Category Archives: Dieting

Hey, Beauty Industry! I am not a cash cow!

Hey there Beauty Industry! Just thought I’d let you know, Milk Chocolate Hobnobs are currently half price in Sainsburys. 87p. I know this because yesterday I bought some. About half way through the packet, my boyfriend turned to me and asked “don’t you think we should stop now? This is not good for us.” I paused, mid mouthful. That fleeting comment, said out of care rather than out of malice, ripped open a barely healed wound. I am not overweight by any standard but like many women I am incredibly concious of my tummy. Through the tears and hysterical cries of “Why would you say that?! Do you think I’m fat?!” I realised how completely ridiculous I was being – how completely ridiculous the whole situation was.

Bliss magazine ran a survey in 2004 that looked at teenage body image amongst its readers. In 2004 I was 12 years old. Their findings were damning – of the 2000 girls they surveyed only 19% were clinically overweight. However, 67% thought they needed to lose weight. 2 out of 3 of those under 13 years old had already put themselves on a diet. I was one of those girls. It has become clear to me that my generation (and probably the generation before us, although of course I have no first hand experience of this) have a massively warped self image problem. This video, entitled Onslaught, perfectly summarises the issue.

Although the fact this is produced by Unilever (also responsible for those heinous Lynx adverts that do nothing but perpetuate the problem they claim to highlight here) is hypocritical at best, the point I’m making stands. I can very clearly remember sitting in my primary school canteen deliberating whether or not to eat the Jam Roly Poly in front of me. The dinner lady asked me whether I was finished. I sighed in that way that only a 10 year old girl can and said “Yes. I’m on a diet.” It was years until I realised how completely fucking ridiculous that was – not only of the 10 year old me to say no to Jam Roly Poly – the fact that the 10 year old me was already conditioned to feel that she was too fat. I also felt I was too tall (I was the second tallest in my year), that my hair was too curly, that my feet were too small. Of course it transpired I was just an early bloomer. I’m still slightly taller than average but of course, the problem does not lie with my 10 year old form. It lies with an industry that systematically pulls apart the confidence of young women by making them feel they are inferior before they’ve even stopped growing.

To this very day, what with Hobnobgate this morning and the squeezing in to size 10 jeans so I don’t have to admit I’m a 12, I am plagued by a chronic sense of inadequacy. Why is this? It is because from the word go, young people are plagued by advertising and media that paints being fat as a hideously terrible thing, aging as a sign of weakness, imperfections as disgusting. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bit of make up and have been dying my hair for years. But I know and acknowledge that the beauty industry is an evil one where companies point out women’s imperfections and make them feel like shit about them in order to sell a product. Let’s not delude ourselves. Women are being treated like cash cows. Stupid ones too. I for one have had enough of it. Beauty is a social construction, women need to learn to love ourselves a little more and care what others think a little less. You, beauty industry, need to give us a break. Go and bother the blokes for a while. How about a ridiculously patronising campaign for them, full of male stereotypes and buzzwords. Fatigue smashing super energizer quattro stab sex cream or something along those lines. I am off to have another Hobnob. Laters, you fucking arseholes.

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New Years Resolutions

There are a lot of blogs and vlogs and articles floating around the internet about New Years Resolutions at the moment.
Generally, I don’t think New Years Resolutions are particularly helpful. I don’t think I’ve ever actually succeeded in any in my life. I can see the positives in thinking them up – self improvement can only ever be a good thing, really. However, I’m alarmed by the pressure to think of one. If I had a penny for the amount of times I’ve been asked what my resolutions are I’d have… at least 50p. I’ve been thinking about it and I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a big year for me for several reasons. I will (hopefully!) graduate this summer so with any luck by this time next year I’ll be in some sort of full time employment and/or training. My mothers illness will probably have claimed her life so I’ll have to deal with that at some point. My boyfriend will have taken his Grade 8 and hopefully be a fully fledged instrumental teacher so there’s a possibility between the two of us we’ll be able to afford to start looking at moving in together (although I’m not holding my breath).

My problem at the moment is that what I want to do with my life post graduation will be extremely difficult. I would love to become a journalist and hope one day to be writing a regular column for a large readership. However, my degree is in Geography. Not exactly related. So, what New Years Resolutions can I make that will benefit me in the long run? I don’t see how pledging to shift 6lbs will help me,  or anybody for that matter, unless you’re genuinely overweight. Even if you are, if you’re happy that way then that’s fine by me! As far as I’m concerned the whole dieting and weight loss industry promotes negative feelings about yourself and your body and perpetuates a culture in which fat shaming is prevalent and people are more concerned with looking fit than they are with being happy, healthy individuals. Healthy both physically and mentally. No, I want my resolutions to really, truly help me and be achievable. I want them to be things that I would resolve to do at any time of year, not just because it’s new year and people are pressuring me in to it.

So far, I’ve come up with the following:

1) Write more
Every day, write something. Proof read. Research. Become a better writer!
Gain exposure, through Twitter and blogging and through writing for other blogs and magazines.
This can be applied to anybody, not necessarily writers. Do more of the things you enjoy and that you think will benefit you. If you enjoy painting, paint. If you enjoy reading, read. If you enjoy running, run! You catch my drift. Do something that will improve your wellbeing!

2) Grab opportunities by the horns
Stop being such a wimp, don’t consider jacking it in and getting a nice cushty job that pays reasonably but won’t make me happy. Pursue what I actually want to do with my life.
If you get offered a job but you’re frightened by the prospect of change, I want you to seriously consider whether you’re going to regret not doing it in a years time. If you get the opportunity to travel and meet new people or branch out from your comfort zone in a way that you think will benefit you, for God’s sake do it! Enrich your life with fulfilling experiences!

3) Gain a new skill
I have two in mind: improving my harmonica playing and taking self defence classes. Neither will be really feasible until I graduate. I’ll probably be unemployed for a while so I’ll have plenty of time then. Ha.
This time next year I intend to be well on the way to being a Big Mama Thornton/Jackie Chan hybrid. Kicking baddie’s asses with a gob iron in hand.

I hope that through reading this I have helped at least one person to reassess their resolution to simply lose weight. Magazines and television programmes love to convince us that we’re inadequate and perpetuate a feeling of self loathing. Be the best version of you that you can be – and that doesn’t necessarily equate to being the slimmest. Think of resolutions that you can sincerely commit to and think will benefit you in the long term, not just until mid February.  I have seen too many people crumble in the second week of January at the sight of the left over Christmas chocolate.

For more from me, follow @nitramarual on Twitter!

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Body confidence, magazines and the patriarchy

It rained an awful lot today. Not entirely unusual for London but today my umbrella was broken and in an attempt to escape the elements I dashed in to the nearest shop to warm up. Whilst inside the shop I decided to have a look at the magazines – I was amazed and appalled. I don’t know if they’ve got worse, it has something to do with the time of year or whether my post-Christmas mind has been warped and waterlogged by the perpetual drizzle but it seemed to me that literally every single magazine I was faced with was shouting at me. Not in an overt, hysterical way; more a subtle, soul destroying way.

Every single magazine (in the “women’s interest” section anyway) included a feature designed to help you kick start your new year detox, shift those last few pounds, beat the Christmas bulge. Let me make this clear and plain: I am not overweight. I am within the healthy weight category of every Body Mass Index I’ve ever looked at. Standing tall at 5″5′ (and a half!) and weighing in at roughly 10 stone – admittedly sometimes more, particularly at this time of year – I am the correct weight for my height. Medically I am perfectly fine and normal. By the time I’d flicked threw a few of these magazines I had convinced myself I was morbidly obese and was walking along sucking my tummy in, just in case another human being looked to closely and spied the little food baby I was carrying. By the time I was home I’d resolved not to eat anything until at least tomorrow lunch time, I’d consumed far too much. I had some cake and felt so bad about it that I genuinely considered making myself throw up. This was when I realised – this is madness.

It has come to my attention over recent weeks and months that we women are living in a very unfair world. I don’t think I know a single one of us who’s happy with how she looks. We bleach and pluck and tan and exfoliate ourselves to within an inch of our lives but seemingly this is never enough. We are bombarded with images of a completely unattainable perfection. To exemplify this I will tell you about my eyebrows – bare with me, I have a point. My eyebrows are the one remnant of my natural hair colour. The hairs on my head have been bleached Loreal Recital Preference Oslo Natural Blonde once every 2 months since I was 14. I come from a long line of bushy haired women with a proud heritage of fuller eyebrows. They’re fine. I’m proud of them. They don’t look out of place on my face.

That was until I was told otherwise. I became aware that a lot of my colleagues and peers were having their eyebrows tinted and threaded. I colleague of mine got out a special eyebrow serum she uses to set hers in perfect place. I was perplexed and I was worried. Should I be doing these things to my eyebrows!? Mine are certainly bigger than hers and god, they ARE a very different colour to my hair! Jesus! I must look like some sort of idiot walking around with my eyebrows just blowing around in the wind, ungelled! “Look at that tramp, her eyebrows are brown and the rest of her hair blonde!” they must be thinking. Oh god oh god oh god! Laura, your eyebrows are perfectly fine and normal! The only reason you’re worried is because the world is telling you to be! Now snap out of it. The same is true of this obsession with weight loss. It seems to me that people are far more worried about looking thin than they are with being healthy. Fad diets and detoxes pollute our society and force us to feel inadequate. There are entire sections of bookshops dedicated to it. Here’s some home truths dieters:

1) Stop eating so much crap.
2) Start exercising more.
3) Make this a permanent change not a fad.

Now I am no dietician or expert in any way but I think it’s safe to say that those three steps are at least putting you on the right path. Do not do the carrot juice diet. Do not starve yourself. Unless you believe you are at risk of becoming overweight, don’t let it eat you up (pun not intended) because chances are you’re fine. The problem is with the world, not with your love handles. Society is leading us to believe that in order to be successful, happy and healthy we all need to look like Scarlett Johansson. The emphasis needs to be on being healthy. We should be pursuing the ability to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, not angling after a truly unattainable image. We should be pursuing longevity and happiness and laughter, not crying in to our jam doughnuts because we don’t look like Kim Kardashian. Magazines and TV need to stop trying to sell us things that perpetuate this problem – I don’t want to wear Spanx, I don’t want to paint myself orange, I don’t care how fat and pale this will make me look. I am not fat. Yes, I am pale but I am pale because that is the colour that I am. If I look fat and pale it is because we are all being socialised to believe that being stick thin and “sunkissed” is the very epitome of beauty. Sorry to disappoint you world but I am not a six foot, six stone super model. I am a 5 foot 5 slightly chubby pale girl. Now deal with it.

If women are to be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously and get our priorities straight. We’re being distracted from the real issues. We have bigger fish to fry than under eye circles. We need to kick some patriarchal arse. I intend to do so with my eyebrows still in tact.

For more from me, follow @nitramarual on Twitter. I tend to rant about feminism and women’s empowerment a lot.

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“But where do you get your protein from?!”

It is time for me to write a post I’ve been planning for a while. So here goes.

On June 22nd 2012 I became a vegetarian. I know it was June 22nd because it was also my Aunt Mary’s birthday and we had all gone to the nearest local eatery to celebrate. That eatery is a restaurant called Gusto’s, pronounced in a flamboyant Italian accent of course – GOOSE-TOS, not GUST-OHs as I and the rest of my common South London family insisted on calling it. I’ve always felt very awkward in Gusto’s, mainly because I once sat in there reading The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac with a cup of tea until the girl serving asked me what it was about. She looked so perplexed by the idea of a white English girl reading a book vaguely Buddhist in nature that I avoided going back lest I be quizzed about being a Buddhist scholar. Anyway, I’ve digressed.

Yes. Vegetarianism. It was on this day, June 22nd 2012, that I decided that I would never again for at least a few months or until I get bored of it eat any form of meat again. I didn’t rule out eggs or milk. I like scrambled eggs on toast with a nice cuppa tea waay too much for that. But all beef, chicken, pork, lamb, mutton, veal (not that I ever ate that anyway), duck, pheasant, goose, tuna, salmon, haddock etc was never again to pass my lips! I ordered my Penne Arrabiata smiling and it was delicious. I didn’t feel like a fat murderer after eating it either! Unfortunately my dumbass waitress friend appeared and asked me if my choice was anything to do with my Buddhist beliefs. I let her down gently.

There were three key problems I had not accounted for.
1)  I am one of the fussiest eaters on the planet.
To the extent that it would probably be easier for me to list the things I will eat than the things I wont. Generally if it’s squishy, I’m not eating it, which rules out mushrooms, avocados, cheese, tofu, aubergines, gherkin and many many other things.

2) Bacon.
I had not realised just how much I love bacon. That shit is delicious. Even now nearly four months I still salivate at the smell of it. Just thinking about it is making me weak at the knee’s. I’m sorry veggie brothers and sisters but that shit is just delicious and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

and 3) the veggie options in most restaurants and café’s are piss poor.
If I ever have to eat another egg mayonnaise sandwich I will scream.

These issues aside, for three months everything went without a hitch. That was until my boyfriend decided to cook Chili Con Carne, my favourite thing in the world after custard creams. I wont go in to details but suffices to say I cracked on a massive scale. The point of this post is this though: if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian JUST DO IT. It’s a lot easier than it seems, even a lot easier than I’ve made out here. Generally people are supportive, even encouraging. You don’t miss meat, you feel so much healthier for it and – this is key- you will not be missing out on any major nutrients so long as you eat a balance diet. The only supplement I take is fish oil.

I’ve never felt better and encourage you ALL to try it. Even if you just do meat-free Monday for a few weeks.

GOOD DEED OF THE DAY:
In light of the theme of this blog, my good deed is @josephwicking buying me a vegetarian cookbook for my birthday. Thank you!

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For the disgruntled dieter.

An impromptu poem for the fellow calorie lovers trying to aschew them in search of a better figure. Essentially, I love biscuits.

Custard Creams
The stuff of dreams
A dieting atrocity.
Sugar is the enemy.
But they go so nice with a cuppa tea.
So who gives a damn?

Chocolate cake
A big mistake
Adding inches around the waist.
My health kick yet again disgraced.
But who gives a damn?

This is a poem for my second love
I’m sorry darlings.
But when push comes to shove
For my health sake you’ll have to go.
The scales will groan.
Actually, who gives a damn?

– Laura Martin, 2012

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