Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trusting your gut

“I have days, now, when I don’t think much about my weight. I have days, at least, when I see properly, when I look in the mirror and see myself as I am - a woman - instead of a piece of unwanted flesh, forever verging on excess” - Marya Hornbacher 

For as long as I can remember me and my tummy have not been friends. My fleshy nemesis, it has been blamed for everything that makes me feel less than. Thin lips, too angry, not soft enough in temperament - all of my perceived flaws have at some point travelled all the way down my throat and wrapped themselves around my middle as an imaginary gut.

Sometimes, most of the time, I feel that my body is a collection of parts - ‘problem areas’ - and my tummy is in the centre. A beast that constantly demands to be fed, growling, forever verging on excess - every ‘undeserved’ calorie threatening to push it over the edge.

You’re told to trust your gut, but through magazines you also learn that there are tricks to convince your stomach that you're not really hungry. Drink water, chew slower, eat something small. Staying hungry without giving in is a battle I’ve never won but I’ve wished for a victory, wishing I had the self control to not eat. Not realising that my inability to remain hungry was necessary for survival. I’ve felt pure loathing towards my skin as I’ve grabbed it in handfuls and squeezed in frustration, wishing that I could rip away chunks of myself and flush them down the toilet.

Trusting my gut, learning that hunger is not a battle to fight against or second guess but a reminder that I need to eat is a journey I’m still taking. I’m learning that my body is a landscape. Exercise - so often rationalised as something to punish myself - is a gift. I try to be thankful that I am healthy and strong.

Most of all, I’m teaching myself that I don’t need to make myself smaller in an attempt to make big opinions more palatable. I'm allowed to take up space.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Many mountains to climb


Sometimes it's necessary to shake up your environment to remind yourself what it is you really value.

Despite my previous chirpy positivity about the winter weather, all it took was a couple of nasty colds to make me retreat indoors and stay there. In fact, until this weekend away in Snowdonia I don't think I'd so much as even set a foot in my local park for over a month. Now, for some people I'm sure that's just fine, but if I've learnt one thing about myself over the last five years it's that if I spend too much time in the city, or doing city things, then I go a little nuts.

One of the biggest revelations I had on my year abroad was that I wasn't as much of an urbanite as I thought I was. Living outside of London for pretty much the first time in my life, suddenly all the things that made me anxious at home didn't seem so important any more. In London there's a lot of pressure to 'be' someone, and maybe it's just that I'm a little too inclined to narcissism but it gets me every. time.

It's a huge cliché, but something about fresh air and wide open spaces always helps to put things back into perspective. It's a combination of the reminder that to be warm, comfortable and fed are all we really need in this life, the physical challenge and the sense of insignificance against something so permanent and so old that helps me feel - for lack of a better or less annoying phrase - at peace.

Since returning from Colorado this little glimmer of fundamental truth I believe I discovered has been the driving force behind quite a lot of life decisions. When I left my job in content marketing in 2016 my boss asked me what it was that I actually wanted to do with the journalism MA I was just about to start. "I want to write for an outdoor travel magazine!" I replied. At a Halloween party last year, a much cooler and more successful journalist than me asked the same question. "What I reallllly want to write about is adventure travel" I drunkenly gasped. She looked horrified.

This weekend in Snowdonia reminded me about all of that in a big way. Considering I was just starting to feel as if winter was going to go on forever, this could not have happened at a better time. Not to sound too British about it but we were incredibly fortunate with the weather, and the day we hiked Cnicht was still and sunny. We didn't make it up snow-capped Snowdon this time, but I'm fully intending on returning for it sometime in the Spring.

And the best realisation of all is that with so many mountains to climb on this planet of ours, I've got a whole lifetime of adventures to keep me busy!

Platitudes aside, though, I'm definitely still narcissistic enough to make sure I get a good photograph for Instagram. Which just goes to show that some things will never change.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Franco-fille


Sometime last year I was subscribed to an email newsletter called Well + Good, a US based health site 'obsessively covering the wellness scene.' After a few months of receiving really important information about the superfood supplement Jennifer Aniston swears by, or the exercise routine of Gigi Hadid I started to notice a pattern. 'The key thing French women use to wash their faces', 'the super simple way French women get radiant skin', 'things I learnt eating like a French women for a week' etc etc. It seemed to me that aside from setting an impossibly aspirational stereotype of French womanhood, the purpose (intentional or otherwise) of these articles isn't so much as to provide women with skincare advice so much as to make the rest of us feel anxious that we're currently doing it all wrong. We couldn't possibly be doing it right already, you see, because we're not French. This isn't something confined to Well + Good, either, once you're aware of it you start to realise that francophile media directed at women is all over the shop.

Needless to say, I totally bought into it until I went to France (not for the first time, but the first since I started subscribing to Well + Good) and realised/remembered that French people actually aren't all that different from Brits after all.

C'est la vie.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Finished with my MA!

On the 4th December I finally handed in my MA project. For this project, I spent six months researching the topic of social housing in the UK. For the purpose of this piece I chose a local angle by focusing on one particular ex-local authority estate in East Dulwich, using that estate to explore the wider issues around social housing, and particularly the Right to Buy policy.

Take a look at the website I created for my piece here, which includes some photography and video.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Facing the elements

In the UK we have a well documented tendency to talk about the weather, often in negative terms.

Like Goldilocks said, when it's hot, it's too hot, and when it's 10 degrees it's too cold. Whilst I recognise that this is often as much conversational glue than anything else, it can lead to an undue negative outlook on the day - especially during the winter. "Brr" said the barista today as I ordered a tea, "it's bloody freezing". "I know, it's horrible" I replied, on-cue. But as I was cycling home wearing my waterproof jacket and ski gloves with cold, fresh wind blowing in my face, I thought is it really that horrible?

The problem with this negativity is that it often comes hand in hand with a defeatist attitude, and this is especially true when it comes to doing things outdoors. We'll decide not to go to the park/climb a mountain/go for a run and instead opt to hide in a warm pub and wait for it all to blow over.

The thing is, we actually have relatively mild winters here in the UK and provided we wear the right clothing (especially waterproofs) there's not really much we can't do. As Alfred Wainwright once said, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing," and as a man who spent a lot of his life in the one of the UKs wildest and wettest landscapes he should know.

Anyway, in my experience choosing to embrace the winter rather than avoid it is often pleasantly surprising. Last February, we drove to Devon to do a 10k run and on the day itself it was sunny, and even warm. This year, I'm heading to Manchester in January to visit a friend and I'm hoping to get up to the Peak District, then in February me and Kristy are aiming to climb Snowdon.

It will inevitably be cold, yes, but it will make the warm pub afterwards that little bit sweeter.

Monday, October 23, 2017

What am I going to do without mascara

Although I’ve just about managed to wrap my head around the idea of no-plastic/zero-waste when it comes to eating out and personal hygiene the inevitable bump in the road was going to happen when it came to make up, specifically mascara.

I’m very attached to one particular Maybelline mascara and have been using it for years, but the packaging is made from thick, yellow plastic. I like to lay mascara on quite thick and I hate anything that gets too clumpy so I don’t feel too enthusiastic about making my own.

Lush is obviously my first port of call. Their mascara is called Eyes Right and it comes in a glass bottle with a plastic top which I am assured in recyclable through Lush's recycling programme (just return along with your empty black pots). Problem is, I'm not 100% that this is going to satisfy my craving for dramatic lashes.

The second most viable option I can see is to use M.A.C. I hardly ever buy M.A.C because it ain't cheap but they have a programme called back to M.A.C whereby you return 6 empty product containers to be recycled and you receive a free lipstick.

I love that brands like Lush and M.A.C are taking on some corporate responsibility when it comes to the disposal of their packaging, and hope that others will follow suit... meanwhile I'm stretching my dried up old mascara for as long as possible before taking the plunge.