What interning at fashion magazines taught me: lessons on self-love

I recently saw a video on Facebook called The Ugly Truth Behind Beauty Magazines. I was intrigued; having interned at a couple in the past, I was interested in what it had to say. 

My feelings towards beauty and fashion magazines are mixed. Working at them has been such a valuable experience; I can now write publishable-quality articles with confidence, liaise with PR companies with ease and prep clothes for fashion shoots like a pro – and for that I am extremely grateful. But the most important lesson I took from it? Take magazines much less seriously. The reason is simple: the standards portrayed in magazines are unrealistic, and I’m a happier person when not constantly trying to measure up. I’m not vetoing them full stop – they’re a bit of fun escapism and I do enjoy a good flick through. But now, I do so with a sizable degree of separation. And when I look down at perfect girls on glossy pages and pangs of inadequacy start creeping in, I remind myself of the important lessons I’ve learned:

1) IT’S ALL ADVERTISING

When Oskar Brand (of said Facebook video) removed the adverts from a recent issue of Elle, he found they made up a whopping 85% of the page space. I’m not surprised – magazines are essentially product catalogues. During my time curating a weekly ‘Beauty Must Haves’ column, it was genuinely my job to write the sales pitches for these products – which BTW, I never actually got to try. I just had to come up with a snappy 25 words as to why each one will make you prettier/hotter/skinnier and add a few pictures of some models (because if you use XYZ, RRP £44.99, you can look like this too!)

Now I’m certainly not sneering at the process of beautifying yourself – I’m the first to admit that I love looking good and presenting the best version of myself to the world. But before I open a magazine, I mentally prepare myself for the fact that what I’m about to see is purely advertising. For these models, it’s their full time job to look gorgeous, and they have an entire team of people keeping them that way. If they had a hundred things to juggle before (single-handedly) getting ready that morning, there is no way their make up would look that on fleek.

2) PHOTOSHOP, PHOTOSHOP, PHOTOSHOP

It is everywhere. Seriously. They play with the lighting to change the mood of shoots. They elongate legs, nip in waists and blur out blemishes with the click of a button. I knew all this before, but only when you see it in action does it really hit home. The tipping point was when I overheard some colleagues moaning over how a model’s hips (too wide) were ruining the aesthetic of a shoot. Disclaimer: this was a ‘real life’ feature for a children’s wear issue, and said model had had a baby three months ago.

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One more time for those at the back: PICTURES IN MAGAZINES ARE NOT REALITY. THIS IS NOT WHAT A HUMAN BODY LOOKS LIKE. So the next time you start feeling bad about yourself because you don’t look like X celebrity, I recommend a two step action plan:

Number 1: Put down magazine, go to mirror, say the following: ‘Hello chica, you are a badass, you look cute as hell and you’re doing great today. I’m rooting for you’. Blow yourself a kiss, do a twirl, go slay your day.

Number 2: Type “[celebrity name] no makeup” into Google. Search. Sorted.

3) THE IMAGES YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH INFLUENCE YOU MASSIVELY

One of my jobs was going though next season’s catwalk collections and making trend reports. I loved doing this – it was so cool seeing the designers’ artistic visions in all their glory. But staring at one picture of a 5’11, impossibly slender model after another, I naturally began to compare my body with theirs- and I lost every time. “Look how graceful and dainty these girls look” whispered the voice in my head. “Think how much better you’d look if your collarbones stuck out like that too.” After a couple of hours of this a day, my normally resolute belief in health was completely obliterated by my desire to be thin. It was only when I left the office and hit the gym that my clarity came back; surrounded by fit, dedicated people hustling for their fitness goals, it once again became obvious that striving for strength was so much cooler – and infinitely healthier.

So to wrap up: beauty and fashion magazines are absolutely fine for light-hearted enjoyment, and to all you budding writers out there, I absolutely recommend the experience of interning at one. But girls, please, please remember that the emphasis that these publications place on your hotness is so warped and entirely detached from what actually defines you. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make yourself beautiful, just a friendly reminder to those of us caused grief by the fact they don’t look like the girls in magazines that it’s the other stuff – your intelligence, your warmth, the way you make people smile when they’re feeling low – which makes you a truly attractive soul. Surround yourself with images, stories and people that challenge you, develop your character and remind you of the qualities you possess that make you such a radical human being. That, my friend, is something no magazine will ever be able to sell you.

Twenty things I learned from 2016

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  1. the people in your life at the beginning of the year can completely change by the end of it. that’s okay. people change and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  2. be nice to everyone. you honestly have no idea what people are going through. every person on this earth has something in their life or past worth collapsing on the ground in uncontrollable sobs over. what if the kindness you show them is the only thing to brighten their day.
  3. edit your playlists thoroughly and frequently. music has an indescribable ability to connect and heal – let it do its stuff.
  4. tell people how you feel. even if you’re scared it’ll burn your life to the ground. say it out loud – only good things will come of it.
  5. you can’t be happy all the time and it’s stupid to try to be. allow yourself to experience anger, sadness and hurt. it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human
  6. give less of a shit about what people think of you. dye your hair blue, wear that kooky jumper – whatever gives you your kicks. life is SO much more fun like this.
  7. there is nothing wrong with spending time on your appearance. present your best self to the world every day
  8. girls, i cannot stress this enough – find yourself an older female friend. they will teach you so much, they will give you such great life lessons. they are vital and helpful and important.
  9. do not change yourself for anyone. if someone makes you feel your personality is flawed, that’s their problem. your strength is in your uniqueness
  10. make your bed. there’s nothing like coming home to a orderly, calming space
  11. sometimes the way you think of someone isn’t the way they actually are. it takes clarity to step back and separate the two
  12. physical contact is important. never underestimate the power of a hug
  13. when you’re angry, put on some gangsta rap and run, far and fast. expels nasty energy (and makes you feel powerful as hell)
  14. stand up for yourself. ladies in particular – guys have no right to treat you as anything less than an equal and if they do, let ‘em fucking have it
  15. making someone feel genuinely happy when they are hurting might be the best feeling in the world. no matter how much pain someone is going through, you made them forget about it for a few seconds. isn’t that something?
  16. bring a book everywhere and spend your free minutes reading. highlight the things you find intriguing – they have a funny way of adding to your life when you least expect it
  17. choose people who choose you. don’t waste time on people who show you time and time again they don’t care
  18. find your safe place. whether it be in the company of a friend, snuggled up under some fairy-lights or exploring a city anonymous and alone, know you can go there at any time.
  19. keep the promises you make with yourself. it’s such a positive influence on your mindset and sense of self-worth
  20. friends are essential. cultivate a wide friendship base and deep, genuine connections. invest in friendships like you would a relationship; at the end of the day, they’ll get you through anything

How to workout (for people who hate running)

I get it, not everyone likes running. Some people actively hate it. It might sound funny coming from a girl who’s done four half marathons, but I often include myself in the latter category. Unless I have a goal to work towards, I rarely never feel motivated to jump on the human equivalent of a hamster wheel and plough away for hours.  It’s just a bit, well, boring.

But if you don’t run – that’s totally okay! It certainly isn’t the only form of cardio out there, and it’s probably not the most effective (especially if you don’t do it!) The most effective form cardio is one you actually stick at – so find one you like. Cardio is anything that gets your heart pumping: rollerblading, kickboxing, swimming, dancing around your room in your underwear at 11pm, they all count!  Here’s a list of cardio workouts I’ve been really enjoying recently (and not a treadmill in sight!)

  1. Body combat.  A 55min martial arts inspired workout class, this is an amazing stress buster as well as calorie burner (perfect for after a rough day at uni/work!). All the cross body punches mean this class is a total core killer as well – you’ll definitely feel it in your obliques the next day. It’s part of the LesMills franchise, so taught at most fitness centres.
  2. …or any group exercise class.  Instructor-lead group exercise is particularly good for gym newbies, or people who want a really efficient use of their hour workout (no aimless wandering around the weights room wondering which exercise to do next!).
  3. Kayla Istines BBG. I was originally attracted to the workouts by the amazing before/after pictures on Kayla’s website after using her BBG (beach body guides). Well, I certainly wouldn’t say I ‘enjoy’ BBG, but it sure is effective! The principle is simple: 2, 4-exercise circuits repeated as many times as you can in 7mins, done twice. It’s a 28 brutal minutes, but the sense of achievement when you finish (just!) outweighs the pain. Look online for her printables, take ‘em to the gym, and feel the burn 😉

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    An example of a BBG circuit.  Looks harmless enough. I promise you, it’s not..
  4. Blogilates. I always come away from a Blogilates video feeling better than when I started.  Cassey Ho isn’t just an incredible pilates instructor (no one makes my thighs burn like her!), she’s also full of motivational lessons that are really applicable in all areas of life. Sign up to her free monthly workout calendar for a tailored program of daily workouts. You can do almost all her videos in your bedroom too, so this is great for travel.
  5. Spin – to the beat.  For me, an instructor’s choice of music can make or break a spin class. So why risk a lackluster session? Make your own playlist with songs you know will motivate you. I like spinning to a beat (watch this HipHop x spin class and you’ll get the picture :P), so I follow SoulCycle and Psycle’s public playlists on Spotify – they’re updated frequently and always have great tracks.
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Run-haters: there’s even apparel for you! I spotted this in VS Pink the other day – I’m very very tempted!

How to get back on track after a night out

Hello!

Sorry I’ve been so absent from the blog recently – second year uni exams somehow managed to take over my life 😦 Fortunately they’re done now (yay!) and I’m really looking forward to having the time to reconnect with all things healthy.

I suppose it’s pretty ironic then, that this post is all about getting what to do after being anything but! I’m a firm believer that balance is key in life, so am not averse to the occasional alcohol-fuelled night out.  I don’t make drinking a habit (alcohol really is horrendous for your body 😐 ), but I think it has definitely has its place…..

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…for example, finishing second year uni! Not Team Kale Smoothie 24/7 😛

Unfortunately, the morning after can leave you feeling a LOT worse for wear, which often has a knock-on effect on the rest of your day.  Here are some tips to curb that and set you up for a good day after the night before :

1 Drink water. Boring but true.  Before you go to bed, FORCE yourself to have two glasses (no cutting corners on this one!), and have another upon waking.  Warm water with a squeeze of lemon is great for cutting through that residual alcohol taste (mmmm, lovely) that greets you when you wake up in the morning.

2 Have something small before you go to bed. My friends all laugh at me, but when I go out, I always take a Nakd bar or something for a post club snack. I tend to be hungry after 3 hours of dancing, and having a whole food bar to hand definitely curbs any temptation for 2am chips!

3 Let yourself sleep in — a bit. Hibernating for the whole day probably won’t do you much good, but try and get at least 5 hours sleep.  We tend to make much better health/food choices when we’re well rested, so make sure you get some zzzzs.

4 Eat normally, but simply the next day.  Even if you feel gross, try and make sure you eat a little at each mealtime the next day.  Simplicity is key – keep the ingredients unrefined and to the minimum.  Banana and almond butter is a nice, easy breakfast packed with potassium and electrolytes to replenish all that way lost the night before.

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5 Do a little workout.  Even if it’s just a 15 minute Youtube video, moving your body will really help get you back in the right health frame of mind.  I’ve found running to be the best for me – it helps clear my head and flush out that sluggish feeling I get after drinking.

 

2016 in life lessons

Hi all!

Put simply, 2016 has not got off to the smoothest of starts.  The last couple of months threw some major curveballs which really shook me up and fundamentally changed the way I think about things. Nevertheless, I’ve always advocated focussing on the good (or, at least, the lesson) in every situation, so I think it’s only right I take my own advice.  There have been some pretty low lows, but they’ve definitely taught me some useful principles which will only make me stronger for the future (‘what doesn’t kill ya’ etc etc).  Here goes…

1) Be kind to yourself.  If you’re the kind of over-achiever who always strives to be their best, this is going to be difficult. Sometimes you’ve gotta accept that you cannot perform to 100% in all areas of your life, all the time.  Please don’t feel bad about not ticking off everything on your to-do list for a day, a week, (hell, even a month!) if your priority needs to be caring for yourself for a while. Life is all about balance and sometimes that’s just how it’s gotta swing. In the long term, it’s your wellbeing that really matters, not the mark at the top of your last essay.

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2) Take new opportunities – even the weird ones. I really believe that when life ain’t fun, the universe has a way of conspiring to help you. Keep an open mind and open eyes to all the opportunities around you – and don’t be afraid to take them! Even if it’s seems really crazy and like nothing you’ve ever done before, go for it! You’ll learn, develop and grow out of it, which is only ever a good thing.

3) Read! A wise guy named Albert Einstein once said ‘Life is like a bicycle.  To stay in balance, you have to keep moving.’ This is such an important principle and regular reading  is a great way of putting it into action. It doesn’t have to be a novel – the paper or online opinion column does the same trick. Engaging with other perspectives widens your view, challenges your mind and just recalibrate your outlook on the world – useful for putting things in perspective 🙂 Start with some pieces by Caitlin Moran if you need inspiration.

4) Take a daily reset.  When you feel yourself falling back into bad headspace, it’s useful to have a ‘reset’ –  an activity that you associate with starting the day over with a clean slate.  This can be anything – reading a book, watching a Ted talk, listening to your favorite song etc.  For me it’s a quick burst of exercise, followed by a shower.  It’s the perfect way to recharge your body, then (literally) wash away all the negative crap and move on.

5) Tell people how much you value them. You know those people in your life who say they’re always there for you – and really mean it? Those people who made you laugh when you wanted to cry, who listened to your 3am worries, who texted you out of the blue just to check up on you? Those people are your gold. Make sure you remind them how much you value them and how amazing they are – they deserve to know 🙂

THE BEST vegan superfood double chocolate brownie

Hi all!

The recipe I want to share with you today is insane. Like, full on mind blowing, I-can’t-believe-that’s-vegan, off the charts deliciousness. Seriously, not exaggerating here – have a look…..

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12837756_10207892947509331_1803316321_oYeah. It’s as ridiculous as it looks: rich, decadent and fudgey, with that perfect gooey centre and crisp, chocolate-drizzled top.  But the even crazier news?  That bad boy is completely dairy, gluten, refined sugar and flour free. AND….. it contains fruits & vegetables (apple, dates, black beans – hands up).  Whoodda thought: an everything-free brownie that taste better than the real deal, and is actually really really good for you.  I’ve taken to keeping a little square of it on me at all times – it’s the perfect partner to my mid afternoon Americano.

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This recipe was actually my mum’s brainchild so I can’t claim 100% ownership – but we collectively get so much joy out of it that I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing!  Here we go:

INGREDIENTS (makes quite a lot)
• 90g walnuts, toasted
• 90g almonds, toasted
• 230g cooked, drained black beans (no added sugar or salt)
• 60g coconut oil, melted
• 50g raw cacao powder
• 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
• 100g soft dates, pitted (Medjool are the best for sure)
• 2 scoops (60g) vegan chocolate protein powder  (the Arbonne one is my favorite by far)
• 1/2tsp sea salt
• 1tbsp vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS
1 Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4.
2 Toast the nuts under the grill.
3 Line a square tin 20cm x 20cm with greaseproof paper.
4 In the food processor, add the nuts and blitz briefly to chop until
fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process again until it forms a thick soft batter.
5 Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread with a knife to smooth it out
6 Bake in the oven for about 40 mins or until thoroughly cooked
7 Leave in the tin to cool down. Use a hot knife and cut brownies in to squares.

Enjoy! I guarantee you will 🙂

Superfood Supper Club 2016

Hi all!

This post is SO overdue (Cambridge life is relentless!) but I’m so excited to share it with you!

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12717801_10207668051207064_4505337546106833183_nLast week, I had the honour of being invited to cook for Cambridge Pink Week’s Superfood Supper Club.  Pink Week is an incredible charity initiative, launched at my college (Clare) in Cambridge, which works to raise money for cancer care charities.  So far, it’s raised over £16,000 in the five years it’s been running!

This year, the team added a new event to their line-up – the Healthy Supper Club, held at super cool Cambridge cafe, Espresso Library.  Huge names in the health food world (think the Deliciously Ella team, Hen’s Clean Cakes, Superfood Siobhan, Mind Body Bowl, Food Doctor, Vita Coco, Plant Based Pixie etc!) were all invited to either cook or donate food for an incredible vegan potluck.  The menu included a roast beetroot wild rice salad, Vietnamese tempeh rolls, wholegrain pitta & a huge range of flavoured hummus plus more raw/GF/vegan cakes than I could imagine! It was pretty awesome 😛12716251_1650396361890741_522948105646797624_oFor my recipe, I decided on my favourite kale | sweet potato | avocado salad with lemon tahini dressing.  I was so excited to cook in the kitchens of one of my favourite lunch spots, especially after six weeks of only having access to a hotplate & microwave!  Fangirling on ovens and knives – what has my life become :LEspresso-Library-1

I also got a fancy little nameplate, which probably made me happier that it should have done….

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Whilst cooking a salad for 40 people in the gap between lectures ending at 4pm and the event starting at 6pm, was pretty mad, I had such an incredible time.  It really was amazing to be surrounded by a room full of people who share the same ethos on food, fitness and general positivity on life.

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Me and the lovely Annie of Mind Body Bowl

It served as a lovely & much needed reminder that the world is full of incredible people who are perfectly compatible with you in all aspects – you just haven’t met them yet.

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One of my all time favourite quotes ❤

 

4 vegan substitutes for your favourite sweet treats

Hey everyone!

I took on an exciting new role this term – I’m Food and Drink Editor of The Cambridge Student newspaper! I love food, I love writing…. it’s the dream job!

I’ve been working on putting a healthy, local and sustainable spin on the section this term, featuring plenty of independent cafes as well as lots of veggie/vegan friendly recipes and recommendations.  In line with that, here’s a link to an article I wrote on giving some classic desserts a vegan makeover… enjoy!

http://www.tcs.cam.ac.uk/fooddrink/0035033-four-vegan-substitutes-for-your-favourite-sweet-treats.html

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Chickpea and sweet potato stew on butternut squash noodles

I made a new discovery whilst doing a food shop today – Sainsbury’s now sells courgetti and boodles (butternut squash noodles)! I’m very impressed!

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Vegetable noodles are actually pretty simple to make if you have a Julienne peeler, but this takes convenience to the next level.  Feeling lazy, I decided to try them.

I went for a homemade tomato, sweet potato and chickpea stew to accompany the noodles.  This was so simple to make, and most of the ingredients came out cans – ideal for student budgets! Cooked tomatoes (rich in lycopene) and sweet potato  (rich in vitamin A) are so good for you, whilst the chickpeas are a great protein source for veggies.  I added a squeeze of ketchup (yep, you heard me) for a hint of sweetness to balance out the acid – try it! It’s great!

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If you’re using a grain as a base, prepare it ahead of time. The stew took about 25 mins to make but will serve you at least three meals so it’s well worth it! Here’s how

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced finely
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 carrots
  • herbs, salt, pepper
  • squeeze of ketchup
  • olive oil
  • something to serve it on: i went for veggie noodles, but rice, quinoa, couscous would all be great
  • optional: flaked almonds, hummus to top

Method

  1. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bitesize chunks. Put them on to boil
  2. In a big frying pan, pan fry the garlic in a splash of olive oil until browned
  3. Add the chickpeas and a generous pinch of herbs (I like oregano or herbs de provence)
  4. After 5 mins or so, add the chopped tomatoes to the chickpeas.  Season to taste. Add the ketchup here if you think it’s a little sharp – I always do
  5. The carrots and potatoes should be done about now. Drain them and add to the tomato mixture, then leave to simmer for 5/10 mins
  6. Meanwhile, prepare your base.  For me, this was a case of chucking a pack of veggie noodles in the microwave for 3 mins!
  7. Ladle a big scoop of stew onto your base.  Top with extra chickpeas, smoked paprika, a teaspoon of hummus and toasted almonds for a real treat

IMG_1538Whilst I enjoyed the novelty of the noodles,  I didn’t find them entirely satisfying and had to be extra generous with the stew and hummus .  Though for 50 calories, it’s a bit unfair to expect any different I suppose! I’d recommend saving veggie noodles for creamy, avocado based sauces and go for a big bowl of good old quinoa with this one.  Enjoy!