SHOULD I BE SHAVING MY THIGHS?

I think I've only shaved my thighs once or twice in my life. I'm lucky enough to have naturally fair hair and so, since it has always been blonde, I never really saw the point. I don't know why I've always stopped at my knees, logically it doesn't actually make a lot of sense to stop there, but that's just what I have always done, without even thinking about it. But then, last week, I uploaded a photon on Instagram of my legs on a sun lounger (because that's what you do on holiday right?!) and some guy took it upon himself to leave this comment: 

Aren't people just the best? (Trick question, people can be the effing worst!). This comment came about just as the story of female body builder Morgan Mikenas who hasn't shaved her legs or armpits in a year, did the rounds on social media. IN her video, called "Why I don't shave", she said that by embracing her "natural beauty" she has become more comfortable in herself. 

And she looks great, what she is doing is great, not least of all because of the amount of supportive messages that she has been receiving. But of course, there have been some nasty ones too, just like the one that I got for not shaving the pitiful amount of blonde hair that I have above my knees. 

For as long as I can remember, I have removed my underarm hair, my lower leg hair, my upper lip, my eyebrows and my bikini line. Who taught me what to do? I can't remember, but whoever it was, they never mentioned my thighs. I've given it such little thought that when I saw that comment on my Instagram photo I was actually really surprised. For 10 years I've been removing my lower leg hair once every few weeks and now I find out that I am doing it wrong?

Nah. I didn't think so. 

Of course we're expected to be hairless. In magazine shoots, in films, in porn, women are totally hairless, even on their arms. If they've not had it all removed then they've certainly had it airbrushed out. And to a certain extent, we've copied them: our legs, underarms, eyebrows, upper lips and pubic hair have mostly fallen victim to one form or another of hair removal. And generally speaking I am okay about that, it's a huge pain in the arse (often literally), but most the time, I'm happy with the results, I prefer them to the alternative. 

But what we need to remember is that our bodies were made this way for a reason. We were given hair for a purpose. And so, whilst I will happily epilate the living shit out of the aforementioned areas, you'll be waiting for the rest of your life if you expect me to remove the hair from anywhere else. My thighs are strong. They are beautiful, I rely on them every day to do amazing things. And so, I will protect them. Much like I want to protect my face and my arms and my bum and my boobs and my stomach. I will protect them using what I was given: hundreds and thousands of adorable blonde hairs and I will NOT be shamed for that. 

EPILATING: THE MOST EFFECTIVE HAIR REMOVAL METHOD?

Over the last ten years I, like so many others, have tried everything under the sun to remove the body hair that I was so kindly gifted by the nature gods. In another life I would love to be the kind of no-nonense, ball-breaking woman who decides to banish the razor, but in this one, I am a girl who will do what she can to remove fur from the places that society has told me that I shouldn't have it: most notably from my legs, my vagina and my armpits. I do also 'tidy up' my eyebrows and from time to time do a little moustache maintenance but today I want to talk about the big stuff. 

I started, as we all did, with my legs and I did that with a shitty disposable razor aged about 12. I slowly progressed to my armpits (can't remember when that joy worked it's way into my life) and as I got older, my bikini line became my big nemesis. I'm lazy and usually broke and so have, with a few exceptions, spent the last however many years shaving my legs and armpits; my legs, once a month or whenever I remember and my armpits as often as every other day depending on if it's cold enough to wear long sleeve tops every day. My bikini line I neglect a lot, ideally I wax it but I hate the pain, couldn't bring myself to do a DIY job as I know I'd fuck it up and rarely have a spare £40 so often end up emergency-shaving that too.

Now for the last however many years my mum has tried to make me epilate. In fact, she practically begged me to do it. "It's SO much better than shaving, it doesn't even hurt that much, seriously my leg hair doesn't even grow back anymore it's SO worth it!" and my response has always been the same: "stop it, leave me alone, it's MY BODY and it DOES hurt that much and I can't be bothered and I don't want to so leave me alone OK?!" Undeterred, about five years ago she kindly bough me an Epilator in a bid to start be doing it. It comes out about once a year and I normally end up doing half a leg before putting it back in the cupboard of things that we never ever use. (It used to be a draw but between the drill, the epilator and the three fire extinguishers mum insisted we got, it grew...).

So before yesterday, the last time that I used an epilator was in July, I was with my mum and my sister, it was a really hot day and I had the hangover from hell. We were sitting in the sunshine drinking coffee when my mum, in a way that only a mum can, pointed out that I had quite hairy feet (shoot me now), 'stay right there' she said, and appeared a moment later with the epilator. Perhaps I was still a bit drunk but I took it from her and got to work on my legs, she then asked me if I had ever tried doing my underarms with it: No. Of course I haven't, are you insane?! That was another battle I lost though and before I knew it she'd snatched the epilator from me and forcing my arm above my head. And you know what? Although it hurt like hell and even bled a bit (seriously, this thing is lethal!) we got the job done and I shit you not, my underarm hair didn't grow back for about two weeks. Two flipping weeks. Well obviously I was amazed and promised to throw my razor away and only epilate from now on, why wouldn't I? This is so worth the pain: IT'S AMAZING. Even more obviously, I didn't stick to it. Until yesterday when, totally inspired, I spent an hour sitting on my bedroom floor totally starkers putting myself through absolute hell removing all the hair on my legs (of which quite a lot grew this winter!) and what was growing under my arms. Still painful, but no blood this time.

So what is epilating?

To those of you who haven't been bullied by your mothers into trying it, I will explain. So an epilator is basically a device made up of about 20 little tweezers that, as you drive it over your skin, plucks all the hairs out from the root. Whereas shaving simply slices the hair in half where it comes out of the skin, much like with waxing, epilators remove the whole bloody thing. The epilator that I have, as it is a little older, needs to be plugged into the wall to use and I don't think it is waterproof, but so many of the new ones are amazingly clever and portable so you can use them in the shower. 

How do you use it? 

They advise that you have a hot bath or shower before you use it so that your hair follicles are open and your hair will come out more easily but I have to admit that I usually forget to do this or spend so long psyching myself up that by the time I actually get around to it my legs have long forgotten my shower. After that you literally get your leg/armpit/fanny out and use it like a razor.

Does it hurt more than waxing?

Hm. I think that depends, I think the first few times you use it it definitely hurts more but after a while it does get much easier. Waxing is normally really quick so I suppose the fact that it's over so quickly makes it less painful compared with epilating which does take a bit longer because you're doing it yourself and stopping a lot. As with all things though it gets way less painful over time.

Why is it better than shaving?

It's better than shaving for a few reasons but mostly because it takes so flipping long to grow back after epilating. After shaving I normally find that within a couple of days I am stubbly again but after epilating it lasts for weeks, it also grows back much thinner and the promise is (according to my mum) that after long enough it hardly grow back at all so that's great.

Is it worth the pain?

I'm going to be honest, half way through my first armpit I didn't think it was but now they're both done I can say 100% yes. Shaving IS so easy and convenient and I understand the appeal but as a long term, cheap solution epilating is perfect. I also find that when I shave my armpits you have an almost shadow that appears after a day where the hair is getting ready to come back out, because when you epilate it removes the whole thing right down to the root you don't get this and it really does look SO clean. It also seriously reduces your chances of getting an ingrowing hair as is so common with waxing and that's definitely a plus.

I haven't quite got to the point of throwing my razor away and I'm definitely not brave enough to attempt epilating my bikini line BUT my New Month Resolution (making that a thing) is to only epilate my underarms and legs from now on. To be honest, I think waxing and epilating are sort of equals in 'effectiveness' but simply because epilating is so much cheaper (if like me you can't wax yourself), less messy and easy to do anywhere at anytime, epilating has got to be my hair removal method of choice.

So the one that I have costs £30 and is available here. My mum has a much newer one though that is portable, waterproof and comes with six different heads which means that you can use it on your face (moustache be gone!) and underarms much more comfortably. If you're serious about getting into this and want to save money in the long run on razor heads and salon appointments then that is £150 and you can see it here.

BRANCHING AWAY FROM SKINNY JEANS...

Jeans: http://bit.ly/2l4axsu
Vest: http://bit.ly/2mplN3M
Shoes: http://bit.ly/2mc1YRp
Cardigan (similar): http://bit.ly/2lKd7bf

Ever since flared trousers (thankfully) went out of fashion in 2006, I have been wearing skinny jeans. Wherever possible (my mum permitting), they have been as tight as possible and normally from Topshop (either the Leigh or the Jamie style) and for the last decade they have suited me just fine. Trends have come and gone but ever cautious me has shied away from them, appreciating and occasionally acknowledging them for a distance, all the while sticking to something that was tried and tested and flattered my body. 

Recently though I've noticed a trend that I really wanted to be a part of, but one that would mean me branching away from the safety of my skinny jeans. It was of course, the world's latest obsession with baggy jeans. All of a sudden, almost over night, skinny jeans were traded in and in their place appeared something that I never thought the fashion world would see again.

As much as I wanted to get in on this, I had my reservations: I'm not tall, in fact if anything, I'm actually quite small and I've got more in the way of curves than any of the women that I'd seen them modelled on (quelle-surprise!) and, in truth, I didn't think that I could pull them off. 

You don't know until you try though right? So I did, I tried them

So on this particular adventure, I noticed a few things. First things first: there's more than one kind of 'baggy' jean; there's the 'mom' jean, there is the 'boyfriend' jean and there is the 'dad' jean. I started off by ordering what I thought I wanted, the 'mom' jean from Topshop in my normal size: 26"30". This was my first mistake; I've never been so disappointed with a piece of clothing in my whole life. They were so tight that my fat was being squished out of the rips in the leg and I couldn't even bend down without feeling like I was doing irrepreable damage to my internal organs. They were also stupidly unflattering and made me look short and, if I'm honest, a bit fat in all the wrong places. I told myself that it was because they were too small and the minute I found them in my size I would kook just like the women that I saw on Instagram. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was wrong. They clung onto my bum for dear life, were just as unflattering as the smaller pair and I damn near gave up on the whole mission then and there.

But damn, this was a trend that I really wanted to get on board with. So I ventured back out of the changing room and found a pair of Hayden jeans (still in Topshop) which are also baggy and also ripped but fall under the bracket of 'boyfriend' jeans; they're considerably baggier and much more low rise. Again I tried these in my normal size but somehow they didn't look right, these were clearly meant to be baggy and were again too tight on the arse and thigh area so I went for a size bigger, 28"30". Annoyingly this pair was actually too big and couldn't be worn without a belt but I wanted them so badly so I bought them regardless.

Damn these things are comfortable and I look so flipping trendy, I'm so loving this look. At first I was worried that I looked sloppy and shabby but somehow I found myself feeling rather chic when out and about.

I spend a lot of time worrying about wearing something flattering, trying to find things that suit my figure and as a result I let some trends pass me by as I'm too scared to try them. I worry people will laugh or point or judge or think that I'm too short or chubby or whatever to be cool. But this is one that I am really happy I tried though and one that I think will do a great thing for my wardrobe as a whole going forwards.

I walk down the street feeling pretty kick ass and really that's all I can really hope for right?

NEW STUDY FINDS THAT WE SHOULD BE EATING 10 PORTIONS OF FRUIT AND VEG A DAY BUT THAT'S JUST NOT REALISTIC...

A new study done by the Imperial College London have found research that proves that eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day could significantly reduce a person's risk of heart disease and cancer. While eating the recommended five a day still helps reduce disease risk, the study found that the highest benefits are seen when people consume 10 portions in a day, or what equates to 800g of fruit and vegetables. 

A daily intake of two and a half portions was associated with a 16% reduced risk of heart disease, a 4% lower risk of cancer and a 15% reduction tin the risk of premature death. Compare that to 10 portions of fruit and veg and they found it was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% lower risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely.

The authors estimate that if everyone on the plated ate 10 portions of fruit and veg a day then 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented world wide. 

Which is all well and good, of course it is. We have been given the opportunity to make good health choices and actually given a chance at lengthening our lives but seriously, how realistic is it for the average person to find the time and money to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables every single day?

We go out for dinner and order a pizza which, if you're like me and enjoy a simple margarita some with no veg at all (not sure the tomato counts in this instance). So what do I do? If the restaurant has the option then perhaps I order three side portions of different vegetables, which cost at least £3 a go? That comes to an extra £10 spent on my dinner, assuming that I've got room for it all after a pizza.

What about lunch at your desk in work? A sand which with a lonely piece of lettuce in it? That won't cut the mustard, not if you've got to squeeze 800g of nutrients into your body so you buy a couple of fruit salads as well? That probably comes to about £8 in a London supermarket which most of us can't afford to splash out at lunch time. And then there is the risk of eating too much sugar...

That same problem arises at breakfast. Any nutritionist worth their salt will tell you that starting your day with too much sugar, albeit naturally occurring sugars from fruit, can cause weight gain or energy crashes throughout the day, if not more serious conditions and diseases. We should limit our fruit intake we say.... but what? Have spinach with breakfast? Not likely.

And snacking on veg is hard too. If you're organised perhaps you can peel and chop a carrot and pop it into a doggy back before work but that's about as convenient as it get's. Most veg tastes disgusting cold and carrying around a soggy broccoli in your bag sounds pretty minging.

Even looking at my diet, which I consider to be fairly flipping healthy most days, I come into problems. Look at what I eat on a really, really good day when I'm working from home, have a full fridge and the time and inclination to cook:

Breakfast. Museli with coconut yoghurt, raspberries and blueberries.

Lunch: Maybe an egg or two with chicken, bread and avocado.

Dinner: Perhaps a homemade bolognese with courgette, spinach, kale and peas.

That's fairly good I'd say and doable because that's what I had for breakfast on Monday. On Monday when I was at home for most the day and had the time to do it. And that's still only seven pieces. Even with ALL that food and goodness I've still only got up to seven pieces.

So now let's look at a busy, shitty, stressful, NORMAL day when I'm out and about and working shall we?

Breakfast: Museli with no fruit because I've run out and it's raining and even if it wasn't I can't afford to buy a box of raspberries for £2.

Lunch: A handful of nuts, whatever cereal bar I can find in my handbag, perhaps some gluten free crackers and maybe some cold chicken if I have been really organised, I probably haven't been though so might need to pop in to the supermarket and buy an apple or a banana. Not both though cause of the sugar remember!

Dinner: A burger with chips because it's Thursday and it's cheap and that's what all my friends are doing. It came with a gherkin but I flipping hate gherkins so maybe I'll just have the bit of lettuce that's gone soggy next to the meet.

That's my life some days, lots of days, and I barely even squeezed one proper portion into it. So what am I supposed to do? What I have just described is a lot of people's lives, we're busy and we're broke and we're confused and no one is doing anything to actually help us. 

Although I love what good intentions I have and that we are all being encouraged to adopt these intentions, I can't help but think that realistically there is not a lot that we can do with information like this. Of course we want to do what we can to ensure a happy and healthy life, of course if we have the chance we will grab the opportunity to slash our risk of cancer, but I truly believe that this is something that is too hard for us to do on our own.

Fruit and veg is very expensive and supermarkets aren't offering enough in the way of reasonably priced, properly nutritious lunch options for us. Restaurants too are bad, most places in London will charge you about £5 for a side plate and even that is just one portion of veg. It's great that we do have access to fruit but the sugar thing is something that we need to take into consideration wherever possible.

I am grateful that I was brought up knowing that I should eat five-a-day, it's something that I have always kept in the back of my mind when making food choices and probably has helped me to be healthier in my life so far, we need to know the importance of fruit and veg and how good it is for our insides, but I do feel that studies like this would be much better off landing on the government's desks rather than in our newspapers.

We're trying, most of us are really trying to be healthy, but we're not being given the help that we need to do it properly. School canteens, supermarkets, restaurants, they're the ones that need to see this, without their help I don't see a way that we can fit in our ten a day and prevent the 7.8 million premature deaths each year.  

HEALTHIER HANDBAG SNACKS

I cannot be the only one who does not think that three meals a day is enough. Maybe it's because I digest food quickly, or maybe it's because I just love to eat, but either way I am of the view that breakfast, lunch and dinner on their own are not enough. So I snack. But I also has a body that hates me, I suffer with a leaky gut, a bastard type of IBS and while we treat (?! don't know if I'll ever get better) it, I am avoiding gluten, dairy and sugar, amongst other things, which makes snacking basically impossible. I only eat fruit in moderation due to it's high sugar content and unless I fancy stuffing a roast chicken in my bag, then finding things to nibble on is really rather difficult; I spend a lot of time wondering up and down the aisles of supermarkets but to no avail, EVERYTHING delicious has something naughty in it (usually sugar) and I am often left disappointed.

This was until last week when I was introduced to a brand called NOM. NOM changed EVERYTHING for me. I was given one of their bars in a goody bag and it was so good I haven't looked back; I genuinely couldn't believe it when I looked at the ingredients and realised that I could eat it, not least of all because the thing was flipping delicious. Since then I've eaten at least one a day and am borderline obsessed with the things. But it got me thinking, since NOM had created something so delicious, surely there was something more out there.

And bugger me. Guys, there's loads. 

Now I know that not everyone needs to eat like I eat, and really, if you don't then I am happy for you. A lot of you don't need to go out of your way to find things like this, but if I have learnt one thing over the last few months and however many bloated stomachs and frantic supermarket visits; it's that the things we are being fed every day, are full of absolute shit. I don't think that everyone should give up gluten and dairy and refined sugar, on the contrary I think these things are too delicious and near impossible to avoid, but I do think that we should be aware of what we are putting in our bodies. I also think that we deserve a choice in the matter: it shouldn't have to be a chocolate bar or nothing, a bag of crisps or waiting till tea time, a yoghurt bar disguised as healthy that actually has more sugar in it than a Cadbury's Cream Egg. It's nice to know that occasionally we can eat more healthily without the hassle of making it ourselves. So for the people that have the good intentions but not a clue what to do with them, I have pulled together a list of my all time favourite handbag snacks that don't contain any refined sugar at all.

They don't contain all of your five a day, they're probably not a nutritionist's wet dream and won't make you look like a Victoria's Secret Model necessarily, but they contain half the crap that anything else out there contains and that's got to be a good thing. Peruse at leisure:  

NOM Bars:

These are 100% organic, gluten free, vegan and refined sugar free. They're made with gluten free jumbo oats, coconut oil and super-foods. There are four flavours available: original, banana, raspberry and protein, They're all about 230 calories (not that that matters) and they're sold in boxes of 12. I love them SO much.

Deliciously Ella Energy Balls:

These come in three flavours and were inspired by her most popular recipe on the blog. They're for sale in Wholefoods, Planet Organic and Holland and Barratt. They're all made with between four and six ingredients with no additives. My favourites are the ones that I make at home all the time: the cacao and almond ones. (Blue).

Yushoi Rice Sticks:

"Made using the goodness of vegetables". Literally just green peas and rice, these are my favourite "crisps" now. They're 74% green peas and they come in a range of flavours: sweet chilli & lemon, soy & balsamic vinegar, smoked salt & Szechuan pepper and lightly salted. They're available everywhere now I even see them in the co-op last year.

Love Raw Bar:

This is the first thing I've tried from this brand and I flipping LOVE them. They're 100% organic and made from 100% raw superfoods. Ingredients are just almonds, dates, cashew, raw cacao, mama root and chia seeds. For anyone with a sweet tooth, these are for you!

Agave Nectar Flapjack:

Doves farm make some great stuff and these are no exception. They're made from gluten free oats, agave nectar, palm oil, acacia gum and salt. They're maybe not quite as clean as the Nom bars for example but again if you have a sweet tooth then these are great.

Meridian Cashew Bar:

Nut butters are my obsession at the moment and this is no exception. They've got quite a lot of ingredients but make GREAT and really filling snacks. They're over 50% nuts though and cool for someone on my diet, I find them really filling and notice that they give me so much energy.

NAKD Cocoa Bars:

So not only is this technically chocolate, it's also one of your five a day, it's literally just does, cashews, raisins, cocao and.a hint of natural flavourings. These are really yummy and are now being stocked in loads of places so keep an eye out for them.

Pip & Nut Butter:

OK so I wasn't exaggerating before I really am obsessed with nut butter and now eating it on it's own, something I thought that just I did, has never been easy. Literally 100% nuts these are so great and SO filling. There's a part of me that thinks that these are a little silly but a bigger part of me that thinks that they are amazing.

Dried Mango:

I know you've heard this one before but it seriously is so good. This really is available everywhere and is so easy to keep in your bag. It's literally just mango so you don't need to feel guilty about messing with fruit, but it lasts for ages, makes no mess and tastes so sweet I love it.

NOM Popcorn:

Also by NOM is popcorn, such an underrated snack. NOM have four flavours: salted maple, simply salted, cinnamon maple, tomato pesto. They're all made with organic whole grain corn and are kettle popped with virgin coconut oil. Also, I know that we are not calorie counters but they are only about 100 calories a bag. If you're into savoury things then this is great and much better for you than you would think; we would associate it with the cinema and excess but actually it's a super great one to get into.

If I HAD to choose a favourite go-to snack in all of this, it would be the NOM original bar which I have now decided that I cannot live without but if I'm honest guys, these are all great. I am so limited with what I can eat and deriving happiness from food is so important to me which is why I have made this lists. I'm obviously not telling you to chuck out the packet of skittles too currently have in your bag that you have been waiting all week to tuck into, I just wanted to open your eyes to an alternative, if you wanted to see it!

I'm so excited that we are now seeing more and more of these products in shops but am still incredibly frustrated by how hard and expensive "healthy" snacking can be, alas, some of us don't have a choice and sometimes, in the case of the ones listed above: it really is worth it.

A VERY NORMAL GIRL'S DEFENCE OF 'CLEAN' EATING

Clean eating has become a very dirty expression recently. The whole industry has been so targeted over the last year to the point where a lot of people have totally rebelled against it. Where avocado and rye bread used to be the Instagram prop of choice, doughnuts and pizzas have taken their place, kale smoothies have been replaced with frothy coffees and people are opting for chocolate fondus over fruit platters time and time again. And in many ways that is great, many of us were getting to saturation point with 'raw' cookbooks and caveman cookies. But the backlash to the movement has been disturbing and, to people like me, really fucking annoying.

Because for some of us, those with autoimmune diseases for example (of which there is more than you might think), there isn't a choice in the matter. For people like me, who suffers with a condition called leaky gut, I have no choice but to eat clean. 

Now because of the blog that I run, I've often felt that I should keep my 'clean eating' a secret, almost as if I had something to be ashamed of as the term 'clean' became such a dirty word. But as I finished off my third batch of Deliciously Ella inspired energy balls this week, revelling in the relief that I could finally eat something sweet and delicious, I decided that I had to speak out. I had to put across a very normal girl's defence of clean eating. 

I love to bake and before this current health problem I would regularly be found in the kitchen creating a cake for a friend's birthday or a batch of cookies just because. Even with my dairy and gluten allergies over the last few years, I had found ways of making deliciously sugary snacks. And so when I was told that I could no longer have sugar? Rather than giving up baking and all the joy that it brought, I had to look elsewhere for inspiration and recipes. And I was so relieved, grateful and amazed by what I found.

Before I had to, I was disinclined to really invest in recipes like Ella's- Even to try them I somehow felt hypocritical, being so smug and healthy when I supposedly endorse a life so normal. Perhaps it stemmed from jealousy, a colour that never looked good on me, or resentment that people like Ella were so seemingly perfect whilst I sat crying into my second portion of fries about how I would never have my shit together like that, maybe she made me feel guilty. Either way, I never tried them, I dismissed them before I gave them a chance and like so many, disregarded the whole movement as a 'fad', an annoyance. Even with my gluten and dairy allergies I never turned to Ella and the like in my time of need, choosing to live my life as 'normally' as I could despite my problems. But recently, recently I have been unable to live normally, I can't even pretend. So I succumb to it and I'm so pleased that I did.

In years passed I have avoided Wholefoods like the plague, resenting it for being so superior, full of things that I didn't understand and couldn't afford, I broke the golden rule and disliked something before I had even tried it and found myself hating everything in there. But then I got ill and was basically chased into it by my doctor. "Do you want to die of boredom eating nothing but spinach and chicken for the rest of your life?" she asked. No, I didn't, so I took out an overdraft and headed on my merry little way. And now, I'm hooked. 

It's expensive, of course it is and my cupboard is now full of things that I didn't even know existed a few weeks ago and I truly believe that if the Em of 3 years ago could see into my cupboards now she would punch me in the vagina and deem me a traitor . But what I'm amazed by is what I can do with all these weird and wonderful things. Energy balls, homemade flapjacks, brownies made with vegetables, you name it, I'm making it. And it's changed everything. My fridge is now so full of the most delicious things, 'naughty treats' that are so good for me, that I can actually eat. That actually taste SO good.

I used to think, as did so many, that healthy foods couldn't be yummy. That by definition the two things couldn't coincide. Healthy was an option but not one that I would choose, brownies made with sugar and chocolate and flour were always better than ones made with sweet potato: that wasn't me being difficult, that was just a fact. But of course I reached that conclusion without having tried the alternative. So I'd make the bad brownies, the ones that look so good on Instagram, and I'd eat too many of them as you so often do and then I'd lie on the sofa feeling guilty about it. I'd make a huge batch of cupcakes and then would deliberately not empty the bowl fully so that I could sit, in all of my glory and eat the batter out of the bowl. And there would always be a part of me that would hate myself for doing that. Was it worth it? Yeh I guess it was, but would I jump at the chance for another option, a lower calorie, less revolting option? Of course I would.

Introducing Deliciously Ella and all that she inspired... I'm jumping. 

Perhaps it's got more to do with my diet and health concerns than I will admit, perhaps if I had never been forced to change my ways then I would still be spending my weekends riding the highs and lows of my vast sugar intake, who knows. But either way, I'm here now. And for weeks I've found myself too embarrassed to talk about it; I've felt like I'm betraying the normal girls somehow, by opting for dates and chia seeds over chocolate chips and icing sugar. But why is that? Why do I have to feel ashamed of something so great? On Friday I spent a large portion of the day baking and true to my history I stuffed myself full of as much batter as I could. By 4pm I was totally stuffed and I felt the familiar feeling of shame creeping up on me... why was I such a pig? But then I thought about what I had just eaten to excess: nuts, dates, chia, coconut. All of a sudden I didn't feel guilty anymore, how could I? Everything I'd just eaten was clean as could be.

I would love to say that you shouldn't feel guilty about anything that you eat, of course I would. And I would love more than anything to be able to practise what I preach, to eat something totally guilt free. But that's not the way it works; for any of us. We can't help it. We know that sugar in excess is bad for us. We might not want to accept it, but we can't deny it. Can we pass it off as acceptable because we've chosen to be normal, to not give a shit, to fuck the haters? We can try, but will we ever really do it? I'm not sure. So when I found a way of stuffing myself full of the yummiest things ever without the guilt. What would I not want about that? I don't understand what the problem is with healthy eating.

For people like me Deliciously Ella is more than a fad, she's a necessity, she should be on prescription. And for everyone else? She's a great option. There is no shame in opting to be healthy, there is nothing wrong with that, but thanks to the backlash the clean eating moment has faced recently, we have been made to feel like there is. Like we should be eating cake loud and proud. Like we should be spitting at raisins and burning chia seeds at the stake. But we don't have to do that, we shouldn't have to choose. What we should be is nothing more than incredibly grateful for the fact that we now have these options. 

For those that CAN love it, clean eating is great. I wouldn't wish the necessity to do it exclusively on anyone, but I do wish there was a little more excitement and acceptance around the area as a whole. Clean eating is nothing to be ashamed of, it's not something that we should have to keep a secret, what it is, is an incredible alternative for millions of people who just want to do a tiny bit better.

From one very normal girl, I want to thank Ella a million times for creating so many wonderful things using nothing more than a pitted date and a blender. 

CHANNEL YOUR INNER FOREST GUMP AND JUST KEEP RUNNING...

"Oh for fucksakes not another one..."

That was the thought that went through my mind earlier this evening as, whilst heaving my less than capable body on it's first real run of 2017, I was overtaken by the sixth beautifully toned, hi-vi lycra wearing, bouncing pony-tailed runner. "How is it possible that every single person in this god damned city is a better runner than me?" I thought. "Surely running is just quick walking and I'm good at walking so WHY do I feel like my calves are going to explode and my lungs give in?" 

I'm not a positive runner. I'm sure you have gathered that by now. When I do go out for a 'jog' on my own, which is a rare occurrence in itself, I am not left, as so many fitness bloggers claim to be, in a state of peaceful euphoria as I use the time to gather my thoughts and finally get some 'me time'. I don't ponder life's big questions, I don't convince myself I'm in a music video and I certainly don't clear my head.

In fact, it's the total opposite. My head is so far from clear when I run, it is absolutely chockablock full. Full of the most depressing and demoralising internal monologue you've ever heard.

This is the sort of thing you could expect to hear from my brain in the first mile of my run:

"Ow ow ow I'm getting foot cramp, fuck me these shoes are tight. I need new shoes but trainers are SO expensive. Why are trainers so sodding expensive? Shit this is really hurting now, OK just slow to a walk quickly until it eases. NO, actually don't do that, if you start walking now then you have totally failed as a runner. You can still see the fucking house don't be ridiculous. Literally, everyone at the bus stop just watched you lock the door, walking now would be the single most embarrassing thing that you could possibly do. Right, round the corner now they won't be able to see you if you walk. No, but the running gods can see you, and you'll have to go home knowing that you failed, DON'T WALK YET. OK but when can I walk because I'm already out of breath? So out of breath. Oh god is that a stitch? It feels like a stitch. Oh great well now you HAVE a stitch because you kept thinking about having a fucking stitch, you did this. Is it too soon to check my app and see how far I've come? YES Em it's too soon, if you had your glasses on you'd still be able to see the front door..." etc etc etc.

This hellish nightmare is my reality when I run, I can't escape what I am doing. I can't get away from it all, I can't get distracted. When I am running there is only one thing that I can think about: the fact that I am running. Oh, and the fact that I hate running. OK, maybe I can think about two things.

I know what everyone says: oh you'll really get it into it when you try. After a couple of weeks you will be totally addicted and you won't feel like you if you haven't bashed out five miles by 7am. Seriously though. Stick with it, you'll really love it when you get it into it.

So here's the thing: I don't doubt that. SURELY the six women that overtook me on my 40 minute pootle this evening must be proof that there is something great about running. Surely the hundreds of thousands of people that applied to take part in the London Marathon and the tens of thousands doing it are proof that there are elements of running that are great. SURELY there is something that I am missing. I've got friends that love to run that totally and utterly adore it, that are obsessed with it. We're very similar in lots of ways these friends and I, we have the same humour, the same dress sense, the same love of tequila, the same year of birth, the same bad habits, the same love of cigarettes and yet, for some reason, they love running and I do not. So what's that about? Where am I going wrong?

Well, I overthink things for starters. 

Physically, thanks to my 10 weeks to fitness training programme that I am on, I'm not in bad shape and running three miles shouldn't kill me. I did it tonight, it didn't kill me. If my body was not attached to my head, if everything just stopped at my neck and I was nothing more than arms and legs and a torso I could probably run for about 30 miles without stopping. Maybe longer. Without my head there to worry about how out of breath I am (I wasn't until I started worrying) or over reacting to a pain in my chest and convincing myself that I am having a heart attack, or bullying and undermining myself to the point where I stop believing I can do anything, I'd be fine. My body, without my head, is amazing. So it's not the physicality's of running that are the problem here, the problem is in my head. But that's hardly surprising is it?

So I just went for a run. As you read above, the first mile did not go entirely to plan. Until something wonderful happened: I was so busy arguing with myself that I missed my turning and got a little lost. I wound up on a road that I had not expected to get to, about a kilometre further away than I thought I was. If my head had won that particular battle I would have used this as the perfect excuse to stop catch my breath and pretend that I needed to check where I was going. Luckily however, my body did and, since I already knew exactly where I was, I continued. I promised myself that I would allow myself a pause for air when I got to what I thought was the half way point. This kept me going and with every foot step I thought, just three more corners, just two more corners, just one more street, just one more turn. And then, bugger me, when I got to where I'd promised myself a pause? I realised I could keep on going. So I did.

I kept going and going and going, without stopping and when I got home and checked my app I realised that I had actually run over half a mile more than I had planned on doing. As I walked through the door  I was actually disappointed that I didn't carry on, I felt better than I had at the one mile mark and had damn near convinced myself that Bruce Springsteen had been singing about me when he performed Born to Run.

So what changed? Well, I'm number obsessed. I can't get away with the fairies or out of my head or whatever you want to call it, I need to know exactly where I am, how many calories I have burnt, how long it took me and how much longer I need to be doing this for. I can't just go into it blind and allow myself to get swept up in the moment. Which is why I overthink the whole thing so much. Today though, for the first time, rather than trying to stop myself from over thinking, I found a way of redirecting my thoughts. The nice surprise of getting to where I thought would be my breaking point, only to find out when I got there that I wasn't broken, spurred me on to new heights and allowed me to do better than I thought I could. Rather than allowing my internal pessimist to stop me, I let my body take over and somehow convinced myself that I could do this, I could do anything.

And I normally wouldn't be writing about something so hopelessly cheesy and annoying, apart from the fact that it worked. 

I'm still no Mo Farrah, I haven't fallen in love with running and I don't think you'll see me using it as a way to blow off steam any day soon, but the fact that I did it, well I'm proud as punch. I realised today that SO much of running, and my problem with it, is in my head. My body is way more amazing than I give it credit for and I let the gribbly little bitch in my brain win out before my body ever gets a chance to remind me how wonderful it is. But not today. Nope, today the body won.

My advice? Plan where you are going to run, work out exactly where a third of the route is, where half is and where two thirds is, I promise you, you will get to the first mile stone way sooner than you thought that you would and before you know it, you'll be channeling your inner Forest Gump.

And that's going to be my new focus, backing the little guy and letting my body do what it's got to do without my know-it-all head ruining it for me. 

THE DUMB-BELLE CHRONICLES - 10 WEEKS TO FITNESS - WEEK 5

Welcome back to my 10 weeks to fitness challenge! I'm writing after a particularly exhausting session with personal trainer Calum Taylor and my weekly weigh in to find out how my training and diet is affecting the bastard number that comes up on the scales and if any of it is worth it. In previous weeks I have documented everything that I have done throughout the week and finished the piece with the results but I figured, since we were at the half way point, that I would do this more reflectively. 

So we're 5 weeks in, what have I learnt?

Well first things first, if you are serious about losing weight, gaining muscle, or becoming more healthy in general, I have realised that you cannot be half arsed about it. In the first few weekly updates you may have noticed that I admitted to a gin and tonic here and a pizza there and then complained when, come Sunday, I would find that I hadn't lost as much body fat as I would have hoped. My training has been consistently good and I had figured that that would be enough, training every day MUST be making a difference and if I burnt 500 calories in a session then surely I would be allowed to eat 500 calories of whatever the hell I wanted... I was wrong.

The training HAS made a difference, I can't deny that. I have fallen into quite a good routine of visiting my local gym for the classes that they offer. Monday I do Body Conditioning, Tuesday I go Spinning, Wednesday is Body Attack, Thursday is Body Pump, Friday is Burn 360, Saturday is boxing and Sunday is with Calum. Sometimes I take days off, sometimes I mix is up a bit but that's what I try to do every week. I have noticed a huge difference with my fitness and in my body too; my heart rate is dropping much faster (that's a good thing), I can do more without getting out of breath, I am burning less calories in the sessions that had killed me at the start of this and am running so much faster than I was before. I am noticing new muscles and feel better in general; Calum's programme is great and I do feel like I'm learning lots and for anyone thinking that that is a lot of work I need to say: the routine and focus is great and after a couple of weeks you will start finding this easy and in some ways fun. 

The diet is the thing that's got me though. 

For the first week I ate what I wanted really, I didn't understand anything about protein/carb ratios, I wasn't counting calories, I was keeping an eye on what I was eating but I hadn't really made any changes. By week two I had tried to keep carbs down a little bit, but it was my anniversary weekend and again I was being a bit half-hearted, it was the same story in week three. By week four though things began to change; on Calum's advice I started to cut carbs out of my evening meals totally (see the video I made last week about what I eat in a week HERE) and the week just gone? I only ate carbs with my breakfast. Calum explained to me that carbs are the hardest thing for our bodies to burn off, protein is essential but carbohydrates are held onto by the body for so long and are a huge part of weight gain. By cutting them out of my lunch time and evening meals I would lose fat, it was that simple.

This was a huge learning curve for me; despite my gluten problems I am queen of the carbohydrates, I love them SO much and a week with such limited carb intake was incredibly tough for me. BUT for the first time, I am beginning to understand the benefit of this. I previously wasn't eating enough protein, in its place I was having fruit, which is high in sugar, and carbohydrates en masse! Although we are taught that these things are good for us, we aren't told enough how important protein is. I don't like how obsessed I am becoming but I have to admit, learning about all of this is amazing and I know that my body will thank me for it. Below is a screen shot of My Fitness Pal entry from yesterday, I have documented everything over the last week and have been keeping an eye on everything. I would recommend this app to anyone who is keen to learn and I'm happy to do a blog post explaining all of it if that is something that you would like to see.  I'm no nutritionist but I think this looks about right. 

I don't want to live like this forever, it's boring and annoying and I miss carbs and really how bad can a sweet potato be? But for the time, I realise that if you are really serious about losing body fat, losing weight, then it is more than just going to the gym; you really have to look at your diet, understand what you are eating and make the right decisions where food is concerned. I was so stupidly naive about all of this before I started; I really did believe that if you wanted to get a flat stomach or tone up then all you had to do was exercise more and that as long as I was getting the right amount of vitamin C then how bad could it really be? 

Speaking to Calum today I realised that despite the fact I have been doing this for five weeks, I have only been doing it properly for the last four days because losing weight and body fat is more than just exercise. I can't believe it's taken me 22 years to fully understand this and although it's a little boring and annoying and frustrating I am so happy that I have finally got the hang of it.

So what did the scales say today, at the half way point? Well, despite still being 30% body fat, I have lost a massive 8lbs of fat which is apparently unreal. 

What does this mean? Well, it means that you can lose weight and get fit if exercise is all you do but that if you want real, proper results then you are going to have to make food the focal point. I am bored, don't get me wrong. I curse Calum daily and I spend a lot of time standing in the bakery aisle of my local supermarket smelling and wanting to cry BUT I am starting to see results and I know that I am doing my insides a huge favour. 

SO. Although I am not trying to lose weight, I am serious about getting healthy and so, for anyone who wants to see them, I am going to be sharing over the next few weeks some of the recipes that I am coming up with. 

I've still got a long way to go but I think now I finally understand what the hell I need to be doing, I will see things changing much much faster. I think what I have learnt is that if you're going to do something like this then you have to remember that it is not an overnight fix, as much as you would like it to be; it's more than just going to the gym more and opting not to have cheese on your burger; it's a mental thing as much as it is physical. 

So that's where I am at five weeks in, next week I'll be back with a new work out and food updates of the week but I thought I'd share the psychological side of things this week as no one told me this before I started and that doesn't seem very fair at all!

Let me know if recipes is something that you would like to see and I'll hop straight to it! Lots of love guys, thanks for reading! xxx

VIDEO: GYNAECOLOGICAL CANCER - ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW #ASKEVE

It was such a pleasure to talk to go back to the Eve Appeal offices and I'm so grateful that Tracey took the time to talk to me about Gynaecological Cancers, the symptoms and the Ask Eve service! All links are down below xxx

Ask Eve Service: http://bit.ly/2kWiUqp
Eve Appeal Website: https://eveappeal.org.uk
Eve Appeal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eveappeal/?f...
Eve Appeal Twitter: https://twitter.com/eveappeal

Pretty Normal Me Twitter: https://twitter.com/prettynormalme
Pretty Normal Me Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/prettynormalme/
Pretty Normal Me Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/prettynorma...

THE DUMBE-BELLE CHRONICLES - 10 WEEKS TO FITNESS - WEEK 3

Hello and welcome back to week 3 of my 10 weeks to fitness challenge! I have just completed my hour long session and weigh in with Calum and the results are in! For those of you who are new to the challenge, I am on a bid to lose half my body fat in 10 weeks with the help of Personal Trainer Calum Taylor as I discovered 4 weeks ago that my body fat percentage (34%) was not healthy for someone of my size, I weighed 10 stone 7 pounds. So I have been working tirelessly to bring those numbers down and get healthier and I've just got my third update. But first thins first, let's look back at what I have got up to over the last week. 

So I missed out on the weigh in last week as I was on a romantic weekend away celebrating my fourth anniversary with my boyfriend. Rather than training we ate WAY too much food and lay in bed a lot and I knew I would have a lot of work to do to make this right. 

Monday: I started this week with a session that I didn't want at my local gym in an RPM class. Maybe because I had had a few days off or maybe it was just because it was a Monday and I was in a real grump but I found this to be really hard work! It was my first time in an RPM class (indoor cycling to you and me) and I didn't hate it. Nor did I love it though and haven't got immediate plans to go back. 

Food wise I was good, when I got home I had two boiled eggs with oatcakes, for lunch I tried something new and TOASTED sweet potato (works surprisingly well!) which I had with tuna and cucumber and then for supper I had some roast chicken with courgetti. (No evening carbs, as instructed and I was hungry but smug).

Tuesday: Today I had a spinning class in the evening, this I really enjoyed - I don't know why today's was better than Monday's but it was. It was only 45 minutes and because it's more like a disco than a gym I find it super fun. It's called Group Cycle for any Virgin Active members and I LOVE IT.

Food wise I added to my breakfast, where I normally have just boiled eggs I added coconut yoghurt, raspberries, blueberries and agave nectar. Lunch was tuna pasta salad and dinner was bolognaise sauce with lots of veggies. (Again no carbs but I did snack on a mango, an apple and an orange which is apparently too much fruit... CAN I WIN?!)

Wednesday: As promised today I went back to the Body Attack class that I had loved to hate last Wednesday. This class is SO FRIGGIN INTENSE but I flipping love it. Everything hurts and I normally feel like I am going to choke up a lung but my Polar Heart Rate Monitor shows me that I have worked hard and burnt lots and lots of calories so that's good.

Lunch wise I had the same breakfast as I had had the day before with lots of fruity snacks, for lunch I had cold chicken with sweet potatoes, broccoli, peas and cucumber and for dinner I went to Byron and had a burger with no bun (gluten) and chips. Am I proud? No. Was it delicious? Yes.

Thursday: It was back to Body Pump today as I had done last Thursday. I actually felt myself getting stronger as the week had gone on and I was able to push myself harder and it was AWESOME. To be able to add an extra push up or use a slightly heavier weight or whatever is so cool and I was really proud of myself for this.

Food today. Hm. Breakfast was the same as Wednesday (2 breakfasts have become normal), lunch was the same as Tuesday, pasta salad because I'm lazy. And dinner? Well dinner was gin and tequila. I'm not proud of this, not least of all because my health issues mean that I shouldn't be drinking more than one drink, if I have any at all. I skipped dinner because I was out and instead feasted on crisps. I'm already SO nervous about telling Calum.

Friday: I was hungover so I didn't go to the gym. But I still ate like I had, I had my two breakfasts, snacked on ALL the fruit, had (GF) bread, carrots, cucumber and humous for lunch and then sweet potato with salad and chicken for dinner. Oh the shame of it all.

Saturday: A bit better. I got into the gym for the DIY programme that Calum had given me last week. I burnt 400 calories and it was AMAZING. (You can do it in the comfort of your own living room) and if you want to have a go you can find it HERE. (Look how sweaty I was!!!)

Food wise I added to my breakfast, still I had the eggs but then I put muesli in with my coconut yoghurt and berries, it might not be what Calum wants me to be having but IT WAS SO YUMMY and for anyone not currently torturing themselves I would recommend it as it is delish. I snacked on rice cakes and nut butter (urgh) and for dinner I had lamb with some home made Turkish style salads that were very yum, I said no to rice cause I knew I was seeing Calum the next day.

And that brings us to where we are today. I am currently sitting at my laptop feeling very crispy as the sweat that was on my head has now dried (sorry not sorry). I had a VERY intense session with Calum and if you want to give it a go, take a look at it here:

We started with a five minute warmup run and then stretch. Then it was back onto the treadmill for THE MOST RIDICULOUS EXERCISES EVER!!!

I started by doing 1 minute of lunging on the treadmill at 2 miles an hour:

Then it was time for 1 minute sprint.

Then I had a minute of doing STARJUMPS on the treadmill, with it going 2 miles an hour.

Then I sprinted for another minute.

Then I had to hand walk on the treadmill for a mile (I DIE)

Then I sprinted for another minute.

Then I had to BEAR CRAWL ON THE TREADMILL WITH MY ARMS AND LEGS!! (At 1mph) lololol.

Then I sprinted for another minute.

This damn nearly killed me I swear to god!! So I didn't appreciate what came next:

50 SQUATS!!!!! 

40 SIDE STEPS

30 MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

20 STEP UPS

10 Clean & Jerks

AND THEN WE HAD TO REPEAT IT ALL AGAIN 😖😖😖 but this time *only* half the amount. (25, 20, 15, 10, 5 - still so damn hard!). I burnt 500 calories in the 50 minutes which was pretty flipping impressive.

And then it was time for the weigh in. After so much training I was so sure that I would get good results, I had exercised SO much and honestly felt like a new person. But, I realise after writing it all down that I had eaten quite a lot too. I lack a lot of knowledge where this kind of thing is concerned and had assumed that everything I was eating was good for me, that fruit in excess was good for me... I was wrong. Fruit as it turns out is too sugary and I DON'T NEED TO BREAKFASTS. Sad face. So what did the scales say?

Well disappointingly after all my hard work and two weeks since my last weigh in, I only lost another 1% body fat, bringing me to 31.6%. It's not bad and at least I am moving in the right direction but I see that I still have a lot of room for improvement. I have also stayed the same as the week before at 10st5 but Calum has pointed out that more of that is muscle than it was when we started.

Initially I was disappointed by this, I had honestly hoped that the results would say something totally different, but I realise that I shouldn't be, because I am still learning. I don't know anything about this stuff really and I can't be expected to just land on the ground running, ready to give up everything and get it totally right! No, if that was the case Calum wouldn't have a job and I wouldn't be documenting my journey for you! 

What this has given me is more determination than ever to get this right! I really want to see if it's possible to get my body fat down as much as I can and get as fit as I can in ten weeks and in order to do that I am going to need to learn some lessons!

I don't know if this has been as inspirational as posts from previous weeks BUT, I suppose it is good to show that it's not all plain sailing eh?! To anyone trying to do this at home, or anything similar, I hope you are getting on OK and that the work out that we did today might be useful to you going forwards!

Lessons I learnt this week:

Fruit has lots of sugar in it.
My polar heart rate monitor is amazing and the reason I exercise.
You can toast sweet potato and it tastes great.
When you get into a routine exercise becomes *almost* fun.
I shouldn't drink tequila whilst doing a challenge like this.
I must do better next week.

Big love guys and thanks for checking in with me! Please get in touch with any questions. 

Go find Calum on Instagram here cause he's great!! xxx

 

NEW VIDEO: FINDING (& KEEPING) THE MOTIVATION TO EXERCISE

I hope you enjoyed this! These are just a few of the things I do to keep motivated. Please comment with what you'd like to see next and SUBSCRIBE! Links are listed below:

10 WEEKS TO FITNESS INTRODUCTION: http://bit.ly/2jXUDn9
10 WEEKS TO FITNESS - WEEK 1: http://bit.ly/2jsFtTa
10 WEEKS TO FITNESS - WEEK 2: http://bit.ly/2kn7q2Q
POLAR HEART RATE MONITOR BLOG: http://bit.ly/2jmeJpP

PNM Facebook: http://bit.ly/2jUBXE9
PNM Twitter: http://bit.ly/2j9sNQj
PNM Instagram: http://bit.ly/2jmduab

HOW TO START TAKING BETTER CARE OF YOUR HAIR

My hair gets hopelessly dry and at this time of year I just despair. I can't make it look right EVER, the ends are literally the frizziest things in the whole wide world and it's made worse by the fact that I never have a flipping clue what I should be doing to make it better. I had never learned how to blow dry my hair (I would literally just hold my hairdryer near my head), I never put in any products and I wasn't entirely sure what a split end was let alone how to fix it. But ENOUGH. I've decided that it's time to take better care of my hair and am taking it on as a personal mission. I have started with a bit of shopping and have been using the things listed below for the last two weeks and, IT'S WORKING. 

Listed below are the tips and tricks that I have learned and some of the products that I recommend. Anything else that I learn along the way, you will be the first to know. Oh, and also, I'm going to start doing homemade hair-masks too and I will review them as I go! But in the meantime...

1) Get the right hairbrush. 

There is a reason that everybody is talking about Tangle Teezers right now, they're SO good. I hadn't used one before and was guilty of ripping my hair out every day with a huge 'normal' hairbrush. My hair was coming out in clumps and it was making it SO frizzy. It was only when I borrowed a friend's Tangle Teezer that I realised that my life could be different, I DIDN'T need to rip my hair out once a day.

The other brush that I have just discovered the importance of is a round brush for drying my hair. There are a couple of reasons for this. a) If you are using a paddle brush when your hair is wet and at it's most fragile, you're asking for trouble and it will break and snap and basically die. b) If you can style your hair whilst you are blowdrying it then you no longer need to straighten it (this changed my life) and hey presto, your hair has only been exposed to half the heat. 

Basically soft brushes are the answer, ones that won't rip your hair out or make you look like the Queen of frizz.

2) Change your shampoo and conditioner regularly. 

This is to do with the balance of your hair, if you use the same ones time and time again, your hair will suffer. Since discovering this I have started to mix it up a LOT and have seen some good results. I've also seen some bad ones though because, as with most things, different things work for different people. I would suggest trying some depending on your hair type. The ones that have worked for me though, with my wavy/curly/dry hair is Elvive Colour Protect Shampoo & Conditioner, TRESEemme 7 Day Smooth Shampoo & Conditioner and John Freida Frizz Ease Shampoo & Conditioner. I replace them when I remember and if I have more than one brand in the shower will switch every time I wash my hair. 

Think about it like this: you wouldn't want to eat the same thing every day, so why would your hair?

3) Find yourself a hair mask

There are LOTS of treatments out there and as far as I can work out they are all used in slightly different ways. I haven't tried enough to comment on ALL THE HAIR MASKS but I was recommended one by my hairdresser that I absolutely love and want to recommend to you. It helps your hair to grow AND conditions it so well. It's by Phillip Kingsley called the Elasticizer, both my sister and I use it religiously. There are hundreds out there and I would definitely recommend getting into the habit of using at least one.

4) Protect your hair from heat

I'd always thought that 'heat defence' bottles were just full of water and something that hairdressers put a fancy label on to fleece us, but I've had a total 180 and now swear by it. Again I'm a Phillip Kingsley gal for this (it smells SO good) but I know TRESemme do one that is cheaper and that is available everywhere and that smells good too!

5) Find an oil or leave in conditioner.

I've got two to recommend here, both do different things. So I've got very frizzy, dry hair, hence the post, and have recently appreciated how useful these are. I love this one by Kerastase, you are put it on to damp hair and then activate it with the heat from your hairdryer, it's great and a little does go a long way. There are again, SO many of these on the market and I don't think any two of my friends use the same one, and loads of them have really great hair so I guess most of them work pretty well! The best thing you can do is get trying...

6) Brush your hair BEFORE you shower

I touched on this above but if you brush your hair when it is wet, you are yanking it all out and attacking it when it is at it's most sensitive. You are much better off brushing it (gently) before your shower so that when you come out of the shower it feels so much softer. I don't know the science of it but I know it's better for you.

7) Throw away all of your elastic hairbands.

I'm serious. These things literally rip out of your hair and I hate them. You need scrunchies. We all need scrunchies. They are so much softer and less damaging and I noticed a difference really quickly. 

8) Watch how you hold your handbag

The hair on the right side of my head is much more broken that that on my left. As a result it is shorter on that side and my hairdresser was so confused for ages. In the end we worked out that I carry my bag on the right side and it has been pulling out my hair. It's still more damaged on that side but I am working hard to concentrate on that and have noticed a difference! (It's the same story with seat belts!)

9) Get it cut regularly

I know you hear this ALL the time and it seems SO counterintuitive and annoying but I have to admit, since I started to do this my hair looks so much thicker and healthier. You won't even notice 1/2 an inch every six weeks or so I promise.

10) Don't wash your hair every day!

Sometimes it's necessary, I get that, but if you can help it try not to do this. It strips your hair of all the right oils. Let it get a bit grubby first, much more satisfying that way anyway!

 

IT'S CERVICAL CANCER PREVENTION WEEK - LET'S MAKE SOME NOISE

Today marks the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and here at Pretty Normal Me we think that's something to shout about. So here we are, SHOUTING about it. As any followers of the blog will already know, we work closely with the Eve Appeal, the UK's Gynaecological Cancer Research Charity and this week, as every week, I want to help them spread the word about gynae cancer and what we can do to help prevent it! 

So let's talk about Cervical Cancer because, if you're honest with yourself, you don't really know enough about it, do you? Here we go:

- Every day NINE women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. 

- It primarily affects women between 30-45 years of age (NO, if you're 28 or 47 and reading this YOU CANNOT LEAVE NOW)

- Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a common STI called Human Papillomavirus otherwise known as HPV. This is why the Government is vaccinating girls at an early age before they are exposed to HPV. (NO, it is not a disease for slags or sluts or whatever you're thinking, STOP THINKING THAT).

- The symptoms are not obvious until later stages which is why it is SO IMPORTANT  that women attend ALL of their cervical screening appointments. (NO, just going to the first one when you're 25 and feeling smug is not good enough, you have to go to ALL OF THE ONES YOU'RE INVTED TO).

 - The symptoms. So what are the symptoms? Well as I said, they are not obvious in early stages, BUT there is one obvious one:

In most cases vaginal bleeding is the first noticeable sign that something is wrong; it often occurs after sex but any bleeding outside of the normal menstrual cycle could be a symptom, particularly in women who have been through the menopause. I know it's scary I really do, but if you are noticing this then please please please go to the doctors. 

- The thing to remember is that cervical cancer is largely preventable and the screenings that we have on offer are estimated to save over 4000 lives a year. FOUR THOUSAND!!!!

So why girls, did over a quarter of women aged 25-64 miss their appointments between 2015 and 2016??? 

GUYS - YOU'VE GOT TO DO THE SCREENINGS!!!!!!! Take a friend, get drunk before you go - whatever it is that get's you through just GO! (Joking about the last one, probably best not to get drunk). But seriously, it's so so worth it. I know it can be a little scary but it needn't be, it really could save your life. It's SO worth doing, please please please go. 

It's time we got to know our normal girls and did as the Eve Appeal suggest this January and Think Cervical. But how Em? I hear you ask. How do I Think Cervical this week? Don't worry, the Eve Appeal have got you covered. They are encouraging us to:

- Be aware of the symptoms. Vaginal bleeding is the main one but follow the link HERE to read more.

- Go to your screenings. GO. GO GO.

- Learn where our cervix is. Seriously. In a study conducted by the Eve Appeal last year, 45% of young women and girls don't know where it is. Do you know where it is? GOOGLE IT NOW.

- Get EVERYONE (men too, obviously) to know how to prevent it and importantly, to support the Eve Appeal's life saving research. Go to their website and see how you can do your bit HERE.

Guys, it's Cervical Cancer Prevention week and I am not going to stop banging on about it. So I have a favour to ask. To all of my readers over 25 please comment or tweet me with the date of your next screening, just so I know you've got one booked in. To the rest of you, keep checking and keep healthy and keep talking. Worrying and panicking in silence is never the answer, we are always here and so are the Eve Appeal, let's work together to prevent cervical cancer!

WHAT'S IN MY MAKEUP BAG?

For anyone out there who is feeling a bit nosy! All products linked below xxx

Skinny Dip Makeup Bag (Similar): http://bit.ly/2jRpXkj
Charlotte Tilbury Makeup Bag: http://bit.ly/2iPpfm2
Clinique Foundation: http://bit.ly/2jnVw8q
NSPA Primer: http://bit.ly/2jDQkgr
Clinique Foundation Brush: http://bit.ly/2k8kAAG
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Palette: http://bit.ly/2jdBppG
Beauty Factory Eyeshadow Primer: http://amzn.to/2jRw8oQ
Urban Decay Concealer: http://bit.ly/2iPwRVQ
Maybelline Concealer: http://bit.ly/2jEphkX
Collection Concealer: http://bit.ly/2k8lgGn
Benefit High Brow Pencil: http://bit.ly/2jEkgJ3
ELF Eyebrow Kit: http://bit.ly/2jEwlOm
Proto-col Shimmer Powder: http://bit.ly/2iPxm1S
Charlotte Tilbury Eyeshadow Palette: http://bit.ly/2jtq064
Urban Decay Lipstick (Similar): http://bit.ly/2iPBvTq
Bourjois Mascara: http://bit.ly/2jtrw8j
Charlotte Tilbury Blusher: http://bit.ly/2j2Nv5C
Benefit Mascara: http://bit.ly/2jdzXDW
Benefit Brush: http://bit.ly/2k5IUz8
Charlotte Tilbury Liquid Eyeliner: http://bit.ly/2iPv4jf
Charlotte Tilbury Glastonbury Lipstick: http://bit.ly/2jEtvca
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contouring Palette: http://bit.ly/2jnSm4S
Charlotte Tilbury Lipliner: http://bit.ly/2jDxBl3
Charlotte Tilbury Mascara: http://bit.ly/2jRqnHv
Jeffree Star Highlighter: http://bit.ly/2k88AiK

THE DUMBE-BELLE CHRONICLES - 10 WEEKS TO FITNESS - WEEK 2

Okay guys, I have a confession to make. No, before you think it, I haven't given up, I'm still going strong. But things need to be slightly different this week. Yesterday was mine and Alex's fourth anniversary of being together and he has taken me away on a surprise weekend. Calum was in on the surprise so unfortunately our weekly check in and training session has had to be skipped this week because, you know, romance has got in the way. BUT that does not mean that I want to leave you without a blog post and at least an update from my side, so forgive me for not being able to provide my weight and percentages this week but perhaps allow me instead to fill you in on how I've been getting on with my training and what I can recommend and what I can absolutely tell you never to do, ever ever ever.

So I left you on Sunday, I was VERY excited because I had just discovered that I had, after a week of hard work but not much change to my diet, managed to lose 2lbs and nearly 2% body fat. I'd had an hour training session with Cal and was absolutely pooped, so when I got home, I did as all good girls should and made myself two pieces of toast, ate half a melon, two sausages and then a HUGE roast beef dinner with a sugar/dairy free hot chocolate afterwards (which was horrible by the way). So what did I get up to after that?

Monday:

Since Calum isn't based in London, I only get to see him when I am down staying with my mum which I can normally only do Friday- Sunday. As luck would have it today though, Alex had to be at work in Oxford and so I was able to stay at home for an extra day. The bad news is, Calum got wind of this and I somehow ended up in a two hour training session with him at 8am. This, after the weekend that I had had, very nearly killed me. We did lots of high intensity stuff on the machines and even more squats, lunges and sit ups. Half way through I nearly had to leave to vomit and I can confirm that I have never sweated so much in my whole entire life. Below is a screenshot of my workout summary documented by my Polar Heart Rate Monitor. 

Food wise, I had my two boiled eggs for breakie, feeling inspired after my session. Lunch slightly passed me by and I'm not necessarily proud of the fact that I ate a huge share pack of rice cakes with almond butter (not bad but certainly not nutritious!). Dinner was girls' night with a whole load of my friends and I had a burger with no bun and chips. Remember this because a pattern emerges). No booze though, only water.

Tuesday:

Tuesday was my day of good intentions. I was booked into a spinning class at 6.15pm but, as so often happens, life got in the way and my commitments that day ran over and I didn't make it to the gym on time. So I didn't exercise. What I did instead was sit at my dad's house and watch Star Trek and eat pizza (gluten and dairy free obviously!!) and celebrate the fact that my book had just been announced as available to pre-order. Also I don't know how, because I am permanently hungry but I don't think I ate anything all day. I had my first meeting at 8am and didn't really stop all day. I'm REALLY not proud of this and vowed that it wouldn't happen again. Not least of all because by the time supper came around I was ready to eat Bua I was so hungry.

Wednesday:

THIS DAY STARTED WITH A BANG. I signed myself up for a Body Attack class at 9am which was every bit as gruesome as it sounds. It was my first time at this class and I went in the morning before I had had my breakfast. To anyone who is a member of Virgin Active, I recommend this class but I SERIOUSLY recommend bracing yourself for the massiveness of it. My heart rate did not come out of the amber zone all session (actually an amazing thing) and I hated basically the whole session, watching the minutes go by so so slowly. By the time we were stretching however, I decided that I absolutely LOVED it and was signed up to come back the next week. Funny how that happens isn't it?

Food wise I was better today. I was SO hungry when I got back from my session I made myself two boiled eggs which I ate with my oatcakes, followed by an apple and an orange. I ate lunch two hours later which was buckwheat pasta with tuna and peas and dinner was, you guessed it, another burger without the bun, with chips and a salad. (In my defence, my food problems mean that eating out is SO hard and this is always the safest option).

Thursday:

I wish I had been able to record my internal monologue on Thursday morning. It went something like this:

'URGH OK that class starts in an hour.'
'I'm not going.'
'Yes you are.'
'No, I'm not.'
'YES, you are, think of Calum, think of the readers THINK OF THE BODY FAT'.
'Fuck them all, one day won't make a difference. I don't care, I'm great the way I am, I don't need to go, no one will know if I don't.'
'You'll know. And your app will know. And worse still, Calum and his pesky scales will know. Don't be weak. Don't let them all down. Don't let YOURSELF down.'
'Fine, I'll go I'll go I'll go I'll go I'll go'

And bugger me, I went. This class was called Body Pump it was AMAZING and totally totally horrible and means that I now cannot lift my arms above my head, try as I might. Apparently the classes are available everywhere and if that is the case then I seriously recommend it. It's a lot of work on the legs and arms (please remember that my arm strength tested as less than poor two weeks ago) and you mostly use weights to row with, squat with and even bench. I walked into this class having never been before, not knowing what to expect which for anxious little me was a HUGE deal, I asked the instructor who was amazing, what I needed and basically went into this thing blind, surrounded by lots of women who clearly do it every day, it was intimidating but luckily I was so busy dying I didn't have time to notice them really. I didn't burn loads of calories and my heart wasn't beating particularly fast but my muscles have never had a workout like it, that's another class I'm booked in for next week! (Although I didn't burn a lot of calories- check out the percentage of fat burnt!)

Today was another day of good food, I think it's true what they say: when you exercise you WANT to eat better (not an expression but just roll with it). I felt loathed to undo all of my hard work and so when I came home I had my eggs again (mourning my morning pancakes a bit though!) with another apple and orange and oatcakes. For lunch, like yesterday I had a tuna pasta salad, I snacked on a mango and some sugar free Date Chocolate in the afternoon (all this exercise is making me hungry) and for dinner I had a roast chicken (not a whole one lol), with sweet potatoes, snap peas, baby corn and green beans. Nom nom nom nom. (First dinner at home for ages and I seized the opportunity to cook something healthy... WHO EVEN AM I ANYMORE?!?)

Friday

Thursday was one of my busiest days ever and I was working until at least 1am so the fact that I got to Pilates this morning was a miracle, not least of all because I basically couldn't move after Thursday's Body Pump class. I thought though, since I had been so busy, had a big meeting later that day AND was so stiff, that this would actually help to stretch me out. GOD I don't even know myself anymore, old Em would have assumed that the only cure for this would have been so much sleep and one more glass of wine. This is working already!

When I got home I had my eggs AGAIN (I am SO unoriginal) and a satsuma (my body is craving vitamin C like mad at the moment). Unfortunately my meeting was at 2pm so lunch was tricky to organise so I ended up being really lazy and having some carrots, cucumber, crisp breads and humous and, since my boyfriend has taken me away for the weekend, I finished the day with a huge plate of roast beef, roast potatoes, broccoli, spinach and carrots and it was DELICIOUS.

Saturday & Sunday.

Guys, I'm away on a romantic weekend and so will not document my food, mostly because there is so much of it going in me that this would be way too long a blog post. It also means that I can't go to the gym because there isn't one near me. Luckily however, Calum (thoughtful as ever) has thought of something for me, and has sent over a really quick and speedy programme that I can do this weekend from anywhere.

This is really useful and just the kind of thing that I have been looking for because, without a set plan, I've always been loathed to stand in the park doing handstands and push ups on my own! So below is a description and pictures of the 'When Life Get's In The Way' workout that you can do when, you know, life get's in the way and you haven't got the time, energy or inclination to haul yourself to the gym for an hour:

30 Min Training Programme:

5 minute progressive warm up. For this you can use anything, even if there are no machines; you could go out for a run or skip in your room and then do a dynamic stretch.

This workout needs to be short and sharp so we will use a method called Tabata; it's 20 seconds hard and 10 seconds easy for 4 minutes. It's a version of High Intensity Interval Training. (HIIT).

1 st Tabata as follows:

20 second press ups

(I can literally only do one of these before my body gives up and so if you, like me, are crap, there is an option to do an easier one on your knees)

(I'm sure Calum will tell me that my back is NOT straight enough in this picture and he would be right, if you're doing this at home, do it with a straighter back!)

10 seconds rest 

20 seconds burpees

lol at this whole picture

lol at this whole picture

10 seconds rest

Now repeat this sequence another 3 times until the 4 minutes is complete. Remember though, if your heart rate is not in the 80s or 90% by the end you haven't worked hard enough

Now time for a 5 minute cardio section:

Star Jumps for 1 minute

High Knees Jogging for 1 minute

Squat Thrusts 1 minute

Spotty Dogs 1 minute

Mountain Climbers 1 minute

The 2nd Tabata as follows:

20 seconds squat jump 

10 seconds rest

20 seconds sit ups opposite elbow to knee then back down

10 seconds rest

Repeat this for the 4 minutes

The finisher:

Run inside or outside, up to you, until you reach your target of 300 calories for the session

Ugh utterly exhausting. BUT, very good if you are pushed for time and it's raining outside and you want to do something in the safety of your own living room. (Or hotel room in my case!)

So there you go, that's what I got up to this week and there is the suggested workout for any of you who are as mad as me and trying to get fit this January but don't have a bloody clue how to go about it! I hope this is useful and that you have been able to take something on board! Seriously, if any of you are looking to join a gym and live near a Virgin, I would recommend it simply as a result of those classes, for the days when I lack any motivation or know how, they really are totally amazing.

If you have any questions for me or Cal please email me or leave it in the comments and I can't wait to report back next Sunday with my body fat percentages, sorry to keep you all waiting!

Big love and good luck and well done to anyone doing anything similar! xxx

 

THE ONE THING THAT YOU REALLY NEED IF YOU'RE SERIOUS ABOUT GETTING FIT

As a lot of you guys will know by now, I am nearly two weeks into my 10-Weeks-To-Fitness challenge, in which I am trying to half my body fat in, you guessed it, ten weeks. The first week, as we found out on Sunday went really well and I lost 2% of my body fat and 2lbs and this week, I hope will be just as good. So far I have trained hard and, despite the pizza last night, not eaten too badly. But there is one thing that I need to credit my success to and that is my Polar Bluetooth Heart-Rate Monitor. This is not a sponsored post, I genuinely do owe it so much. 

I went to a Body Attack class at my gym this morning (every bit as horrible as it sounds and does merit it's own blog post which will come later) and was given the opportunity, thanks to a LOVELY trainer to opt for the 'easier' exercises whenever I wanted. Normally I would have jumped at this opportunity working on the logic that no one in the class would recognise me on the street and the instructor was too distracted with fifty or so other people to shame me and chosen to do one slow lunge rather than the suggested lunge leaps that everybody else was doing.

But, today I had a heart rate monitor on, which was at that exact moment telling my phone exactly how well I was doing, and as a result, I opted for the difficult exercises. In fact, I opted for them so many times that I was actually close to throwing up when I left the gym - it was wonderful. Never have a I left a class so sweaty before.

So let me tell you about this device that I am loving so much.

The heart rate monitor as, as the name suggests, a device that monitors your heart. You pop it on and leave it resting just underneath your bra with the sensor where your heart is and you connect it to your phone. In the Polar app you then specify what you are doing (today was strength training but there is an option for everything; 'cycling', 'running', 'boxing' etc) and press PLAY on the app. Depending on what you are doing you can then either pop the phone down and forget about it, or, if you are on a treadmill or if you like watching yourself get closer and closer to heart attack, you keep it open in front of you and watch how hard you are working.

If you are out on a bike ride or run it will tell you how far you have travelled, using GPS and whatever you are doing it shows you how many calories you have burnt and more importantly what your heart is up to. Calum, of Taylor Made Training who is the man responsible for my mission, put me onto this and when I am in the gym with him, he syncs it up with an iPad so he can watch my progress. Yes, I may LOOK sweaty, but with Polar you can see exactly HOW hard I'm working. 

Your heart rate percentage (how much of your potential you are using) is displayed in colours, grey is between 50% and 60% and means you are not in the zone, blue is between 60% and 70% and means you're alive and doing something but not working particularly hard, green is between 70% and 80% and by this point you should be sweating, yellow is between 80% and 90% and means that you're really fucking struggling but that great things are happening to your body and 90% and above is amazing and means that a) you're literally making your fat cry an incredible amount and b) you might be about to have a heart attack. (Joking, kind of).

Calum tries to get me up to 90% as much as I can and then keeps me there for a minute before letting me have a break. And for the times when I am on my own this is AMAZING, where I would normally opt for a gentle jog I find myself pushing myself like crazy trying to get to the dreaded red zone.

And on days like yesterday when I was not actually looking at my phone but aware of the heart rate monitor on my chest? I worked ten times harder than I would normally have done. And boy was it worth it, I burnt over 500 calories in an hour. We all know that there is no way in hell that that would have happened on a normal day. Below I have put in screen grabs of the last few days' exercise so you can see how it works:

Yesterday:

Monday:

Sunday:

Saturday:

I've got to the point of obsession and excitement that I'll refuse to workout if I'm not wearing it, working on the logic that if it didn't happen on the app, then it didn't happen at all. And guys, it's great. For the first time I'm looking forward to exercise and I'm proud and excited about what I am achieving. It's a GREAT feeling.

The heart-rate monitor is a little pricey at £60 but to anyone who is serious about working out and getting fit, I'd say it's 100% worth it. You can get yours here.

Ahaha OK, fine, I'll go back to talking about pizza and makeup again now, I just thought I was onto something and deemed it unfair not to share my findings! Big love xxx 

THE DUMB-BELLE CHRONICLES - 10 WEEKS TO FITNESS - WEEK 1

So here we go! I've just finished my first proper session with Personal Trainer Calum Taylor as we embark on our mission to help me lose half my body fat in 10 weeks. I went with my friend Sophie for a great work out, focussing on our low body and to check my body fat and weight, look at my meals from the last week and talk about the exercise that I've been doing and the exercise that I should be doing. 

So before I get onto the workout that we did today, let me tell you (because I'm being totally transparent) exactly what I've been up to this week. (Reminder, we found out last week that I weigh 10st7 and have 36% body fat).

Sunday: First day, couldn't be bothered. I did 20mins on the cross trainer exercise wise. For breakfast I ate 5 buckwheat and almond milk pancakes, for lunch I ate a piece of (gluten free, obviously!) toast with cashew butter on it and for dinner I had roast pork with ALL OF THE TRIMMINGS. I snacked on an apple and a mango.

Monday: Back to London. I started my day with a long walk with a friend and came back and ate 5 pancakes. For lunch I started taking this shit seriously and had half a sweet potato, a tin of tuna with some peas and broccoli. For dinner I had home made Spaghetti Bolognese with buckwheat pasta. I snacked on a packet of oatcakes with cashew butter. 

Tuesday: I started my day with a 20 minute run and got smug af when I got home and made 2 boiled eggs which I had with 6 GF oatcakes and an apple. For lunch I had left over spag bol with broccoli and green beans and for dinner I ate a HUGE burger (no bun coz no gluten) with chips. I did do a spinning class in the evening which made me SO tired I could barely breathe though so #sorrynotsorry.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Wednesday: Another day started with a 40 minute run and still smug af I had another two boiled eggs, six oatcakes and a mango. I didn't have lunch probably today (bad Em) and snacked on rice crackers with nut butter. For dinner I was out for dinner and had a tuna tartare followed by a steak, chips and green beans. Don't even regret it. Before dinner I had gone to the gym with my friend Sophie though and we'd done lots of press ups and sit ups and horrible things. Can we all just take a quick minute to LOL at how IMPOSSIBLE Bua is to run with by the way....

Thursday: Not my proudest moment. I started the day well with my boiled eggs and then had a bit of a shitty morning so didn't eat lunch (just snacked on nut butter and crisps and humous and things) and then ordered a pizza for dinner. (GF and DF obviously). I didn't do any exercise either but I don't care cause I have a life and can't be bothered to all of this EVERY DAY.

Friday: I started the day with my boiled eggs, for lunch I randomly ate a cucumber (like a carrot which made me laugh) and crisps with humous and then for dinner I had roast chicken, sweet potatoes and veggies which was DELICIOUS. (A nod to mum's cooking!). I did a pilates class in the morning which I loved and highly recommend and will do again next week.

Saturday: For breakie I had some pancakes and then went on a 20 mile FREEZING COLD BIKE RIDE! When I came home I was freezing and hungry so I had two pieces of GF toast with cashew butter, two oranges and half a melon. I then went out for dinner and ate ANOTHER steak with more chips and greens. I also had a couple of gins. 

So that was my week. All in all I was REALLY proud of the exercise side of things. I basically went from 0 to 100 in no time at all and was really happy that I did so much. I was less proud of the food. Although it hadn't been really bad, I did wonder what Calum would make of the fact that i had beef every night, chips like four times and a pizza. I also wondered if the scales would give me away when we did a weekly check. So with a slightly hungover Sophie and a feeling of apprehension I drove over to Calum's gym at 10 this morning for my first session and a progress report.

We started with the session. I am going to list everything that we did below, with pictures, so that if any of you are interested in what I am up to and want to try this at home, then you can. The photos aren't great because I didn't have my sister as designated photographer today but I hope you'll get the idea of it. At the end I'll tell you what the scales said...

THE WARMUP:

So we started with a five minute warm up. Sophie was on the Cross Trainer and I was Treadmill. The idea was to get our heart rates up but not kill us, we then got off and did some stretches.

HELL:

To begin with we were given an elasticated rope which we had to put underneath our feet, adopt a straight back/bent knee position and walk like a crab. It ever so slightly made me feel like I had wet myself and was trying to exist the situation as quickly as possible. 

Next up, still using that rope we had to uncross it and hold the handles, we then had to squat until our elbows touched our knees and then raise our arms to the sky for another minute. This works your glutes (bum) and arms and it's great, but... OW.

Then it was time for some interval training, this basically means that you're breaking up your cardio. To start it off I had to get onto the cross trainer and Sophie onto the treadmill. 

For the first 30 seconds we had to push it as hard as we could, Sophie sprinting on the treadmill and me going as hard as I could on the cross trainer. We were then given 30 seconds to recover. After the 30 seconds was up we had to do the same again but for 20 seconds, and were given a 20 second recovery time, we then did the same again except for 10 seconds. This was AMAZING. Honestly, it gets your heart rate up like crazy and is SO good, if you're looking for a way of getting fit, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Then things got REALLY tough. 

I started kneeling on the floor with some weights and Sophie was poised on a step. My job was to put a weight on either shoulder whilst in the kneeling position and then put one leg out in front of me in a right angle. I then had to stand up, keeping the weights on my shoulder. I had to do this for a minute.

IMG_1041.JPG

Sophie meanwhile had both her hands on her head with one leg on the step, when our minute began she had to bring the knee that wasn't on the step up to her elbow on the other side. We both did one of these for a minute, then swapped again and did it on the other side. We then repeated it after both legs had been done but for 30 seconds. This made my glutes absolutely HATE ME!

Now we had to break it up with more interval training. This was exactly the same as alst time except I was on the treadmill this time and Sophie was on the cross trainer. 

After that we went next door to use the TRX. This is basically an elasticated rope that hangs down and can be used for loads of things, they're SO great. Anyway, this time Sophie and I had to stand holding the rope, one in each hand. We then lifted one leg out in front of us and bent down with the other leg, we then used our arms and the leg that was bent to pick ourselves back up. We did 4 sets of 10. That's 20 'squats' on each side. (this was a KILLER!)

Then back to the machines for the final push. I took the rowing machine first while Sophie went on the 'ski' machine. As hard as we could we had to rush to get to 250m, when we were there we had to jump off and get straight onto the mat. Once there we had to do totally straight legged sit ups. This stretched our hamstrings AND worked our abs (what abs?!) so that's pretty great.

After we had done 20 sit-ups we swapped machines and did the same 250m again. Once completed we had to jump onto the mats and this time we had to lift our legs into the air into a right angle with our backs on the floor and lower our legs as far as we could, without letting our spine's curve. We then had to lift them back up to a right angle and repeat 20 times.

ahah those chins!!!

ahah those chins!!!

We swapped machines again and after another 250m we got back onto the mats AGAIN for 'Russian Twists'. This means you take an exercise ball, lift your chest and legs off the ground and twist yourself so that you tap the ball down on either side. This is amazing (if not lethal) and works your obliques (the side of your stomach) like they've never been worked before. 

For the last time we swapped machines and after the ridiculously difficult by this point, 250 meters we got onto the mats, lying on our stomachs and lifted our heads and shoulders off the ground. This in itself impossible but we had to lower it down AGAIN and repeat another 20 times. URGH. 

Thankfully, after that it was time to stretch. When Soph and I got up from the mats, there were the biggest sweat patches that you've ever seen but Cal pointed out 'If you can't sweat in here then where can you eh?' good question.

After stretching and officially finishing our workout (checking to see how we did on our Polar app), it was time to get on the scales again. 

DRUMROLL PLEASE. *brderederbredberd*

SO. After a week of LOTS of exercise but not perfect diet, how had I done? Pretty flipping well guys.

I had previously been 34% body fat and after 7 days I was 32%.

I had previously been 10st7 and after 7 days I was 10st5.

WHAT A WEEK? Even better to find out that I had lost in that time 4lbs of fat (although I don't know where it had actually gone). I even made it onto Calum's 'Achievers of the Week' board which made me proud as punch.

So, there you go. 10 Weeks To Fitness, Week 1 complete and the results are awesome. 

I'm not in this to lose weight as you know but I am very very interested in losing as much body fat as I can and this is boding really well. If this is useful to you I will keep documenting what I get up to in the week and showing you what Calum has given me to do so that if you are looking to do something similar, then you can use this for advice!

PS. I literally cannot move. My abs, my arse. I'm in bits. What a great feeling. 

IT'S TIME TO START LOOKING AFTER YOUR SKIN: DERMALOGICA REVIEW

Put your hand up if last night you slept with your makeup on. Okay. Now put your hand up if you DID take it off but you used a makeup wipe? now quickly raise your hand if you have no idea what a toner is. 

If you raised your hand for one or more of the above questions, then this post is probably for you.

Before I started running this blog I was totally crap at skincare. Even now, I'm no expert, but I'm trying to learn. I was queen of sleeping in my makeup and probably didn't own a moisturiser for about 12 years. I thought washing your face could be done solely with water and basically had no understanding of skincare at all. 

But then I got a bit older and I started to get some wrinkles on my forehead and dry skin in-between my eyebrows and still, despite my older age, I was getting spots on my chin. So I decided it was time to clue up. I'm still not massively sure what a toner is but I do now cleanse, moisturise AND oil my skin so the moral high ground is mine for a minute if you'll let me have it.

Since I started paying attention to my skin I also noticed that this time of year is particularly bad for it. It's drier than normal (eckhhhh) and if I don't moisturise it actually hurts. I also get lots of spots (because of central heating I think) and so really would encourage everyone to take better care of their skin at this point more than any other.

BUT HOW?! I hear you ask. I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING AND IT'S ALL SO CONFUSING AND EXPENSIVE AND I CAN'T BE ARSED. Yup yup. I hear you. That was (/is) me most the time. So I've had an idea for starting you off.

Rather than going and buying industrial sizes of EVERYTHING without trying it, why don't we start small, with small bottles, for a reasonable price? Yes Em, good idea, but where would we find such a thing??? No worries guys, I found it for you. 

Introducing the Demalogica 'Our Favourites' kit that I have been using, and lurvinggg recently. It consists of 5 small bottles (useful to try at first) of a precleanser, a toner, a gentle exfoliant a skin hydrating booster and a primer. Don't worry, I'll explain what they all are. 

(Candles not included, they're my props cause I'm getting good at blogging now)

(Candles not included, they're my props cause I'm getting good at blogging now)

The precleanser: This is, kind of as the name suggests, a precleanser. Lol well done Em thanks for that but what does it DO?! Okay yes, so you apply this to your skin with dry hands after a long hard day of getting shit done in your warpaint on. You then run your hands under water, and continue to rub it into your face until it forms a milky texture, you then rinse it with water. It's easy to use and pretty much removes all of your makeup. Normally with cleansers you'll find yourself flapping about with cotton wool balls (which are THE MOST ANNOYING THINGS EVER) and its grim but you don't need them with this, so on the cleanser alone I'd say your quids in.

The gentle cream-exfoliant: This is basically a face-mask which to my mind, is always a good thing. I have only used it once but I did like it. It says on the bottle not to be alarmed if your face stings a bit as this is normal, mine did a bit but not too much and it did make my skin look very good, 'fresh' afterwards.

The multi-active toner: Now I ought to confess I'm still not entirely sure I know what a toner is, but if they're all like this then we should all be using them a lot more. I spray (yes spray, so it's fun) this onto m face after I've cleansing it and it feels so. damn. good. It makes me feel clean AND grown up AND great because it makes my skin feel really moist.... is that a gross description? Probably, sorry.

The skin-hydrating booster: Again, before I used it I couldn't have told you what it was, but now I know: it's basically like a superduper moisturiser that I really like. I put it on after the toner and it is very 'hydrating' - it doesn't feel like I'm all claggy (sometimes happens with moisturisers) and  don't feel oily either so I recommend this one.

The skinperfect primer: Primer is a new thing to me and now something that I won't be without. I put it on before my foundation and i can't even tell you how much my skin is thanking me. This is SPF 30 so that's already a main selling point (protect yourself from dem rays girls!). It is very velvety and gives your skin quite a 'matt' finish which is actually pretty great as nothing worse than my enormous shiny forehead. 

And there you have it. My first 'review' and a good one at that! I really like this set and would recommend it. I normally don't like 'travel size' kits if I'm honest as I find that the bottles are annoyingly small and I either forget to use them because they're in the draw or they run out too fast. But I'm making an exception here. It's a good set and the whole lot can sit in my wash bag and hardly take up any space. It's even better if you're the kind of person who does want to do the 'try before you by' type thing because you won't then be stuck with vats of things that don't work... god forbid you don't like it.

The whole set is £25 at the moment and if I'm honest with ya, for great quality skincare it doesn't get much better than that. If you want to get your hands on some you can do here.

I hope this has been helpful and that you can now feel a little bit less overwhelmed by the terrifyingly big world of skincare! Happy toning xxxx