Monday, 12 March 2018

Self care isn't just buying a £40 Candle ...

I am totally for self care. As someone living with depression, anxiety, IBS and endometriosis I have to take care of myself. Lately though I feel like a lot of bloggers and companies have used the word to sell you things.  It's been thrust into our face after months (and possibly years) of living in a culture where being tired and busy is worn by everyone as a badge of honor. Oh, you only get six hours sleep? Darling Maggie Thatcher got through on 4. Oh you work 50 hours a week? Well I work 60, run a blog, compete in triathlons AND I am a michelin starred chef. Not just amongst bloggers although thats where I mainly see it, its happening all around us in real life too. Soceity seems to have taken the message that women can have anything and chenged it into women SHOULD HAVE EVERYTHING. You know we are expected to hold down full time jobs, keep a house looking like its been pulled straight out of good housekeeping and look like a catwalk model while doing it. 

When I type "Self Care" into youtube there is 12,300,000 results. Most of them suggest things like the latest lush bath bomb, writing in your expensive journal and burning a jo malone candle. I am not saying there is anything wrong with these things if you enjoy them, but actually they are selling you a lifestyle. I feel like as a 27 year old woman I can see that my life wouldn't magically change by owning these things, but 15 years ago things would have been totally different. I remember thinking once upon a time that I would be so much cooler at school if I could afford a Jane Norman bag (I got one for christmas, and I still didn't fit in!) 

A lot of these videos also talk about clearing a day in your scheduele each week/month. Well not everyone can do that. I am very lucky that I get to chose my own shifts at work but there are plenty of people out there that work full time and have secondary commitments such as caring for relatives or children. I honestly think that these videos can do the opposite of what they are promoting. If you are a working person on say 15k (like I am) and you are constantly comparing yourself to a full time youtuber who a. has a lot more disposable income and b. is sent these £40 candles to review you are going to make yourself feel a lot worse.

What I am trying to say here is that self care is something we should all be doing, but it doesn't necessarily involve spending money. If you enjoy having a bath (like I do personally) with lush products, oils and a huge glass of expensive wine then do it. Just don't be fooled into thinking that these people aren't being paid huge sums of money to sell you something in the name of your mental health. I generally worry about the number of teenage girls growing up in this culture. I have talked before about how I feel like the lines between having anxiety and feeling anxious have been blurred and I really feel like we are going down the same route with this. 

Over on Shoestring Chic I am going to be focusing a lot more on saving money and one of the bloggers I have really admired is this one from Cait Flanders. She talks about how we get into debt for our mental health and I feel like the self care trend will be pushing people down the same route. When I have been at the lowest points with my depression I know I have spent money I should have been saving on days out, beauty products, meals out, all to try and perk myself up and it just doesnt work. I wasn't doing it consciously and it is not until after the event in retrospect that I can rationally see this. 

Also self care is such a personal thing. I know that going for a long walk is helfpul for me when I am feeling like hiding away, however if my IBS is also in a flare the anxiety that would be cause by not knowing where the nearest toilet is would far outweigh the benefits. I also enjoy writing my feelings down but I can do this, for free, online and don't need a specific expenisve journal to do so.

What are your views on the latest trend for Self Care?

Charlotte Lucy.

Monday, 19 February 2018

My Chronic Life.

I always joke that writing out my past medical history is the equivalent of writing a dissertation. Theres the things I have had, the chronic conditions I have been diagnosed with, the surgeries and then the things that doctors think I may have that I am currently being investigated for. So let me share a timeline with you: 

2003 - Diagnosed with IBS but without any testing whatsoever.
2006 - Glandular Fever (Possibly where it all went downhill.)
2009 - Colonoscopy etc and again diagnosed with IBS
2010 - Gall Bladder Removal
2012 - First ovarian cyst removed
2013 - Pancreatitis, Depression and Anxiety diagnosed
2016 - Second ovarian cyst removed after multiple hospital admissions with chronic pain. Doctor suggests PCOS or endometriosis
2017 - Third cyst removed. This one was the size of a grapefruit and the surgery was complicated by a lot of blood loss and so I ended up with severe anaemia. 

That is just an overview really. What it doesn't show are the multiple hospital admissions in between, crying my eyes out to a matron when a consultant said I didn't look in pain. Trying many ill advised diets and treatments in between. However the purpose of this post isn't to give a detailed history but more to ignore all the diagnosis. For me, its not worth my time to sit worrying about what I have, but more I want to pick out the symptoms that are currently affecting me and what I plan to do about them. As you read this I am about to embark on a nursing degree course and the whole point of starting this blog was to show how I intend to look after my own physical and mental health while juggling the demands of a nursing course. I am hopefully going to talk you through my symptoms at a later date but I am currently diagnosed with: 

Query PCOS or Endometriosis
Query Fibromyalgia.

Charlotte Lucy

Monday, 12 February 2018

Why I Gave Up Veganuary After 17 Days and What I Have Learned.

So if you haven't read any of my other blogs, you might not know but I am a massive foodie. I will write a proper post on this at some point, but essentially after spending most of my life as diet pro in 2017 I made the best decision of my life when I decided to quiet dieting, embrace my body and become an Intuitive Eater. It has been the most amazing journey into learning what foods I enjoy after spending years trying to eat things only because they were good for me, low fat, low syn ... whatever diet rule I was following. 

So on a complete whim I decided that I would go vegan for January. However after doing a lot of my own research I decided that I didn't want to overload my system with Soy products. I am not someone to scare monger, but after having a lot of gynae problems in the past few years requiring surgery the mounting evidence that a diet high in soy was just too much for me to ignore. 

I had been toying with the idea of going dairy free for my IBS for a while and so thought a month of being vegan would be perfect to test out if that had any impact. I can now say that although I didn't actually keep up the full vegan month, I haven't eaten any milk products for 31 days and apart from the week when I had the flu which upset my whole system, I haven't had any major IBS flares so I will be staying dairy free. 

I really enjoyed the variety of meals I was eating. Towards the end of last year with being busy I had fallen into a complete rut. Having to meal plan and think about what I was doing each week got me really excited. Jack Monroes website was a complete goldmine of delicious and also budget friendly meals. 

On the downside though, I felt that my body needed eggs and fish. I know there are plenty of vegan iron sources out there but a lot of veg just doesn't agree with my IBS and most beans are a complete no go. I didn't feel the amazing energy that most vegans claim and I honestly have a lot more energy now I have reintroduced meat. I am sticking to a more plant based diet, but like I say with IBS D there is only so much plant I can stick to without being poorly. On bad days, my safe meals are things like plain salmon, white rice and maybe potato. 

Have you tried living more plant based with a chronic illness? I would love to know how you got on!

Charlotte Lucy

Monday, 29 January 2018

How to start your self love Journey

Learning not to hate my body, for how it looks or how it fails me with my chronic health problems is the underpinning for me learning to live a happy life. I wanted to share today my five tips for people who are beginning the journey themselves.

Body Positivity includes ALL Bodies, but was started by fat bodies.
If you truly want to immerse yourself in the body positive community you first have to accept this fact: FAT BODIES STARTED THIS MOVEMENT. If your body positivity only goes up to a certain size, you are not body positive. If you only include healthy bodies, you are not body positive. If you only include young bodies, you are not body positive. This space was created by fat women who wanted to say hey fuck you my body is none of your business and live in a body unapolgetically. The arguement that they are promoting obesity is simply ludicrus ... when did you last see a fat babe trying to make money selling you a diet plan so you could look like them?
I dare you to go onto instagram right now and have a look at the #bodypositive. I will bet you that theres at least one before and after shot, all 9 top posts are white and none of them over a size 14. There wont be a big belly in sight just cruves in all the right places. The problem is the once safe space created by the fat positive, fat acceptance movement has been taken away. People use the hashtag to sell and grow their brands. Please dont post before and afters, calories, diet talk etc as these are all things that can be triggering to those with eating disorders and disorded eating 

Lose the term, "I feel fat."
Take it out of your vocabulary completely. Fat is not a feeling. I know Michelle is passionate about this and I am guilty of saying it. Along with terms like I am having a fat day. Well Im not, Im fat on every day (although aware that as a size 16 Inbetweenie I am very priveleged) When I am having an IBS flare I used to say i feel fat today, and now I day I feel very bloated and uncomfortable. These subtle changes in language can make a world of difference. 

Stop assigning food morality

Food is food ok? One of the best things I ever did for my body was to lose good foods and bad foods. This was terrifying for me at first because diet culture had me wound up tight like a spring, I really thought that when I let go of thinking of foods as good and bad I would ricochette into this endless binge where I would never stop eating. Admittedly on my first couple of days after embracing I ate a fair amount of food. We were on holiday in London and I always eat a lot there, but usually that would have been followed by a few weeks of restriction at home. By letting go of the guilt I found that when I got home and threw away my scales, food started to look less scary. Instead of a battle ground of thinking what was good and bad I started thinking about what my body wanted and started really listening to it. Some days My IBS was bad and i needed less, other days more. Its not an overnight thing but the more you listen to your body the easier it becomes.

Get to know your naked body as a whole
I remember one of the worst things about being ingrained in diet culture was that every time I "fixed" something I found something else that I didnt like. Once I had the smaller tummy I had always dreamed of I noticed how I had cellulite on my thighs. Once my arms no longer jiggled, I honed in on how much I didnt like my hair. You have to remember diet culture is all about money. Of course no one will ever reach the nirvana of thin and be happy, the companies will always invent something else for you to worry about as they need your money. It has to constantly change for them to keep taking your money!

Looking at myself naked was horrible at first. I remember standing in front of the mirror and crying. I hated every single thing. And so at first I went away from looks and would tell myself things like you are loved. You care for other people. Then slowly but surely I got used to my own body. I started to like my waist first, then my legs, and even started to think you know what my belly isn't so bad. Its mine and this body gets me from A to B. I feel, especially in social media, we are only given one type of body to look at. Honestly when was the last time you saw another naked body? If you are like me and work in a hospital you will have seen many. But when I asked this question people have limited options, themselves, their partner and porn stars. Which brings me nicely onto my next point ...

Unfollow, Unfollow, Unfollow
If your Instagram is full of one type of body of course you are going to compare yourself to that. I started unfollowing people who didn't make me feel good, muting friends that had a constant diet culture dialogue and started following a diverse range of bodies. Now I dont mean here follow any person on your feed that is thin, that would be silly, but a lot of the fitness bloggers I followed I was just following because of their body. Their content didn't nourish me in any way it just showed me a warped reality that everyone was thin and successful and to be successful I needed to be thin! You don't owe it to anyone to follow them and you don't have to justify an unfollow. 

Charlotte Lucy.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Why the Image of the wellness blogger needs to change

One of the things I find most fascinating about blogging these days is that sometimes it feels a bit like being back at secondary school... and I am not talking about the bitchiness within the community! There are all these different niches which remind me a bit of the goths, chavs, emos etc that used to be spread around my school. I feel I like things that all of them do, but I dont seem to "fit" anywhere.

Over in the food tech room you have the food and recipe bloggers. These guys are amazing. You approach them with a brand, and they ll create a recipe out of it. Just like that, there could be a huge group of them all sent the same product and yet there creative little brains will come up with an abundance of different recipes. You know, sometimes I will hang out with them too but my brain doesn't seem to create recipes. I can follow one as long as its simple but that's about as far as my culinary skills go (However I did get a B in GCSE food tech so I must be doing something right.)

If you stop by the toilets on your lunch break you will find the beauty bloggers. Generally reapplying the newest MAC lipstick, they will be equipped with all the knowledge of how to achieve a full face of flawless makeup in about 15 seconds flat. They know how to apply a lipstick without it getting on your teeth and they can usually do their eyeliner flick standing up without a mirror on the bus. They also usually have perfectly manicured nails and can talk to you about all the latest beauty releases. I admire their skill, and have a bit of a nail varnish and lip product hoard myself but I am never going to achieve the beauty standards and I'm a barefaced hippie at heart.

Then down on the field (or in the gym, or on the tennis courts) are the fitness and wellness bloggers. They rise every morning to a yoga session before downing a green smoothie and heading for a cardio session. They eat their meal prepped lunch of plant based food out of a Tupperware box before heading for a weights session. These are the girls that I always looked in awe of and would punish myself to try and look like them by cutting calories, trying to exercise more (but ultimately when I was alone and no one could see my fat sweaty self) and just thinking I would never be like them.

This is where I believe the problem lies with the current wellness industry.

Wellness and wellness blogging has become synonymous with thin, white, women with abs.  It is almost like a members only club where the only way to be famous is to fit in that very narrow mould. Wellness should be about more than just how you look and I feel that a lot of women are excluded from feeling the best about themselves because the whole industry is permanently focused on doing X to lose weight, rather than to feel good.

This came to me one evening when I was listening to the fantastic Don't Salt My Game pod cast and they were talking about Women's Health magazine. Now if you have never picked up the magazine, you may think that this would be all about health right? Well wrong. Its about weight loss. Not always the crude "lose weight in 7 days!" headlines that take up most of the space on women's magazines (and don't get me started on that I could talk about that for weeks ... )  but those such as the "Strong and Sexy ... muscles are hot" which Laura and Pixie talk about in the pod cast. On face value, I thought well whats wrong with that but actually, as the ladies say in the pod cast, we all have muscles. Its a basic part of our anatomy. Just like we all have abs and so what they are actually saying is, lose weight and grow muscle if you want to be sexy because that's the only way to do it. Sexy = thin, apparently.

I also want to talk about the lack of diversity in the wellness industry. Using my Readly app which I absolutely love, I have just pulled up the picture of all the women's health magazines since July 2015. Look at what a diverse bunch they are!! I want to just clarify I have nothing wrong with thin women. EVERY body is welcome in body positivity but on there covers it is pretty much the same woman each time. Thin, toned, white. Ok they have a mixture of blondes and brunettes but thats as far as diversity goes.

The way I see myself has changed. Since embarking on my body positive (I am till not happy with  that term, go ahead and check out #bodypositive on instagram and look at the top 9 photos. I can almost guarantee that it will be cisgendered, thin, toned, curves in all the right places white women.) journey I have looked into plenty of health blogger events and been put off because I don't see someone like me there. You know someone who sweats profusely when I exercise. Someone whose belly hangs over my leggings while doing yoga and who's hair doesn't stay in a perfect ponytail while I run on the treadmill.

This is why I want to be part of the change that happens in the industry. I want to see a more diverse range of bodies attending health events. This holistic journey for me is going to be focused so much more on how my body feels, and actually my mental health is number one priority as it should be for everyone. I have loads of content planned for this month and I hope you will join me in celebrating some of the other people who I think are paving the way for everyone to be on a journey of self discovery.

I want anyone to be able to access the wellness industry without being judged on their body. I want fat women to feel comfortable to work out in a crop top and shorts if they so wish. I know I have personally sweated through an intense cardio session in my gym before in a hoody so I didn't offend anyone with the sight of my belly - because god forbid I should be comfortable. The gym for so long to me was a place of punishment. Now I go for yoga and dance because I enjoy them and my body feels good after them, and I know my own limits.

If you are still reading then I applaud you, this has been one hell of a blog post!

Lets change the culture that says exercise and wellness are tools for weight loss and start empowering EVERYONE to do what they want with their body. If it feels good do it, if it doesn't don't

Charlotte Lucy.  

Self care isn't just buying a £40 Candle ...

I am totally for self care. As someone living with depression, anxiety, IBS and endometriosis I have to take care of myself. Lately thou...