Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Dear Diary ... My anxiety is back with a vengance.

I can't begin to explain when it happened and after feeling like I was doing so well for so long I suddenly feel lost again. I suppose if you follow my Instagram you will know that a big turning point for me was turning off my social media completely a few weeks ago. I thought it would help, and momentarily it did, but now I'm back and I'm still not 100% sure what I'm doing.

I think the pressure to keep up with everything has been too much. Starting my nursing degree in March has potentially been the best and worst decision I have ever made. Part of me is over the moon excited by the prospect of becoming a qualified nurse and being in a position to help people like I have wanted to do my entire life. The other part of me is petrified that I cant do this. I had to submit an assignment 2 weeks ago and the fear of failing it (even though its a kind of test and doesn't count towards my degree) almost led me to not start it. When I wrote it I was happy but now waiting for the feedback all the fears and self doubts come creeping back in.

I'm sure they call it imposter syndrome. Its that feeling that any day now someone else is going to realise that I actually cant do this. I have been getting the urge to jump and go back to being a health care assistant which is where I felt really in my comfort zone, but then in this little glimpses of clarity I know deep down I wasn't challenged enough in m role and I just need to pull my big girl pants up and get on with it.

Theres a lot more Im not telling you here, but for now this is what I am comfortable with. I had missed blogging and I genuinely want to use this space to document what I am doing and how I am managing my health, because I feel like I am totally on the bottom with it. The good part about that though is im hoping to kick off from the bottom and hopefully take a big gulp of air pretty soon. 

Friday, 30 March 2018

Student Budget: Lunch under a fiver at Rickshaw Ricks

Finding a balance between my old life and my new is becoming a bit of a challenge. On the one hand my budget each week has dramatically decreased. On the other hand I am very aware of the fact that I enjoy eating out, especially with Kirstie and I genuinely believe that the time we spend together is good for my mental health. It gets me out the house and she does a fabulous job of taking me out of myself for a few hours! One of the things that makes this balance easier is finding delicious food at budget prices!

When we saw that Rickshaw Rick's were doing an express lunch for £2.99 we couldn't wait to visit. With options ranging from a full English breakfast, fish and chips, various pizzas and Chinese dishes there is something on the menu for everyone. 

We visited Thursday lunch time at 1pm and the place was busy! Bigger than I thought it would be on the inside it had a really nice atmosphere, no loud music playing but the general hustle and bustle of a busy lunch time. It has an almost street dining vibe, and is lovely and bright. Our order was taken quickly and as the name express lunch suggests the food was quick to be delivered to the table. 

I ordered the wok fried noodles which I believe is vegan and Kirstie went for the jerk chicken wings. Both were quite large portions which I was very impressed with! Mine kind of reminded me of the Wagamama pad Thai and was slightly spicy on first taste but I really enjoyed it. The vegetables weren't overcooked and had a good bite to them. In total with a drink my meal came to just under £5 and that fits well into my student budget! 

It did say that this is a limited time offer and so I will be interested to know when it comes to an end what the price will be but for now it is definitely one I would like to revisit! 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

5 Things I Need You To Know About My IBS.

I feel like I am coming to the end of my tether with my IBS. These are just 5 things I think that EVERYONE needs to know about IBS.

1. It's more than just bloating and it's not "just" IBS

When I was first diagnosed with the condition I was told by the doctor not to worry because it's nothing serious it's just IBS. I didn't give it much thought at the time but after year of living with the condition I can tell you there is nothing just about it. I think a lot of people google IBS and decide they have it because they bloat after a big meal or the get occasional diarrhoea once in a while for no reason. While I know that you can get various severity's of the condition mine pretty much affects me everyday. I am constantly asked when I am expecting. I am on a number of prescribed medications and it really does control my life.

2. It's not just about poo.

I know we Brits don't like to talk about poo, and a number of films and tv like to take the piss out of Irritable Bowels (I'm looking at you inbetweeners 2 ...) but that's not all IBS is about. Yes its one of the symptoms but did you know the thing that bothers me the most is the fatigue? Jenna recently wrote a fantastic blog post about fatigue and I think people don't often associate this with IBS.

3. Its not all in my head.

Yes recently my anxiety has been a big trigger for flares and I am working on that, but IBS is not all in my head. Its a viscous circle between this, my anxiety and now my query endometriosis but that doesn't mean I can think it better. Lots of things trigger flares, foods, antibiotics and other medications can all trigger reactions and telling me to calm down when I am desperately searching for a toilet or on a crowded bus is NOT HELPFUL IN THE SLIGHTEST.

4. You're clean eating advice just makes me roll my eyes.

I think people want to push their clean eating agenda on everyone. I am currently looking for some reputable sources for evidence based advice on diet with IBS but if one more person tells me to go gluten free or eat wholewheat bread I will probably scream. I tried the FODMAP diet and ended up back at the doctors deficient in pretty much every vitamin and mineral. I have to be very careful with the food i eat, but also take it on a day by day basis. Something that has triggered me in the past might be OK now. If I know that I am going to be in a situation where there is no toilet access (e.g. a long bus journey) I will stick to very plain safe for me foods. This may be more for my anxiety but its my way of coping.

5. I sometimes have to cancel plans last minute.

Which I KNOW sucks for you. My friends are fantastic and I can usually text them saying I'm going to be late because I am stuck on the loo, or that I am too fatigued to go to an event. I feel a lot more unable to do this when it comes to blogger events. I feel really silly emailing people I don't know and cancelling, but when I have a flare I sometimes can't leave the toilet and other times I only have the energy to do the bare necessities. Yes I might still be able to get through a shift at work, but that's because if I don't work I don't get paid.

What do other IBS bloggers wish people would know? I'm interested to hear your thoughts! Also please leave your blog links below, I would like to meet a lot more of the Spoonie Blogger community!

Charlotte Lucy

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Sunday Share: 3 things I read this week that I think you should to.

I am a big advocate of certain concepts in my life. These tend to fall into the categories of Health At Every Size, Intuitive Eating and Holistic Health. If you have read my previous post about why the image of a wellness blogger needs to change you will see that I have become pretty despondent with the general world of blogging. I started to feel that everywhere I looked on my social media feeds were people telling me that in order to be healthy I needed to conform to a certain body shape, punish my body with grueling workouts and spend all of my money on expensive skin products that promised to keep me looking young. I reached a point of total burn out and thought enough is enough. The change started when on holiday in Malta I listened to Jes Baker's book things no one will tell fat girls and my life started to change. That was in 2016 and even now I am having wobbles but I feel like I can confidently call myself both an intuitive eater and a diet culture dropout.

This has been made so much easier by filling my social media feeds with people who feel the same way and I thought each week, time permitting, I wanted to share with you five things I have seen on the internet that I have really loved and fit with my philosophy. They wont always be health things, some times it may just be a fab outfit or a delicious meal I want to try but I like the idea of sharing the love as there doesn't seem to be enough of that in the blogging industry at the moment.

If I could give this article a standing ovation I would. I am so worried about the teenagers growing up today with celebrity role models as I truly believe that Instagram blurs the lines between celebrity and reality. In her Instagram post Kim told her impressionable young fans to "do yourselves a favour and get on these shakes" which is to me the most ridiculous thing to say to impressionable young girls. I know once open I time I would have followed any diet that Jennifer Aniston claimed to do and all that did was give me around 15 years of disordered eating.

With starting my degree I seem to have had quite a few IBS flares and so this list of bloggers has been a wonderful resource for me. I am trying to work on gentle nutrition but I have said before I am really anxious about too much fibre and how it affects my belly, and as a result my fruit and veg intake is currently appallingly low. I am gathering together recipes that are gentle on the tummy and I now have a few new blogs to get lost in!

3. Does giving up dieting mean eating doughnuts all day? - Laura Thomas Phd

Ok so I didn't technically read this I listened to the podcast but I think you should too! I would say its taken me around 9 months to really let go of diet culture and now I am embarking on the gentle nutrition stage this was exactly what I needed to hear! 

So there is my list of the three things I think you should read/listen to this week. Are there anything you've heard or read this week that you think I should?

Charlotte Lucy

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.  

Dear Diary ... My anxiety is back with a vengance.

I can't begin to explain when it happened and after feeling like I was doing so well for so long I suddenly feel lost again. I suppo...