’t use tight bobbles and clips

Bobbles are the worst thing for your hair. Even ones without the metal clip which can snag hairs pull on your scalp and hair follicles and can accelerate hair loss. I only wear clips or loose slides when my hair is falling out and if I really want a bobble in I use a trick Iwas shown on a shoot by my lovely best friend and renowned hairdresser Mark – attach two bobby pins one either side of your bobble – scrape your hair into a pony then slide one clip through the centre close to the scalp. Wrap the other around a few times till it’s tight then slide the other bobby pin through the centre of your pony. Home-made bungee! So much less damaging for your hair and 0-expense, 0-hassle.

  1. Don’t forget to eat (and drink) for your hair

A few of you won’t like this one and will be sick of hearing it but honestly, good skin and hair health comes from the inside. What happens on the outside of our bodies in often an indication of what’s going on inside, so if your hair is falling out, it indicates a problem whether that’s mental, physical or perhaps a deficiency somewhere. If you’re not at the stage where you feel ready to address your diet then that is understandable, however without a good diet, your hair will struggle massively to recover. The real you will care more about your hair than what an eating disorder cares about, so concentrate on that and try really hard to follow that desire rather than any other false ideals that will be in your head. I really wish I had known what to eat to help my hair all those years ago – I was recovering and I’d have eaten anything to stop it from falling out. You can read my post on food for hair here.

  1. Don’t use harsh chemicals on your hair

Most commercial shampoos, whatever they claim to do, will be full of chemicals which are less than healthy for your hair. The ‘worst’ of these is sodium laureth sulfate, which is what makes shampoos and shower gels lather nicely. Experts say it strips the scalp of natural oils and can also leave hair brittle and dry. Once you know this, you’ll know that finding a shampoo without this in it is very difficult.

  1. Don’t feel alone, embarrassed or suffer in silence

More women than you realise will be suffering from hair loss but will not have told anybody about it out of shame or embarrassment. So many will be covering it up on a daily basis and feeling bad about it alone. Don’t feel like you are alone in this – take a look online and you’ll find lots of friendly women ready to discuss hair loss with you; forums where you can share what works and what doesn’t. And of course, you have this blog J

 

Hair loss is an awful thing to experience but at least now you know what NOT to do and can concentrate on getting your hair, and yourself, back to the best health possible.

Any tips I’ve missed here? Share them!

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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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Inspirational Women – Kate Upton

 

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She’s only 20, yet she’s a number one sex symbol worldwide. But there’s also something really refreshing about Kate Upton – she’s honest, she’s curvy and she comes across as incredibly normal whilst possessing maturity beyond her years. She just had to be a part of my Inspirational Women series.

She’s aware that she is a prominent person and a huge role model to women globally  because of her modelling career – but also has something to say about Photoshop culture and marketer’s responsibilities to women.

Of beauty and the falsehood of Photoshop, she says: “Most of the time the model is retouched and too skinny and other people get depressed by it…it’s not realistic for that model or for that woman reading the magazine to think she should look like that.”

Of her own body image: “Everybody goes through hard times, regardless of if they are being criticised for their body.”

Some might say Kate speaking out is ‘all very well’ considering she is a beautiful globally recognised model and a prominent part of the industry itself. No, she’s not necessarily brave or noble, but she speaks with kindness, honesty and integrity which may inspire other women and also proves that each and every one of us has bad days. What do you think of Kate and her comments?

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Hair loss shampoo – the low down

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Hair loss is particularly relevant to the blog because eating disorders often cause acute hair loss, or at least result in thinner hair, and stress and anxiety are also culprits in causing women to lose an excessive amount of hair.

As I’ve said before on the blog, losing your hair is one of the most awful things a woman can experience aesthetically. It’s one of those things which you just want to stop immediately – so you’ll pay anything to get your hands on something which promises to stop your hair falling out, and improves the look of your hair, instantly. You feel anxious and upset about your hair and how you look and therefore you enter a vicious cycle because stress will do your hair absolutely no good whatsoever.

I’ve covered a few things that have worked for me, such as Castor Oil and other methods, on the blog before, but in this post I wanted to focus purely on shampoos because they really can be a bit of a minefield and there are a lot of them about. I can honestly say I’ve tried most of them! I’ve also spent hours trudging through reviews online and frankly, they always tend to be mixed and it takes a long time and a lot of review reading to get a decent picture of how and how well a product works! Here’s my genuine, balanced views on the top 5 I have used below:

  1. Alpecin/Plantur

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This stuff worked wonders for me. It’s a caffeine-based shampoo – the caffeine acts as a stimulant on the scalp to encourage hair growth. Scalp Stimulation is a main discipline in the hair growth bible, that’s why head massages and cinnamon and peppermint along with caffeine are extensively used in the industry. Like cinnamon and peppermint, caffeine gives a tingly sensation when it is applied to the scalp. Alpecin instructs users to leave the shampoo on for at least 2 minutes – this is when you start to feel the tingle. The instructions say ‘leave as long as possible’ so sometimes I would sit in the bath with it on my hair for 20-30 minutes just to give it a good go.

There are 2 different brands here – Alpecin and Plantur. Plantur is basically the ladies’ version of Alpecin and from what I have heard they are very similar – I used Alpecin so I had to put up with the manly smell for a few months but in all honesty it was worth it.

After a month or so of using it every other day I noticed new hair growth and the rest of my hair began to grow very rapidly. After 2-3 months I had a thatch of baby hairs about 2-3cm long and my hair was growing very quickly, so I stopped using Alpecin and switched back to my normal shampoo. Another 3 months later and that baby hair is now 2-3 inches long – I’ve had no let up in the speed or thickness of growth and I now have a little fringe of baby hair down to my eyebrows! It really worked for me it just took persistence and regular washing, plus sticking to the instructions of keeping it on for a fair amount of time.

The only thing I will say about Alpecin in particular is that I may not recommend it for lighter hair colours or anyone who dyes their hair. I have naturally mousy brown hair which I dye a shade or two darker but the shampoo actually faded my natural hair (and the dyed hair) to a weird gingery-brown colour which I had to keep dying over. It does say in the instructions that Alpecin may cause discolouration of the hair, especially blonde hair, so it’s a risk you may want to weigh up before using. Personally, I was happy to take this in return for rapid, sustained new growth.

Pros: Fantastic, good-quality new hair growth, very good price, readily available in lots of retailers.

Cons: Manly-smell (if using Alpecin), hair can get more greasy in-between washes, hair dye and natural hair colour can be affected by product.

 

  1. Nioxin

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The favoured premium go-to hair loss solution, this is the product you’ll likely be recommended by your hairdresser. I used this a couple of years ago when my hair started to fall out (not as much as when I was poorly, or last year) but still significantly enough for me to feel I needed to take action. I also had a Nioxin scalp treatment at a hairdresser which involved a long vigorous head massage using a grainy peppermint solution made by Nioxin which made my hair look thicker straight away!

I loved Nioxin so much that I continued to use it as my usual shampoo until last year when my hair started falling out uncontrollably and I felt I needed to try something else; I’m not sure whether Nioxin might have become ineffective because I’d been using it on a day to day basis for so long before my hair started falling out.

Simply put, Nioxin works using peppermint as one of its main active ingredients, to stimulate the scalp but also to fully cleanse the scalp of any debris which may be blocking hair follicles and therefore negatively affecting growth. This is also what gives it its strong, clinical minty scent. Nioxin is great because rather than being ‘one size fits all’, it caters to different hair types and therefore different types of hair loss. For me, I needed something for fine, visibly thinning hair, so I went for Number 2. This meant the shampoo cleansed my hair really nicely and left it bouncy and thick-looking, not at all weighed down. I’d still go back to Nioxin as a regular shampoo now as I liked it so much.

The only complaint I would have about Nioxin is that the range is huge; there are now different foams and lotions you can buy as well as the shampoo and conditioner which are all fairly pricey. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when your hair is falling out and you are desperate to combat it in any way possible but my advice here would be to buy the shampoo and conditioner first, then see how you go. I went ahead and purchased one of the ‘Diamond Boost’ products only to find it made my scalp really dry and itchy and made my hair look greasy. I couldn’t tell if it had any effect on the hair loss because I had to stop using it, and now I have a full bottle of expensive serum lying in my drawer.

Extra tip: I bought Nioxin in bulk from my local beauty wholesalers (you can buy online too) – it was a HUGE bottle but saved me a lot of money.

Pros: Fantastic range of hair loss shampoos and conditioners (and shampoos and conditioners in general), tailored to your hair type and hair loss type, recommended by stylists, works to clean hair and scalp and promote new hair growth, range of salon treatments which are reasonably priced (RRP) and really do work to improve the look and condition of hair.

Cons: A little expensive at £12 a bottle, only available in salons and online (the best price tends to be online!), a confusing extra range of add-on products which are expensive and may be purchased in desperation but may not be best for your hair.

 

  1. Mane n’ Tail

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I heard about this years ago when I was recovering from my eating disorder but I couldn’t get my hands on any for love nor money. I even spoke to my friend who has horses and she said she couldn’t find any at the equine wholesalers!

A few years on, I noticed it advertised in the beauty section of a magazine and realised that everyone must now have cottoned on to the Mane N Tail craze, hoping this meant it was more readily available. It was! I bought mine from a local African hair retailer but you can find it on Amazon and eBay too.

I bought a bottle on eBay and started to use it straight away. What I will say about Mane N Tail is it’s a fantastic general shampoo. It doesn’t claim to contain special ingredients like others do, and it’s definitely not all-natural but it lathers up so nicely and your hair is fresh and clean and bouncy after use. It also smells gorgeous!

Originally there was just one type of Mane N Tail but there’s now a few to choose from which baffled me at first – I stuck to the original. The range also now features conditioners and a detangling spray however I haven’t tried these (yet!) so I can’t say how good these are.

All in all a good shampoo but I’m not sure it made any real difference to my hair growth. This may be a placebo opinion in that because it wasn’t tingling on my head it wasn’t ‘working’, but I would definitely use the shampoo again.

Pros: Great shampoo, smells lovely, lathers very well and cleans hair well. Good price and readily available.

Cons: Not sure it affected my hair growth (not a con for many but given the point of the article…!)

 

  1. Michael Van Clarke 3 More Inches

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I had NEVER heard of this stuff (and shamefully the name made me giggle) when I heard about it for the first time when talking to a friend who has beautiful long thick hair, but felt it was thinning at the front due to wearing it in tight buns for work.

She told me she really rated it and that I should definitely try it, but that it was expensive. I went online and yes, it is a little pricey, however easily available from Amazon which also sold trial travel packs for the sceptical to try. I was so happy using my Alpecin that I decided to leave it and subsequently went back to my old shampoo; so on Christmas day when one of the said travel packs landed in my stocking I was over the moon and excited to try it!

The pack contains a tube of leave-in treatment, a tube of conditioner and a tube of shampoo. The treatment is for weekly or fortnightly use whereas the shampoo and conditioner are for regular use. I decided to go for the leave-in treatment straight away and slathered it all over my hair then went off to bake Christmas cookies for a few hours.

When I washed it off, my hair was incredibly silky and soft. It was plump and not at all weighed down by the product, which surprised me as it contains keratin protein and in my experience keratin products can be heavy.

Keratin is the main component in the 3 More Inches range; if you take a look at the ingredients you’ll see there’s no chemical nasties and a hell of a lot of keratin, which is basically protein-rich hair-food (like a smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado steak salad, topically applied!) Keratin is actually a protein itself, naturally found in hair fibres. A lack of Keratin can result in dry brittle hair which breaks off easily – so you can see why sufficient Keratin is important to stop hair loss from breakage and also from brushing out huge knots as it also makes hair much smoother and easier to comb through.

I haven’t used this range enough to be able to categorically say whether it has made a difference or not but it was certainly visibly nourishing for my hair and my friend tells me it has made a massive difference to hers in just a matter of weeks.

Pros: Luxurious shampoo, smells lovely, easy to use and lathers well considering it doesn’t contain any of the worst chemical nasties. Packed full of hair-loving Keratin which can certainly be no bad thing.

Cons: Expensive, only available online.

 

  1. Naked Shampoo 2 in 1

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When I started reading up on hair loss I read a lot of articles which encouraged me to ditch chemicals completely in order to repair my scalp and restore my lost hair. Some even urged me to stop washing my hair entirely (never going to happen – I have a job!!). Whilst I could see the science behind this I struggled with the practicality. When I started looking at the ingredients lists of shampoos in the shops and the ones I used currently, I noticed they were full of the said ‘nasty chemicals’ that according to those articles under no circumstance should I be applying to my scalp. I panicked, then I Googled natural shampoos.

It took me ages going through online shops and forums to find that one of the Naked range of shampoos did not contain the dreaded Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is what makes shampoos and soaps lather. I wasn’t particularly happy about going lather-less because that’s part of the shampooing process that I love, but with bald patches rapidly emerging I was willing to try anything and going all natural made complete sense. Some of the reviews cited rapid hair growth using the shampoo so I was very excited to give it a go.

I used the Purifying 2 in 1 Shampoo from Naked. It smelt heavenly in the bottle but that smell unfortunately didn’t really linger on my hair. I was pleasantly surprised that it lathered up nicely when I washed my hair and my hair felt really clean after using it – plus it was nice and soft.

I used the shampoo for around 2 months but unfortunately in all honestly I don’t feel it made any difference to the growth of my hair. That’s when I switched to Alpecin.

Pros: Cheaply priced, smells nice, easy to use and still lathers a little bit. 100% natural no nasties.

Cons: You can only buy it from Boots and Sainsburys, and bigger stores at that. Online you can only buy it from these retailers or direct (it’s on eBay but is much higher than retail price, weirdly). Personally saw no difference to my hair growth and wasn’t the best shampoo I have ever had cleansing-wise.

 

Having read this article back, it’s funny that the two products that worked best for me are the ones with the most cons. Don’t let this put you off – as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. Some of the most potent medical treatments have the worst side effects. The point is, they work. Have you guys used anything you feel is share-worthy here for hair loss? I’d love to share them with everyone else!

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Procrastination – the thief of time (and sanity)

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Lack of motivation and high levels of procrastination are frustrating traits we all harbour. Yet for those with anxiety or depression it’s multiplied by 100% or more, meaning it’s harder to get out of that rut you’re stuck in. Couple that with self-esteem issues ‘I can’t do it’ and you’ll never get things done. Having a huge to-do list and having achieved nothing due to your lack of motivation only serves to impact your low self-esteem further.

I am the sort of person who gives myself a million things to do – and I control that with just as many lists. But I realised that I was just re-making lists neater when I’d crossed a couple of things off to pacify my OCD tendencies – and I was not actually getting things done. When I realised that the biggest tasks such as arranging all my photographs from the past year (which had now become two years) had been on the list for 12 months or more, I decided I needed to sort out my procrastination as it would help to increase my productivity, subsequently easing my anxiety.

How do you get that magic motivation?

It takes a lot of stern words with yourself (which may well be deserved) but it’s definitely possible to at least minimise procrastination. I say this so candidly because it is so important to conquer the little urchins in your head that give you insignificant things to do; in fact it is imperative to recovery and improved mental health. I’ve included a few tips below that I have picked up over the past year or so which I am implementing in my daily and weekly routine – little tips which have made a huge difference to my productivity!

  1. Break down big goals. Staring up at a HUGE goal just gives way to self-defeating thoughts of ‘oh my god I can’t do this’ or more likely ‘I don’t want to do this.’
  2. Get your ‘worst’ job out of the way first. Your least desirable job of the day or week is best tackled first, if possible. It gives you the motivation to go ahead and do the other jobs because they don’t seem so monumental once you’ve got the one you were least looking forward to out of the way.
  3. Prioritise your to do list. Some of the things on your daily or weekly to do list don’t really need to be there. Break the lists down into manageable smaller lists – how many tasks can you physically do today? If it’s ten, cut it down to ten. Less imperative tasks can wait till tomorrow.
  4. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t complete the tasks within the allocated time, don’t beat yourself up. Just take it as an indicator of what you can manage in one day and cut your lists accordingly for the next day.
  5. Putting it off won’t make it go away! When you prioritise, make sure you do so in order of actual importance and not in the order of what you want to do or feel like doing. If a bill needs paying and it stresses you out and you can’t be bothered with it, putting it at the bottom of your list will make it disappear. If you tackle it first (as in point 2) you’ll be laughing!

I would love to hear some of your own tips for minimising procrastination and getting motivation to do mundane every day jobs. Please share them below!

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Small Steps – retailers begin to ban Photoshop

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This year has seen significant steps in reducing the false expectations of beauty we see in the media and marketing, something which I am very passionate about.

With so many retailers and brands under pressure to ban Photoshop, or at least reduce their use of it, in August this year, Modcloth became the first retailer to sign a pledge which promises not to use Photoshop. And when it does, it will add a label to the image making consumers aware that airbrushing has been at play. The bill is part of the Truth in Advertising Act, which aims to present a more realistic view of beauty and body image to women young and old in an increasingly critical and aesthetic society.

Debenhams also made progress this year by vowing not to airbrush their lingerie and swimwear models, as it emerged that girls as young as 11 and 12 were unhappy with their bodies and taking action to lose weight. Now campaigners (including myself) are hoping that other retailers will realise that each and every one of them has a moral obligation to ban airbrushing.

Founder of the bill, ex-advertising exec Seth Matlins  (who features in my last post about Dove Beauty), hopes the bill will be adopted by more and more brands once they see that consumers embrace it wholeheartedly, instead of peddling harmful false representations of ‘beautiful’ women.

‘Please be a part of the solution and a hero. Please consider that you are responsible for the side-effects of how you sell as surely as you are for what you sell,’ he says in a message to advertisers.

It’s heart-breaking for me that the rate of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression and self-harm cases are increasing year on year, and at younger and younger ages. The future for our children looks bleak if we don’t take action and change society’s view of beauty and the perception of ‘beautiful’. We also need to lessen the emphasis on appearance and encourage our younger people to focus on the things that really matter in life.

I can’t wait to see what progress next year holds for this bill, and look forward to seeing change soon.

Read Seth Matlin’s blog, Feel More Better, here.

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You can’t do it all – and you certainly can’t do it all well

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There’s increasing pressure on us these days, especially women, to be proficient at everything. The areas in which we must excel in life have increased over the years as equality has been improved, and whilst this of course is a step in the right direction it means that women are expected to fulfil a number of roles with no room for failure in any of those.

The main pressures in life on women, being a good mother and wife, having a good career and being financially independent as well as looking good, all have sub-sectors which often in themselves can take up most of our time and energy.

The truth is, it’s simply impossible to be all of the things above, at least to a degree of excellence in all.

How do you prioritise and concentrate on just one thing, once you decide what it is you wish to focus on? As a younger person, it’s likely that the responsibilities you do have seem huge to you, but when you look at the lives of other women, you wonder how the hell they juggle the things you juggle, in addition to children and work and a husband (I know I do!!). You only have a certain amount of energy. Where do you want to expend it? And what do you want to achieve as a result?

For me, I’ve decided I have to take a look at what I have to do, what I feel I have to do, and what I want to do. When I did, I realised that much of the things I ‘have to do’ and subsequent tasks give myself to do are actually not things I have to do at all. They are things I feel I have to do, make myself do, for the approval of others. It’s not at all simple just cutting these out (especially if you have an anxiety disorder), but I re-evaluated my list and found there were things I could possibly subtract.

The things I actually had to do, like working, and things I wanted to do, came last on the list. Isn’t that ridiculous? No wonder I am so stressed. Sound familiar?

Prioritising isn’t easy because our brains tell little fibs and make unimportant, non-essential things seem imperative and astronomical in comparison to the things we actually need to do day to day.

I’m making a conscious effort to re-prioritise my life, to make room for the really important things that in the long run will make me happy. Try it for yourself – write everything down that you ‘have to do’ and assess just how important they all are. If you really do have to do all of those things, try and grade them in order of importance. If you struggle with that, you most certainly are not alone. It’s just a case of having a real think about what you want, and taking time to try and get your head around what you want to focus on. Focus truly is everything – you can only do one thing at a time and do it well! Then you will succeed. Let me know how you all get on!

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Dove Beauty – one man takes on the beauty giant – amongst others

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This man is both brave and inspirational, and leads the pack when it comes to getting big brands to sit up and listen about the real effects of their marketing campaigns. They have a huge responsibility, and this man has turned his back on the industry and made it his mission to change the landscape radically, ensuring brighter futures, better mental health and healthier body image for girls like his two young daughters, who were the inspiration behind this life-changing U-turn.

But why did this successful marketer shun the industry that he had once been so successful within, in favour of criticising it and looking to radically alter the fundamentals of fashion and beauty marketing?

One night, one daughter asked him if he thought she was ugly. This changed his world forever.

Now, Seth Matlin aims to obtain as many signatures as possible on his Truth in Advertising Bill, which offers new hope for the self-esteem and body image of generations to come.

After Dove’s high profile ‘Dove Beauty’ campaign using ‘real women’ in adverts, and shunning airbrushing (remember that viral Youtube video in which the model started barefaced and finished up looking like a different person?), Seth wants them to join his campaign and sign the petition.

Whilst he isn’t outright accusing Dove of doing anything wrong or breaching their own principles , he wants to ensure that their message is as wholesome as they imply; and that none of their models have been airbrushed in any way.

Dove have yet to comment; but hopefully this will be their next step in championing real women and combatting unrealistic ideas of beauty.

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Victoria’s Secret under fire for ‘Perfect Body’ advertisement

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Recently, Victoria’s Secret has been under fire for a controversial new advert featuring a string of its slim, leggy models emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Perfect Body’. The tagline, they maintained, referred to the product itself and not the figures of the models featured, yet many have taken offence to the implication that anything other than a Victoria’s Secret body is somehow ‘imperfect’. After a successful campaign and petition, the advertisement was changed.

Victoria’s Secret is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, along with 99.9% of the female population, I find it hard not to be in love with every single one of their products and of course aspire to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel.

On the other hand, however, I find the latter abhorrent.

From a marketing perspective, the whole brand is built around this aspirational ideal, as are many others (the likes of the ‘exclusively for thin and pretty people’ Abercrombie and Fitch, for example), which society generally accepts and in fact favours over seeing ‘ugly’ or ‘overweight’ models at the forefront of brands.

But what exactly constitutes ‘normal’? Or ‘beautiful’? Or ‘thin’ or ‘fat’? As I touch on many a time in this blog, there are many different ideas of beauty. No two people will have the same perspective on exactly how beautiful a person is, or what makes them beautiful. The general consensus of what beauty is can often be shunned by a wide majority of people in favour of something different, something quirky, unique.

Aside from this point, is it really responsible to market this sort of message to a mostly impressionable, younger age group? Women of all sizes, ages and nationalities shop at Victoria’s Secret. But it is especially those vulnerable younger girls who already wish to emulate celebrities and those polished and preened for their time in the public eye that should be considered here, along with the wider message it sends to society as a whole. The brightly coloured, sparkly looking Victoria’s Secret models are very much like Barbie dolls – temptingly perfect yet all very uniform and similar in shape, height and beauty. They don’t offer a reasonable, measured view of how women should (and do) naturally look. Instead they peddle the super skinny yet intrinsically feminine, high-cheek-boned long, thick-haired ideal which many strive to in vain to emulate, yet of course most of us unsurprisingly fail.

Why is this the ‘perfect’ figure? What makes this the ‘perfect’ form of beauty? And why should we all try to look this way? The truth is, we are simply being told this information and believing it wholeheartedly, which in turn affects our behaviour and what we see as ‘beautiful’.

It’s like this: if I told you there were aliens living on the moon, the chances are you would question it. You would ask me what evidence I had for this, had I seen them? Has anyone else seen them? Who else believes it? Of course in reality it’s bullshit. I made it up. This is different because it’s not personal. It’s tangible. It doesn’t involve self-scrutiny or criticism.

However imagine you were told that a woman was beautiful. The evidence for this is that men and women alike lust after her. She has everything that women of all ages and nationalities find attractive – perfect hair, large sparkling eyes, plump lips, supple smooth skin, a body that is not too thin but not overweight, just the right amount of curve. She is featured on the front of every magazine. Other people agree that this person is perfect. Articles upon articles are written on how you too can emulate this individual, and the reasons why you should are clear: she is loved all over the world by seemingly every single person. This other form of bullshit is very clever, because it taps into our internal insecurities and psychology and makes us believe that we are missing something. Who doesn’t want to be liked? Who doesn’t want to be told they are pretty? It’s not aesthetic – it’s merely the way that being praised for our appearance makes us feel, and the personal , financial and life gains we see associated with that.

Unfortunately, we often think this way without even noticing it. It is subliminally drummed into us, from an early age. We are exposed to it every single day over an increasing number of media. But don’t forget that everybody is different and beautiful in their own way. We are built the way we are for a reason. And just because somebody in an agency somewhere decides that one person should indicate how each of us looks and feels, doesn’t mean we should take any notice!

What do you think about the recent VS advert? Is the uproar justified? Or is it simply a continuation of an industry-wide practice of unattainable perfection?

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There is no such thing as failure…

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‘You’ve only failed when you cease trying’

Recently, I embarked upon a course to become a legal secretary. I did so with much conviction – once I decide to do something, I’m wholly invested and determined to see it through. However a few weeks in, after knuckling down religiously for several hours every Saturday, I realised (epiphany-style) that it wasn’t for me. Not only was it irrelevant to my current job and career (I’m a PA and Marketing Manager), I was stuffing it into my week desperately between working full time, my family, my boyfriend, social life, other commitments and the gym. Plus writing, of course. I’d bitten off way more than I could chew; and whilst I felt stupid for taking the bull by the horns and making the initial decision with such misguided vigour, I also felt as though I had given up easily. I’d failed. Despite knowing absolutely that this was not the right thing for me, and dreading  continuing the course, I felt stupid for having embarked on it so enthusiastically only to find that I was mistaken.

On the phone to the course administrator, unprompted she told me: ‘Don’t feel like you’ve failed. It’s a hard course, you can always come back to it. Draw a line in the sand, keep moving forward and don’t look back.’ Intuitively, she knew how I was feeling and her advice made me realise that by following my heart, I had definitely made the right decision. As soon as I came off the phone, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.

I’d gone into the course wholeheartedly with the best intentions, and ultimately failed to complete it. Yet in realising it wasn’t for me, I succeeded. I now have more time to write and take care of the blog, my weekends are mine again to relax and spend time with my loved ones. Taking the wrong path made me realise exactly what I want to do and am truly good at – and that is to write.

I believe everything happens for a reason – and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Next time you’re feeling low or as if you have failed because something didn’t worked out as you had hoped or wished it to; don’t worry. It’s probably a blessing in disguise, guiding you back onto your chosen path!

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