THE MAKEUP I WEAR EVERY DAY: WHAT IT IS AND WHY I LOVE IT.

Too much choice is a curse. That's certainly how I feel, particularly when it comes to makeup. With beautiful eyeshadow palettes being brought out every week (costing £40 a pop, making it impossible to own every single one) and every girl in the world claiming to have found a 'revolutionary foundation', I have found it incredibly difficult to know which way to turn when it comes to beauty. 

Everything I know now I have learnt either from other bloggers or a very expensive and long winded process of trail and error. I still have a wish list as long as my arm and things that I definitely want to improve on BUT I also know, finally, what works for me and have found products that I find easy to use and look good once applied to my noggin. 

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Although I do love reading a good blog post focussed primarily on one product, I have always found myself wanting something a little bit more. That girl looks great; what does she wear every day? How many of these products do I actually need? Help me, I want to start again, what should I be buying? Basically will someone hold my bloody hand through this massively over complicated process please. 

And so just in case anyone else is feeling anything like me, I thought I would share with you some of the products residing in my makeup bag that I turn to basically every morning. With a little bit more time to play around with on the weekends (and more interesting places to go) I do mix it up, wear a little more and use different palettes but as far as my every day makeup look goes, it's pretty much the same thing every day.

So without further ado; here's the makeup that I wear every day and why it's there:

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This is a relatively new product to my makeup bag but seeing as Charlotte Tilbury is my actual queen, I am making it my life mission to try everything that she owns. This has not disappointed me, it's quite dewy and whilst the coverage might not be ideal if you have problem skin or are prone to acne, for a day to day natural look, it's perfect. I have what they call 'normal skin', which can get a little dry at this time of year but as long as I have moisturised, this is great: it's not too heavy, applies easily and is actually just a bit magic.

NARS Concealer

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To be honest with you, I don't love myself for owning this. I bought this in May just before Nars started stocking in China meaning that, according to Chinese law, they would now be testing on animals. I didn't want to waste it by throwing it away and so have been using it and, I'm ashamed to say it, loving it. I won't be replacing it after I've run out personally as I am against animal testing in any shape or form BUT I'd be lying if I said it wasn't great.

A little goes a long way, it conceals my bags and is great for sneaking into my handbag and doing an emergency spot coverup. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit

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Can you tell that this is an incredibly well loved product?! So, I don't know much about contouring (who does?!) but my sister bought this for me for Christmas last year and I absolutely love it. I use the centre bronzer for those soft natural looks (the days when I tell people I'm not wearing any makeup but usually am), the bottom right is for day-to-day looks when I wanna look saucy and then sometimes I venture to the bottom left when I'm on holiday or prepared to spend hours blending. 

Anastasia Beverly Hills has created some incredible palettes and the Modern Renaissance Palette has been on my wish list for ever so I'd recommend checking out the collection anyway.

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look In A Palette

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This palette is an absolute must have. I use it for the highlight (bottom right) in this makeup look but I also find the whole thing SO incredibly useful for my 'hardly any makeup days' and for when I'm travelling. It's the ultimate all in one and saves me squishing an eyeshadow palette and a contour palette into a permanently full suitcase.

The top three shades are eyeshadows, bottom left is for your face, dark contouring powder in the middle and a very pigmented blush on the bottom. When I'm not using the UD eyeshadow palette below I'm normally using this one. Thank you Queen Charlotte. 

Meech and Mia Eyebrow Pencil

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I've always been shamefully lazy with my eyebrows and am the first to admit that I haven't got a bloody clue what I should be doing. This little pencil arrived in a Birchbox a few months ago and as you can see, I've been using it well!! For me personally it is a perfect shade and helps me fill in my brows. For any novices I really recommend it. 

Urban Decay Naked 2 Basics Palette 

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SO. I think I own nearly every palette that Urban Decay have ever made (don't judge me, I may well have a problem) and for the life of me I don't know why I've gone mad for this one recently but there are a couple of main reasons. 1) It's £24 which is super. 2) It is the most perfect basic set of colours and just creates the most wonderfully natural look. 

One of the main issues I have with the UD palettes is how big they are and how hard they are to transport. This one is perfect, it slips easily into a makeup bag and makes creating a very soft smokey eye as easy as pie. 

Benefit They're Real Push Up Eyeliner

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Not being a dab-hand when it comes to liquid eyeliner (because really, who is?!) I have found this to be an incredibly helpful product. The shape of the pen makes application a million times easier and allows that great thick flick that takes about forty years to achieve with any other eyeliner I have tried. 

Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

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I'm about to say something bold: THIS IS THE BEST MASCARA I HAVE EVER USED. Oop. It's out there now, can't take it back and don't even want to. Honestly I've heard amazing things about this for years and for some reason I never got around to trying it. About a month ago though I bit the bullet and kick myself that it took so long. 

My eyelashes have never looked longer or fuller or darker or more beautiful. I will never look anywhere else for mascara ever again. Better Than Sex....

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Lipliner

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WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO FIND LIPLINER?! (I think growing up in the '90s probably frightened me away from it.) I use this with the matching lipstick, the Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Pillow Talk Lipstick, (spoiler alert, it's the next photo!) and it makes my lips look one hundred million times bigger and I love that. I now hardly ever wear lipstick without putting liner on first and when I'm really desperate I will use this on it's own. 

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Lipstick

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Okay so you can wear this lippy without the lip liner, it hardly smudges at all and works well on it's own but personally I recommend both things together. You can save a bit of money by buying them as a set (link HERE). I always get a bit nervy about wearing lipstick during the day, the potential for a dark smudge ending up on your chin or a bright pink front tooth is utterly terrifying and that's why I love this shade so much.

It's natural enough, not overwhelmingly bold but still enough of a statement. 

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So there you have it! The makeup I wear every day and why I love it! This is the first post of this kind I've ever done so if you found it interesting please let me know, I'd also love to know what you've got in your makeup bag and why you love it, 'cos, ya know, a girl can never have too much war paint. 

GETTING A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP: THIS WORKS DEEP SLEEP STRESS LESS.

Never before had I experienced problems sleeping. My teenage years of being able to sleep through 'til noon carried on through into my twenties and I was known to a number of my friends as Bagpuss, thanks to my incredible ability to sleep wherever, whenever. So when one night last year I got into bed and didn't fall asleep within ten minutes, I didn't know what was happening. I've slept through earthquakes before now, I've fallen asleep within minutes of finishing a coffee, I sleep. Or, I slept. Something recently has changed, and the gift that I took for granted for all those years is no longer always forthcoming. Although I'm still very capable of passing out within minutes of my head touching the pillow, more regularly these days there are nights spent tossing and turning, resulting in many a groggy morning, that I am no longer able to totally ignore. 

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I suspect it has something to do with my work. Despite the fact I have been self employed for a few years now, 2017 has been particularly mad for me, I work from home and have a million things on my mind at any given time. As part of my 'keeping motivated' regime I make myself find something to look forward to the next day just before I go to bed (so that I'll wake up raring to go the following morning) but I fear that may be having repercussions; there are nights when I lay awake like a child on Christmas Eve, desperate to get through the night so that I can get on with whatever it is I have planned for the next day and then there are nights when I feel more like a different child, one on the eve of an exam that they haven't revised for, frustrated, tired and panicked. The ability to turn my mind off at bed time is something that I have not yet mastered and, as a result, the more things I have whizzing around in there, the more I find myself staring at the ceiling, willing my eyes to close. 

Unwilling to give into the fact that I can't sleep, I don't use the time productively. I know a lot of people who will give into it quickly, accept it for what it is and turn the lights on and start reading or pop downstairs and binge watch something on the television, invest time in a creative project or, *shudders* work all night, but I am disinclined to do that. I reason with myself and think: if I stand up or turn the light on, it will only make it harder to go back to sleep. It will also really, really, realllyyyy piss my boyfriend off, the man obsessed with sleep and how much of it he's getting. If I lived alone I suspect I would sit up for hours, well past midnight, until my mind had totally given up on thought and I would fall into a slumber. Alex trains early in the morning and then has a busy office job and by 11 the TV is switched off he's on the way to bed, to sit up alone seems antisocial, and a bit rude, so I go with him which proves to be both a blessing and a curse.  

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I haven't found all the answers to a perfect night's sleep. When my anxiety is bad I am still tormented by dreams of my hair falling out, when I am stressed Alex often has to wake me to tell me that I'm grinding my teeth so loudly he can't sleep and then of course there are just those nights when sleep does not come. I have however, discovered a few things that have helped me achieve a better night's sleep. The kind of night that sees you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and excited for the day, the kind of night that allows you to answer the dreaded 'and how did you sleep?' question with the answer that you've waited years to answer with: 'really well thanks.' 

The temptation to list of the things that I already know to be true is massive, but I realise we have already heard the rumours on more than one occasion. There is of course truth in the fact you shouldn't drink coffee after 2pm, that you should spend some time winding down and avoiding screens before you try and drift off and we have heard a million times how incredibly beneficial exercise is to our sleeping habits. That one annoys me the most as the person who said it quite clearly has never had to psyche themselves up for exercise like I have. 

We also know that we should have a tidy room, that our bedrooms should be an environment that we look forward to spending time in, that we should make our beds in the morning, light a candle, have a bath, read a book. Our parents told us that if we couldn't sleep we should try counting sheep, this never worked for me as I'd either get really competitive and set myself the target of getting to a higher number than I did the night before (think somewhere in the region of the 4000s) or I'd lose count somewhere and then get really frustrated and have to start all over again. And then of course we know about sleeping pills. Terrifyingly they are incredibly common place in the UK but, for my family at least, they are a no-no, despite her insomnia my mum will not take them and nor even will my dad, who spends a lot of time travelling and could probably do with the helping hand. They weren't encouraged for me and I don't ever foresee myself turning to them as a viable option.

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So if I'm striking off all this advice as hearsay or boring, what suggestion can I possibly give you? OK. There is one more thing you can try. 

Despite his obsession with getting sleep, Alex is not very lucky when it comes to actually getting it, he tosses and turns for hours and is such a light sleeper the sound of a mouse farting could wake him up, so last Christmas I did a shop around for products that might help him. During the mandatory Selfridges' Christmas shop panic I found the This Works products and basically bought the first thing that I found: The Deep Sleep, Stress Less roll on oil. I wrapped it up (a fiddly job since it's tiny), slipped it in his stocking and thought nothing of it. Every night he studiously rubs the bottle against his temples and on his wrists and I never thought to ask how he was getting on with it.

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It was only when I got myself in a total tizz before I was due to go to sleep a couple of weeks ago, that he offered to rub a bit on my head. Sceptical, I said yes, not expecting anything to happen. I slept well that night, but didn't really make the connection. So every night he kept offering me the oil and every night I said yes, I was sleeping well but again, I failed to make the link. It was only when I got into bed a few hours after him one night last week, and wasn't able to access my new bedtime friend, that I realised how much I was beginning to rely on it. I tossed and turned for hours, I dreamt again about my hair being chopped off and was up at 3am for a pee. That might have been psychosomatic, but I'm not so sure. Since then I've done one night on, one night off, to work out if it really makes a difference and I can no say with confidence that it really does help me.

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I have no proof this stuff works, scientifically I mean, but I have noticed a real change in my sleeping pattern over the past few weeks and this has been the only change. We already have the roll on oil but I have just ordered the pillow spray as well (since surely with that I will sleep TWICE AS WELL?!??) and I have basically decided that I simply cannot live without it. 

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There is a link *HERE to get both products, the pillow spray and roll on oil, for £10 (which seems like a bargain to me), the 5ml bottle has lasted Alex all year so I think that's definitely enough to be getting along with until you work out if you love it as much as I do. 

I'm not a doctor, I know shit all about sleep, but I do know that when I use this stuff I sleep better, so I thought it would be rude not to at least recommend it!

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Sweet dreams, let me know how you get on with it or if you have any other tips for a good night's sleep! xxx

AM I TAKING THE FASHION-FREEDOM THAT COMES WITH YOUTH FOR GRANTED?

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Good God if the me of ten years ago could see me now: talking about fashion like I've got a clue. Okay, so maybe I don't have a clue, but I want one, so here goes. This is my absolute favourite time of year, mostly because it's so nice not to sweat the whole time and to finally leave the hair on my legs to grow in peace, but also because of the clothes. At no other time of year is looking fabulous so easy. It's not yet cold enough that you end up in so many layers you resemble the robot from Big Hero Six but it is cold enough for you to introduce different layers and components to one outfit without overheating the minute you take a step. The opportunities right now, are endless. And yet so many of us let them pass us by.

For as long as I can remember my winter wardrobe has consisted primarily of jumpers and skinny jeans. I like the idea of skirts but can rarely find comfortable shoes to wear with black tights and as much as I'd like to 'layer' I never get around to doing that. I'm my absolute laziest during the colder months; I never really wear anything that isn't baggy, and usually black. A pair of black boots is all I needed to smarten anything up and my jumpers range from 'totally tattered and disgusting' to 'very much acceptable attire for a night out'. Not only does no one see my legs during winter, they also don't see my arms, stomach or chest. They basically don't see my figure. 

But a couple of months ago I had a bit of an epiphany. How many times have I heard my mum coming down the stairs asking if she was 'too old' to wear a certain something? Although the answer is of course always, 'er, no!' it has got me thinking: am I taking the freedom that is 'being young' totally for granted where my fashion is concerned? Will I look back in 20 years at photo upon photo of me in black skinny jeans and various boring jumpers and kick myself for spectacularly wasting my youth on fashion-laziness? 

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I've come on a long way in terms of dress sense it's got to be said. I would let entire trends pass me by, I don't think I even got a pair of skinny jeans until everyone else migrated to a looser cut and I lived for that Topshop bodycon skirt that we all had, wearing it until even the charity shops had had enough of them. I never tried anything new, since I disliked my figure it never occurred to me that clothes could help me to love it, and so I stuck to what I knew. And I got it so, so wrong. Winter when I was at school usually consisted of a white denim skirt, thick black tights, brown Ugg boots and some branded hoodie. At least I've finally ditched the Ugg, but I can do better, and I will.

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Living on Twitter and surrounded by the hottest damn women in the world (bloggers, obviously) it's easy to feel incredibly uncool, particularly when you're sitting at home with frizzy hair and no makeup on and the same jumper that you've been wearing for like, ever. Even more so when you have literally no cash and can't afford the Gucci bag that everyone has or those £300 boots that look like heaven on the feet of six fashion bloggers in a row. It can actually be a bit overwhelming; looking at everything in your wardrobe and realising that absolutely none of it is right - whatever that means. But as it transpires, that is absolutely, 100% not the case. Since I shifted my perspective a little bit, and worked out exactly what I wanted to achieve, I've been able to upgrade my whole look without actually having to upgrade everything that I own.

I want to start dressing with effort, I'm bored of being lazy and I want to take advantage of something that I won't have forever: my youth. 

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And that does not have to mean tiny short skirts and outrageously revealing mesh t-shirts. For me at least, it is just taking a bit of pride in my appearance and having a bit of fashion fun. I'm still monochrome as hell, I mean, even this outfit is totally black, but I'm still learning. So let's talk about the baby steps taken thus far:

Stocking up on the basics. 

Whether that's buying some new ones (and they will be cheap, I promise - I'll get to that in a minute) or simply locating the ones you already own, make the most of the simple things. When I began my search I found two black vests, a grey one, two long sleeve striped tops, two short sleeve stripped tops and a long sleeve navy tee. That theoretically would have been enough but, cause I'm greedy, I continued the search and picked up a little more. ASOS have great multi-packs and THESE ONES (£14 for two) have proved to be the most practical purchase I made this year - I'm wearing the black one in these pictures.

A simple top, long sleeved or short, depending on the weather, and if you are digging your arms that day, can be used in a million ways. With a long necklace, a blazer or tucked into some jeans you have instantly made yourself look 100% more on it than you had first pictured when you looked at them in your wardrobe and imagine them over a pair of skinny jeans.

Getting away from the skinny jean

Don't get me wrong, I bloody love skinny jeans, I probably own about 10 pairs, but that doesn't mean I should wear them every day. Although it's easy enough to make them look smart using a blouse or tailored jumper, it's a bit of a faff, particularly when you're using the basics that you already own. I'm obsessing over different things on my bottom half right now. My latest fascination is the Mom Jean - the Farleigh design from Asos are my all time fave, (the ones in thees pictures) but I would suggest going for a size up. (I am a 26" waist but the 28" fit me perfectly). With a pair of trainers you look chilled as hell (but still cool) and with a pair of heels or boots you look ready to boss the shit out of life. With a t-shirt tucked in you're rocking the perfect 'I don't really care but I'm not a total slob' look that I absolutely live for.

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Adoring accessories.

Probably the easiest of all. And it's never been easier because the tassled earring is everywhere right now and that instantly gives you a POP. Imagine me saying that with all the sass in the world for full effect. I like the idea of a long necklace but big tits make that a little more complicated so I'm still on the hunt for the right one. At the moment I'm opting for funky earrings, my cross the body bag from Asos and a big belt. I had always assumed that accessories were just jewellery and I was a damn fool - it's amazing what a difference adding something so small to your outfit can make. 

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Nailing the footwear.

Thank God summer is over - I can let my toenail nail varnish chip away to its heart's content, ammi right?! To be honest, I haven't really switched up the shoe game in the last few years (other than ditching the Ugg boot, thank the lord) and still live in one of two things: trainers of which I have a million pairs- my Adidas trainers are my absolute staple at the moment, but I got these Graceland ones for like £17 and they are fabulous too, and then black boots, all the time. I have worn the same pair from Asos for about three years and although they haven't lasted the whole time, at £30 a go I replace them about once every year. They are outrageously comfortable and I can walk for miles in them without really remembering that I am wearing boots. 

For years and years I always hated kitten heels, if it wasn't too high to walk in or too flat then I simply wouldn't bother but recently I've noticed some unlikely choices catching my eye. I think my next focus will be a pointy little pair like this which I am pretty sure will make me look like a boss. 

Being confident.

I was at a party last weekend and a girl rocked up using a netted laundry bag as a handbag as if it was literally the most normal thing in the world. She literally exploded the kind of confidence that meant no one even really noticed. That is the kind of confidence that a lot of us struggle to locate, particularly when we're wearing something new and slightly out of our comfort zone. But there are two main components to any outfit that ought to be remembered: if you look like you meant it, people will believe that you did and if you can muster a smile, you've got the best accessory a girl can have.

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This is a great time for fashion. Sure, we'll probably look back at our obsession with highlight right now in the same way that we look back at the terrible days of blue eyeshadow and Rhinestone sunglasses, but can we not admit that that was at least a little bit fun? I don't want to waste all the fabulous clothes out there right now and I definitely don't want to let my youth, and the opportunities that that brings with it, pass me by. Whilst it's probably important to say that age is just a number and ultimately you can wear and do whatever you want, whenever you want to, it will never been easier to dress how you like than when you're in your twenties. 

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So I'm making some changes, and I won't stop until I can confidently wear a pair of fishnet tights under my ripped jeans - although by the time I'm brave enough for that, I fear that trend will be dead and buried alongside elasticated belts. We'll see.

Have you made any changes fashion wise recently? If so, hit me up!

GETTING BACK INTO RUNNING *AGAIN*

Yes, before you say it, we have been here before. I've started running again. And here's hoping this time, it catches on. 

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Top (similar): *Sweaty Betty
Leggings: OW-Fit
Trainers (similar - mine are v old!!): *ASICS

About once every six months or so I decide I'm going to get into running. I sign up for a challenge, I go out a few times, write about it, Instagram it, get bored of it, shit myself when the event comes around, just about manage it, Instagram it again, tell myself that I'm going to keep it up and before I know it it's four months later and I've spent the whole time sitting on my arse. I then think how nice it would be if I could start running again, sign up to some stupid challenge and watch the whole thing unfold again. I did a 10k last October, a half marathon in March and if I'm not mistaken, it's about time for the bi-annual pattern to start again. 

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But this time, I really do want to do it properly. Which of course I've said every other time too...

If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. And again. And again. And then one more time, just for good measure.

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So on Monday I went for a run, the third one in as many weeks. Over the years I have devised some good routes around my house, there's a three miler, a five miler and even a ten miler (which I only attempted once in a moment of absolute madness that broke me in ways I didn't know I could be broken). Since I am totally incapable of falling into any kind of pattern or creating a 'routine' surrounding exercise (I will never be one of those people that just doesn't feel like themselves until they've done their workout), I fair differently with each of them depending on the day. Or week, or month. Occasionally I make the five mile route look easy, some days I bash out three miles in half an hour, only stopping to pick up a Bua poo and then sometimes I can't even make it to the end of the road. It has very little to do with my fitness and everything to do with what is going on in my head. 

The infamous ten mile incident, written about in detail (because I literally live for content that great), happened the day after the London Marathon. Not 24 hours after friends and heroes of mine dragged themselves round the 26.2 mile course I went out for a run and talked myself into another mile at every turn, thinking to myself constantly: you can do this, you can do this. Not six days later I did my first half marathon, only three miles longer than the route I had already done once that week but found it nearly impossible simply because the thought: "you can't do this" was playing loudly in my ears before I'd even set off. 

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When I set off thinking that I'm a bloody superhero, I act like one. The miles fly by, stitches are unwelcome and even Adele's 'Hello' makes for a good running track. Using various methods of distraction: 'what shall I wear on Friday night?' 'I wonder if I can do my three times table all the way to a thousand?' (I can by the way) and other such thoughts are the ones that get me through. I remind myself of the same thing that I do every time I have something big to do: 'whatever happens you'll be in your own bed tonight' and pinpoint a person who is nothing more than a spec and decide that I don't want to let them see me walking so I can't stop until I pass them. (As a Londoner this is foolproof as there is ALWAYS some spec in the distance). I don't allow myself to look down at my Garmin (the device that tells me how far I have run and at what speed) until a particular song has ended and then, once I see I'm at some random distance, I set myself the target of not being allowed to stop until I've reached the next round number. So on and so forth, I do whatever it takes to get me round. 

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When I set off thinking that I'm a huge waste of space who shouldn't even bother I tell myself just that. No song is good enough and I simply 'must stop and change playlist right now', the miles drag on forever and I resign myself to the fact that 'today is just not my day'. The problem with running familiar streets is that you are well aware quite how far away everything is and that can get pretty overwhelming. 'Who will even know if I just walk for a bit?!' I think. 'No one, that's who.' So I stop and sit down. Then I get guilty and start running again, then I start playing a vicious internal monologue of how shit I am in my mind and convince myself that I've 'already failed today' since I sat down on that bench for a minute and decide to walk home. 

It's a lottery as to which one of this eventualities is going to win out when I set off on my runs but there's no point pretending that the odds are heavily leaning towards the 'you are a piece of shit and you shouldn't even bother running' mindset. And this time, I need to change that. It's clearly the reason that I keep failing and as I said earlier, I really want to give it my all this time. So here's what I'm doing to do.

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Remind myself that this is a process. 

No one just starts out good at shit. And just because I've done a half marathon before does NOT mean that the six months since then, which have included no more than five runs, won't count. You start slow and short and you work and you work until you get better and better. I will do my three mile run as many times as it takes and as slowly as I want with as many stops as I need until I stop needing the stops, then I will try and speed up and then, when it starts to feel like I'm not about to die, I will add another mile and start the whole process again. I need to remember to start at the beginning. 

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Stop being disheartened. 

In the same way that some days I can apply my winged eyeliner with the grace and precision of a master and then some days I do it as badly as I would if I were doing it on a power plate without a mirror, I need to remember that I'm not going to be amazing every day. So what if today was a shit show, tomorrow will probably be better. 

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Set realistic targets.

If I can set myself the target of being able to run five miles without stopping by November 1st (a target I actually have btw) then I have got something realistic to work towards. I'm not falling into my normal trap of realising that I've only got 10 days to train for a half marathon, I'm taking baby steps. What is it they say about Rome? It wasn't built in a day. Nor was my lung capacity and I need to remember that this will be achieved one step at a time, one mile stone at a time. 

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Learn to love doing it.

Yeh okay this might take a while but having a dog who loves to run with me helps, so does the fact that I know deep down that running is good for my head. Before I set off I need to remember the huge feeling of elation that I have when I get home afterwards and keep hold of that as I drag my sorry ass round London. Eventually I will fall into my stride and learn to love what I am doing, I just need to work towards that. 

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The carrot not the stick

Or rather the glass of wine not the spinach. Rather than beat myself up for failing (and by that I mean stopping) I need to remember this: AT LEAST I'M FUCKING DOING IT. 'One mile is better than no miles, at least you tried, now go eat a pizza.' - that sort of thing.

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The hardest part is setting off.

This is something that I need to get tattooed on my damn face. Getting out of my front door is literally the hardest part of running and I deserve a virtual high five from myself after my first 30 seconds. I'VE DONE IT, I'VE LEFT THE HOUSE. 

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Smile.

As I'm doing it, I need to smile. Smiling makes everything better and who knows, I might be so tired by this point that my mind might genuinely believe that I'm enjoying it.

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I can do this.

I say this to myself all the time. I say it out loud, I repeat it, I shout it until it has gone in and never is it more important to do this than when I am running. Do it to the beat: "I can do this, I can do this, I can do this." I am always amazed at the great sense of power that I can take from those words: 'YES I CAN'. 'Yes I can yes I can yesicannnnn'. It becomes exciting, I realise I'm already doing it. I'm running, I can do this, I am running, I can do this. I am my own coach and I need to be my biggest cheerleader.

I. Can. Do. This.

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Who knows, we might be back here in another six months with me asking where it all went wrong again, but this time, it feels different. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Never has that saying been more appropriate. 

I don't want to give up again, I've given up too many times before and every time I'm before disappointed in myself than I was before. I want to be good at running and I want to see if I can become one of those people that loves it. Who knows. maybe not. But I can't make that decision based on speculation, I need to give it my everything for however long it takes before I can know that for sure. 

This time guys, I'm not going to give up. 

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WHY I WILL NOT DIET. EVER.

Obviously I hate diets. The very notion of them totally epitomises everything that I despise about society circa 2017. They are a huge part of why I started Pretty Normal Me in the first place and the topic of weight loss at the dinner table is one thing that is guaranteed to send me into an apocalyptic rage. It is therefore hardly surprising that I do not frequently partake in this particular form of torture. It will also not come as a huge shock to you that I don't have an awful lot of time for the conversation that inevitably surrounds them either, or the people that start them. 

These people, the 'diet talkers', I find to be rather tiresome, mostly because they end up making me feel incredibly guilty for eating whatever delicious thing I'm putting into my mouth at the time. Because these conversations are always started at meal times aren't they? Normally on Sundays as big plans are made for Monday morning, whilst I'm busy tucking into my sixteenth roast potato of the afternoon, silently praying that no one eats the last slab of beef so that I can squish it into a sandwich for lunch the following day. 

Obviously with disordered eating statistics at an all time high, I hope you can appreciate that I am talking about this in a light hearted way, my frustration is not, of course with those with a complicated or unhealthy relationship with food, rather it is with the society that promotes such a stupid fucking pass time and the pressure that many of us (read: all of us) are under to 'watch what we eat.' 

In a study done last year by Mintel it was found that 50% of people in the UK have tried to lose weight in the past year, with two thirds of them doing it 'most of the time'. I hate this. But I can of course understand it. As a nation we are overweight, and as women we are by and large not totally okay about it. Everywhere that we look we are encouraged to lose the weight that we ourselves don't like, and we are offered advice at every single junction. 

And that's before we have even brought our pesky minds into the mix; the part of our brain that tells us that we are 'too fat' every time we look in the mirror, the part that constantly compares our bodies to those of our friends and the people that we see online and in print, the part of our brain that says: you aren't good enough.

Is it any wonder then, that we want to diet? That we feel that we need to? Of course it's bloody not. So tell me this: is there anything more unfair than the fact that, after we have decided to give into it, to do as our minds say and BETTER OURSELVES, to starve ourselves until we look like everybody else, that the diets don't work??? Well, they don't for me at least.

Last Sunday night, after a week on the bike cycling for Help For Heroes, which should have been the ultimate weight-loss, boot-camp style adventure, that actually turned out to be the most fattening holiday of your life because you squish biscuits into your mouth at an undignified rate every chance you get, I decided that I should go on a diet last week. I didn't have a huge weight loss objective, I appreciate that I'm far from fat, but really I just wanted to inject a bit of health into what was becoming a very beige scene.

Our Ocado order consisted of a lot of vegetables, I even invited an aubergine to join the party this time, a vegetable that has never made it anywhere near my basket on previous shops. High protein, low carb and a few gym trips, easy right?

NO. NOT FUCKING EASY.

Because I fell for the oldest trick in the book and I labelled what I was about to do with the dreaded D-word. I called it a diet. 

The reason that weight loss can't work in my house and my head can be traced pretty directly, back to my use of that word.

My mind went into overtime and if I thought I'd eaten a lot of biscuits the week before, that was nothing of what was to come. Whereas before I was eating enough to keep my energy levels high enough to permit my legs to do 70 miles on the bike in a day, I was now eating so much that I was hard pushed walking up and down the stairs. I had brought home a LOT of excess food from the ride, spare chocolate, cereal bars and biscuits by the kilogram. Within two days of being back at my desk in London, the food that I had failed to eat during a week when I had really deserved it, had gone. 

It's like the food was the big red button which I'd been instructed not to push and the part of my mind that constantly asks: 'but why???' went into overdrive. The food was the big red button and I'd not just pushed it, but chewed it and swallowed it at an incredible speed. Within three hours of starting my 'diet' I had failed it, and if that isn't an excuse to just scream "fuck it" and eat an unholy amount of food just because then I don't know what is. I know for a fact that if I had given absolutely no thought to my food at all, I'd have made it through Monday with a considerably healthier amount of food consumed. 

When I was younger I would watch my mum try and diet, she would make herself a salad whilst the rest of us went to town on our jacket potatoes. Thankfully don't think I ever thought too much about it at the time, other than to develop a mild notion that growing up looked horrible because you weren't allowed to eat potatoes. Alas, adulthood and the insecurity that comes with it hit me early and by the age of 15 I was doing everything in my power to constrict my food, or at least to beat the original algorithm, the calorie to pound ratio. Someone once told me that if I ate an apple before each meal I would lose weight, this was just the sort of bullshit rumour that I lived for; diets that were easy enough to do. Of course it didn't work and nor, by the way, did anything else that I tried during my time at school and the years since then.

The biggest change I ever saw in my body was at the beginning of this year when I really got into my exercise, if it had anything to do with what I was eating then I was not particularly aware of a change. And that's the important bit here: if I have ever lost weight due to food, it has happened without my noticing. 

Because as soon as I even think about it, I know I am destined to fail. Food is TOO complicated. Since we need it to survive it's not a question of just cutting it out all together when we want to lose weight and then, since no one explains anything to us about anything, when we try and limit what we eat or cut out the bits that the Daily Mail have told us are bad for us during any given month, we can't do it. 

I can't do it. It's just too much pressure.

I am my happiest, truly at my happiest, when I do not think about any of this. When I can look in the mirror and not think much of it. When I can come downstairs and cook myself breakfast and not think for a second about the calories in there or what the nutrient value of an oat is. When I can sit and eat four slices of cake on the sofa because Bake Off is on and that shit makes me hungry. When I can go out to dinner with my friends and not one of them mentions how they really shouldn't be eating this burger. (OK, the last one never happens but the occasionally, the other ones do) The minute I start doubting myself, worrying about food in any capacity other than 'can I fit this whole cracker into my mouth in one go?' or getting guilty for my choices, I get stressed and I get sad and all too quickly, I'm overwhelmed. No one works at their best when they are overwhelmed. Food can be very overwhelming and it absolutely shouldn't be. 

I don't want to sit here and say to you that you shouldn't diet and that losing weight is lame and pathetic, because that's not fair or accurate. You may want to lose weight and you may have a million and one very valid reasons to want to do that, as long as you are okay about that and healthy about it then that is okay. It is also, by the way, none of my business. But when has that ever stopped me from butting my nose in before?

With this in mind I am going to offer you some advice: eat vegetables. Don't eat your dinner too late. And whatever the fuck you do, don't label the bloody thing as ANYTHING other than a tiny lifestyle adjustment. Or maybe an experiment. 

DO THE RIGHT THING AND CUT YOUR DAMN HAIR

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These earrings get a lot of love so just in case you like them, you can get them HERE. 

These earrings get a lot of love so just in case you like them, you can get them HERE

"If you want to grow your hair, we're going to need to cut about an inch off today..."

"WHAT?! WHY?! NO. I'm trying to g-r-o-w it I don't want it to be even shorter. That's the most counterintuitive thing I've ever heard! Don't cut it, PLEASE." 

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Welcome to every trip to the hairdressers, ever. This is a conversation that most of us have had a million times before. I had it once ever three months or so as a child and it was probably why I developed such a distinct mistrust in adults for the entirety of my teenage years. It just did not make sense to me. I hated hearing it and would do anything I could to avoid it, namely and most effectively, the minute I was old enough to organise my own appointments: I stopped going to the hairdressers. Why would I pay someone to cut it off when all I really wanted was to grow it.

And for a number of years this actually worked pretty well for me. By the age of 16 my hair was long and thick. Even when left 'natural', curls would fall almost to my waist and if I had split ends I hadn't noticed, I don't remember ever going to the hairdressers during that time, which only reiterated what I already thought I knew to be true: if you want long hair don't cut it. 

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But then, since a bad decision about seven years ago that lead to me deciding to cut all my hair off and opting for a much lighter hair colour than the natural, darker shade that I was born with, I have to admit that it hasn't grown anything like as long as it was in the days pre-highlights. Although it does grow, it is considerably shorter than it once was and in much worse condition. Obviously the colouring doesn't help, I'm sure my hormones have something to do with it and then of course there is the worry that it simply isn't growing because I get it cut so often, simple science indicates that I'd be better off leaving it alone. Or does it?

I have always wanted to know if there was truth to the rumours: does your hair actually grow 'faster' if you get it trimmed regularly or is this just a line fed to us by hairdressers desperate to stay in business? I've done some digging and I finally know the answers.

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As you suspected, cutting your hair does NOT make it grow faster, for the simple reason that your hair grows from the follicles in your scalp and it has nothing to do with what is happening at the other end of the strands... obviously. 

However. Cutting your hair makes it look fuller and thicker and healthier, which, in turn, makes it look longer. This is because of split ends, something I was always warned about but never really understood, so what are they? They really are self explanatory; it's a split at the end of the hair which can make it look frizzy and dry. If you take a strand of your hair and look at it, you may notice that at some point it splits into two parts, like a fork in the road. Realistically, you need that to be cut off.

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Just as an FYI, you can get split ends from all sorts. One of the things that we are warned about the most is using heat products on your hair and it's true, straighteners, curlers, etc are a main cause. It can also be broken by 'improperly' detangling your hair (brushing it when it's wet) or yanking it out. Weather can play a big part and so can how you tie it up: if you use elastic bands to pull your hair back with, scrunching it up, then you will break it. I have noticed a definite improvement in the condition of my own hair since I started using scrunchies and using a tangle-teezer rather than a regular hairbrush. I also recently got the Dyson Hairdryer which seems to be doing good things, not least of all because it is easier to style it properly with that, meaning that I am considerably less reliant on my hair-straightners, which as we have established, are devil products. 

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What can start as a millimetre long split end can keep getting longer and longer until eventually you've got split ends a foot long that make your hair look dead and broken and ultimately, short. If you get it trimmed regularly you stop the split ends from creeping too far up and that saves the next haircut needing to be numerous inches being removed rather than the millimetres that could have been removed if you'd gone sooner. The expression: 'nipping it in the bud' seems appropriate here. It will make your hair appear to grow faster because the hair will break less and thus, grow longer in a shorter amount of time. 

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For a long time I thought that I wanted long hair, no matter the cost. But I realise now that actually I would rather have slightly shorter hair if it means that it can be healthier in the end... pardon the pun. As we come into winter and the air gets colder and everything (apart from the pavement) gets dryer, it's time to get serious about haircare if you want it to be any longer by next summer. My hair never looks, or feels, more unhealthy than it does by January, so this time I'm going to deal with it before it becomes a problem. I'm going to go for very regular trims.

Although there are undeniably some great products promising all sorts of great things on the market right now, and we are desperate to believe in them and spend a fortune on them (because we will do anything for an easy life), there is a cheaper and more effective alternative: drop your pride, do as you're told and cut your god-damned hair. 

WE NEED TO GET MEN TALKING ABOUT GYNAECOLOGICAL HEALTH

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Today marks the start of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. This month you can expect to hear all things vaginas from Pretty Normal Me as I team up with the Eve Appeal to end the taboo surrounding gynae issues.

This September the Eve Appeal's main mission is their #IAmAdam campaign which aims to get men talking about gynaecological issues, pointing out that it is very much their issue too and their responsibility to educate themselves. And it can't come soon enough, in a study conducted this year by the Eve Appeal, they found that over half of men (56%), say that they are not comfortable discussing gynaecological health issues with their partners. They found that 21% of 18 to 44 year old men confessed that they simply found it 'too embarrassing'. Almost 1 in 5 men say the they know nothing about gynaecological health issues and don't feel that they need to know 'as it is a female issue.' 

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Most worrying at all though? The study found that 50% of the men asked couldn't not correctly identify the vagina on a diagram and nearly two thirds of them (61%) were not able to point out the vulva. THE VUVLA GUYS?! 

When you take into consideration the fact that 21,000 women a year, 58 women a day, are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer and that only 19% of women said they would like to talk to their partners about gynae health issues they may be experiencing, it is more important than ever that we end this taboo. 

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There is such a stigma attached to vaginas. To everything gynae-related really. Over half the world has one and the fact that it is still considered so taboo makes me so angry, it actually makes me feel a bit sick.

Reading an article published in the Daily Mail yesterday, revealing these findings, I was shocked and disgusted by the comments. An ignorant bunch at the best of times, this lot of losers have seriously out done themselves. Take a look at what this group of trolls, disguised as normal, nice, family men had to say about something as serious as cancer when you throw a vagina into the mix:

"Man shaming article"

"This is not stuff men need to know..."

"Well, if women would not keep covering up their bits all the time and went about with no knickers on and exposing themselves we would have a much clearer view of what they've got down there"

"As long as you get her knickers off, you're pretty much in the right ball park"

"You don't have to know what i's called. So long as you know what to do with it is all that counts."

"Pss flaps. You missed them off."

"Gimme 10 pints and a kebab. I'll find it then."

"I don't need to name the individual part, I can find the bits I need just fine thanks"

"Easy to find when you want it ;)"

"I'm not a gynaecologist but I'd be happy to take a look if it helps"

"Just follow your nose"

"I prefer to keep a bit of mystery about that zone"

"It's the pink next to the stink - simples!"

"I habe 5 kids, I certainly know where to put my dong-dong."

"Hey ladies, lose the three stone of blubber before you point the finger."

And so it goes on... and on... and on... these were all pulled from the first page.

Sexist, ignorant comment after sexist, ignorant comment. 

It's no secret that we live in a society that is not fair to women at the best of times, but if we still cannot talk seriously about these very real and very serious issues surrounding what can actually be life and death issues, then we do not stand a chance of ending the taboo and helping ourselves and the ones that we love. 

Half of women wouldn't seek help for persisting bloating, one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and 15% wouldn't even go to the doctor if they found a lump or growth in their vagina. That rises to 29% among 25 to 34 year olds. For whatever reason women are not seeking the help that they need when it comes to gynaecological issues and it''s not good enough, we have got to remove this stigma and feeling that our vaginas are something that we shouldn't talk about, whether that be to our friends or our partners. Its anatomical, it's not a sex thing, it's not embarrassing, it's just not. 

The Eve Appeal is encouraging both men and women to be more aware of the symptoms and I am BEGGING... this is so important. The Chief Executive, and living legend, Athena Lamnisos said

'These survey results show shockingly low levels of awareness of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer among both men and women. For too many men, women's bodies are still a taboo subject, shrouded in mystery. 

We know from the many calls that we receive at the Eve Appeal from men, that they can play a vital role in identifying the symptoms of gynaecological cancer, prompting their partners to visit the GP. Early diagnosis really is the key and can save lives.

This is not about having better sex! It's about men helping women to look after their health. Gynae awareness and taboo busting are all of our responsibility, men and women alike."

She's right guys. Say the damn word. Know your normal. Educate the men in your lives. Look after yourselves, look after each other. TALK. 

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For more information, please visit the Eve Appeal website HERE

FAKE IT 'TIL YOU MAKE IT. NAIL EXTENSIONS: YAY OR NAY?

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When my nails look good, there is very little that I cannot do. At least, that's how I feel anyway. Grownups have nice nails. Women who have their shit together have nice nails. And I've always wanted to be a grownup with their shit together, so for the last year I have shelled out a small fortune on regular manicures.

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Up until recently it was mostly just shellac nail varnish worn like nail varnish on my natural nails but then, just before my book came out (and I realised that there would be quite a lot of focus on my hands, at least on Instagram!) I decided I needed them to look even more fabulous than normal and that it was probably best to remove the risk of chipping, so I opted for nail extensions. My nails were really short at the time and I thought a little length would be dreamy. 

Well, I'm hooked. I didn't get crazy long ones for a few main reasons: I live on my computer and typing can be a nightmare if they are any longer than mine are now, I have a dog who requires some serious hands-on grooming and I generally just find long nails to be a massive pain in the arse. The ones that I had put on were only a tiny bit longer than my own but it made all the difference. So for the last two months I have donned some fairy fabulous talons (that people totally think are my own BTW), popping in every three weeks or so to have them filed down and filled in.

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But what really are nail extensions? Is it true they are going to destroy our natural nails? And ultimately, are they really worth the hype? 

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1) What are nail extensions and how do they put them on?

So when you have these extensions put on, the first thing that they do is cut your natural nail short and glue a small piece of plastic (following the shape of your natural nail) on the tip. It's much too long when first applied but it's filed down to the right length and you then have a gel or acrylic mixture applied to the rest of the nail. 

Gel nails are better for your nails but are fixed on in a UV light box which is a bit uncomfortable (by that I mean painful...) and acrylics dry after a couple of minutes on their own after they are in natural air. After the extensions are on I then get some shellac colour applied on top. It take a long time (probably an hour all told) but it's very worth it: I've not had a single chip and they look pretty natural which I love. 

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2) Do they really destroy your natural nails?

Acrylics do, yes. They do not allow your natural nails to breathe underneath them and that does make them very brittle and weak so they will be in bad condition by the time they are removed. If you have very short and broken nails anyway then you might not care too much about this but if you, like me, have reasonably good natural nails, then gels are the answer. 

Gels do not cause damage to the natural nail and can be used to strengthen, protect and promote growth in the nail themselves. They're a spot more expensive but I personally don't really like the idea of killing my natural nails even if I have no intention of removing the extensions anytime soon. Gels it is for me!

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3) Are they really worth the hype?

This totally depends on personal taste. There is a big part of me that feels like I'm 'cheating' and wasting my time with these, not least of all because they are now actually the same length as my natural nails underneath them BUT I have to say, not having to worry about chipping my nails and knowing that I can have it on for weeks at a time is actually pretty damn great. Previously my shellac nails would chip after a few days and that just does not happen with these so yes, they're worth my hype I think. 

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There is a small part of me that feels like I'm a fraud these but there is a bigger part of me that doesn't actually care enough to stop - they look great, they make me happy and it really helps me to feel like a grownup with her shit together... What more could a girl want eh?!

WHY YOUR FACE NEEDS OIL

As a teenager, my skincare routine was truly diabolical. My mum, bless her, did everything right, buying me whatever face wash, wipes and moisturises were being best advertised in Boots at the time, but to no avail: where my face was concerned, I was inherently lazy. (Actually, I was pretty lazy about most things....) I would remove my makeup with face wipes, something I hate myself for (read about why you must throw yours away immediately HERE) and let the remaining products sit, unused, pretty much unopened, in my wash bag.

Although I was lucky to have never suffered with acne, my skin was pretty terrible for most of my school days and I was so unhappy with it. I would have bad spots, be really oily in between my eyebrows and at the side of my nose and then have the driest skin on my chin and cheeks, but despite all of that, I was never really proactive enough to do anything about it. 

When spots appeared, as they inevitably did, i was quick to try everything: like the Thunderbirds getting ready to save the world, I would release my lotions and potions from my bag and apply them ALL. Toothpaste, sudacream, tea-tree oil, I used it all. Due to a total lack of any ongoing routine however, all of my attempts would fail. 

My 'problem' skin remained a problem for years, far beyond my days as a teenager and even the point at which I believed I would turn into the spot-free, clear skinned, glowing grown up that I thought I deserved to be. 

Mum continued to drop hints regarding skincare, but for years they fell onto deaf ears. I was NOT in a rush to start giving my skin the hydration that it was so clearly desperate for and I'm sure I was still of the belief that when I became a grownup I would have good skin because that is how it works... I continued with those pesky makeup wipes, despite the fact they often made my face sting and dutifully ignored the fact that every time I went outside during the winter, the skin on my face would feel so tight and painful.

Thankfully though, this story has a happy ending as after years of hopelessness, I finally found the answer. A couple of years ago, I met a lady called Alexandra Soveral, a Cosmetic Designer/ Aromatherapist/ Facialist (and now good friend) who insisted that I sort my skin out. For the first time I took an interest and listened to her as she explained what my skin type required and I began to sort my shit out. 

(Before I continue I want to say this post is not in anyway sponsored by Soveral, I'm just sharing my skin-story and the fact that these products worked for me!) 

I started using her Awaken Cleanser to remove my makeup with and would follow that with her 'Moody Skin' (what a great name) Moisturiser - this was the most attention that my skin had ever had and it really thanked me for it, the pain totally stopped. But there was one thing that I had been advised to use, that I had bought even, that I was still yet to try, and that was face oil.

Why, I thought to myself, would I put oil on my skin? I thought oil was the reason I was getting spots in the first place and the last thing I want is more of those...

Although Alexandra no doubt knew her stuff, I was at a time of my life where I just thought that I knew better and I neglected to use it for years. What I didn't realise of course, was that I wasn't going to be rubbing the same kind of oil that could be found at the bottom of a deep fat fryer onto my face. There's more than one kind of oil Em... 

The kind of oils that Alexandra Soveral, and other skin wizards like her are creating, are different things entirely. They are full of good things, vitamins, antioxidants and numerous other impressive ingredients that I cannot pretend to have heard of or understand. My oily skin argument became null and void the minute I realised that feeding your skin oil will actually make it LESS oily. When your skin is lacking oil for whatever reason, perhaps after you've used products that were too harsh (makeup wipes here's looking at you again), it will respond by producing more oil to compensate. 

And it's not just good for people with oily skin, face oils have a tonne of benefits: they've been proven to reduce wrinkles, they properly hydrate your skin, they shrink your pores and they actively banish spots (something I still don't really understand but definitely don't want to question).

I'm not proud of it, but my skin did used to be so dry it was not uncommon for it to come off in flakes. Mmmm. Flakes. (Queue an Austin Powers reference...). It doesn't do that anymore, ever. I no longer have clusters of blackheads on and around my nose and I also get about one tenth of the spots that I used to get and even if one does appear, it is much less red and angry than the kind that used to grace my face. 

The most obvious change though, has been in my complexion. Despite only being 23, I was beginning to develop some quite remarkable wrinkles, most notably a really deep one that appeared between my eyebrows when I frowned, which has now all but gone. I also find that when I am tired (or hungover usually), it is the bags under my eyes that give me away; not always heavy and black like we are told about, but dry, a little red and weirdly wrinkly. I can SEE that they are thirsty and when I give them something to drink, they honestly disappear.

My skin is still so thirsty. It's generally advised that you should only use a few drops but often, especially in the colder months, I find that those have been absorbed before I have had a chance to even reach my hands from my cheeks to my forehead. It's like the poor stuff trying is trying to make up for years of severe dehydration. I got skincare so wrong, for such a long time, and my face really did pay for my laziness.

It seems mad that something so damn useful was not a part of my life for so long and I'm so angry with myself for coming to the party so late. There I was spending a fortune on makeup (that I was then sleeping in and not removing properly) and totally forgetting to look after the canvas on which I was painting.

If you are experiencing problems with your skin than I would really recommend finding a face oil and using it often. I obviously love Alexandra's oils but am aware they are quite expensive. Personally, I do feel that they are worth it, I only get one face and one set (is that what you call it?!) of skin after all, so if you would like to give one of them a go you can have a look here. Otherwise there are so many alternatives out there and I would suggest you did some research of your own, sorry not to be more help in that department! 

I now spend a couple of minutes twice a day massaging oil into my skin and it is glorious. Plus, it doubles as a great primer for my makeup. And it makes me glow. 

I love oil. And you should too. 

THE VERY REAL DANGER OF PAYING CELEBRITIES TO 'DRINK YOUR TEA'

It's that time of year again. As Love Island 2017 draws to a close, the unsuspecting, Instagram using, British public finds themselves having to wade through a relentless stream of photos of beautiful men and women (often looking ever so slightly more 'perfect' than they had in the villa not two days before) holding bags of detox tea, calming that THIS is the secret to a 24" waist, a teeth whitening kit; the secret to their blinding smile, a hair mask; the reason that their long glossy hair touches their waist. 

They basically treat us like total fucking idiots. And they do it so shamelessly. But wouldn't you if you were offered £5k for lying through your teeth? Well, I suppose that sort of depends on who you ask. 

In the olden days, you know, like two years ago, contestants went into the villa with the sole aim of winning and bagging the £50k prize money, but these days it might actually serve you better to do a Jess. Get yourself as much airtime as possible, get yourself kicked out early doors, start a rumour and then dance in the flames, exploiting the hashtag for all it's worth, bag as many exclusives as possible and rake in tens of thousands of pounds in sponsorship deals. By now both her and Dom have no doubts surpassed the amount of money that they would have done if they'd seen it through to the end. They know what they're doing, they've learned how to play the game, Jess is already at 1 million Instagram followers and is abusing the #spon tag three times daily. 

And it's about to get worse as the people we've all been obsessing over for weeks, watching their every movement, will be let out into the big wide world and, since they are starting to feel like a very big part of our day to day lives, we'll be gagging for our fixes within a day of their release. We will swarm to their social media pages and I can already here the sound of brands rubbing their hands together, ready to offer thousands of pounds to some very fame hungry people, desperate to milk their moment in the spotlight, completely ready to disregard all integrity and the emotions of those who are about to be blatantly lied to. 

But this concept isn't new, influencer marketing predates shows such as Love Island. Bloggers and vloggers rely on these partnerships to make an income and have been doing for years, the likes of Zoella have made an absolute fortune from it. The idea of paying influencers to influence people into buying your products is the future.

Recently the powers that be at planet social media have changed the rules surrounding these partnerships meaning that, when a transaction of money is made, it must be declared with a tag: #ad #spon. This is of course a good and important thing, for years paid partnerships were going unnoticed and undeclared meaning that thousands and thousands of people were effectively being conned into buying something that the person who recommended it didn't even necessarily like, As a consumer and a fan, a person has the right to know that their favourite influencers are being honest with them. Transparency is the key here.

But what I do wonder, particularly where weightless is concerned, if this isn't actually a rather dangerous method of advertising, even with the tag. Our desperation to be thin must never, ever be underestimated. A fact that I think the companies responsible for paying these people are all too aware of. If you're that desperate to look like one of your heroes, is a tiny little hashtag really going to stop you from trying one last ditch attempt to look like them? 

'Why would they lie? Surely, to advertise it they must have used it at least once. What if it works for me? Surely it must be worth a try?' All these questions, these reassurances, these things that we tell ourselves. When the answer to our weightless dreams looks so easy and a person that you admire is offering it to you, you might as well try it, right?

Using detox tea as an example. I'd actually be inclined to make the following observation: this is the sort of brand who probably does not have a large pool of loyal, returning customers but rather a whole heap of women who decide to 'give it a go'. I've never tried the product myself but a friend, who did fall victim to the Insta-trap said that the tea itself might have actually worked, but only because it made her shit her brains out. Most of these products are just laxatives. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if you cant keep anything in your stomach for more than five minutes, you are pretty much guaranteed weight loss... in possibly the least healthy way possible. Word on the street is people have actually got pregnant after taking it, as their stomach is SO upset they shit the pill out before it's got time to work.... jussayin. 

But in a world where *anyone* can be famous, at least on Instagram, this shit is inevitable. So Zoella with her 11 million Instagram followers says no to posting a photo with it, but that's no problem, because there are thousands of reality stars with 50k followers a pop who are more than ready to pick up the slack. It's easy money after all and is the very reason that so many people are opting to thrust themselves into the limelight. Two birds, one stone: Insta-Fame and easy money. 

People are quick to blame the rise in the #ad problem on bloggers, but I'm not sure that's right at all. Although it's hardly a secret that bloggers work with brands, relying mostly on this income to keep them afloat, I think it would be fair to say that *most* bloggers do have a degree of integrity behind what they post, this is their job remember, not just a byproduct of it. 

Paying someone to rep your brand is fair enough and so really is accepting the fee; girls' gotta eat. But I think it's very important that both the brand and the influencer start taking some responsibility for what they are sharing. 

Putting an Instagram model in one of your bikinis makes sense, paying them to wear your watch, same deal. But paying them to lie about their weightless methods in order to encourage hordes of insecure women and girls desperate to lose weight to buy a potentially dangerous product? That's got to stop.

 

YOUR MORALS VS YOUR MAKEUP

When it comes to your makeup bag, how good are your morals?

This week I found out that NARS are about to starting stocking their products in China, which means that, in accordance with Chinese regulation, they will need to start testing their products on animals, something that I am vehemently opposed to. 

They are not the first brand to do this, it's no secret that brands such as L'Oreal and Estee Lauder have been doing it for donkeys years. Although these brands claim to be against animal testing full stop, in order to be stocked in China, they are required to submit to compulsory animal testing in government labs before regulators approve products to be sold. We are then invited to read between the lines when the statements on various websites read that the company "does not test on animals and we would never ask others to do son our our behalf. If a regulatory body demands it for its safety or regulatory assessment, an exception can be made."

The first time my morals were called into question regarding my makeup bag was when I found out that MAC, despite them claiming to be "working toward a cruelty free world" on their website, is a brand that stocks in China and therefore has their products tested on animals by the regulatory body. Despite loving the brand (and not just since my first grownup makeup came from there), I have tried to studiously ignore makeup reviews featuring their beautiful products and even passed up on buying and trying Fleur De Force's collaboration lipstick that I wanted so badly, putting my morals ahead of my makeup bag for the first time. 

Since then I have kept one eye on the labels, to check that I wasn't accidentally endorsing a company that was putting an animal through hell and the other eye, I'm ashamed to say, on reviews and palettes, creams, colours that I want to badly.  

The brands that I use ARE cruelty free, in that they don't test on animals at all, but the confusion arises when you consider the fact that many of these brands are owned by companies that do. Take Urban Decay for example, and The Body Shop who are owned by L'Oreal, Too Faced are owned by Estee Lauder and then of course NARS, previously cruelty free but owned by parent organisation Shiseido, who are not.

To explain: the parent brands, whist perhaps not directly testing on animals themselves, are stocked somewhere that requires them to do so. Can we hold our favourite brands to account because of what their parents do and boycott them? I don't think so, not least of all because I would hate to be held accountable for everything that my parents had ever done, as it is of course totally out of my control.

But it gets more complicated still with the announcement this week from NARS. This is where my morals are put to the test, because I ADORE this brand. Their foundation and concealer are two of my every day obsessions and I've always loved and owned their bronzer and blush. But do I love them enough to turn a blind eye to the fact that they are now knowingly having their products tested on animals? No, in short, I don't. 

But it's an interesting question nonetheless. 

The good news is that the use of animals to test cosmetic products or their ingredients is banned in the UK and all EU countries as of March 2013. Unfortunately, there is no ban on it in the US, so companies can if they want to and then of course in China it is a legal requirement. 

Suffice to say, research needs to be done and depending on how strongly you feel about the matter, a judgement call needs to be made. Personally for me, the fact that NARS have sold out, after years of priding themselves on being 'cruelty free' is enough to make me say goodbye to the brand following this decision. I'll finish with the products that I already own, and bought from a company who was against animal testing, and then begin the hunt for a CF brand that is yet to sell out.

But is that as far as it goes?

My morals have been called into question AGAIN this week, following an explosive scandal surrounding Jeffree Star, the creator of a highlight that I adore and liquid lipsticks that my sister wears every single day. The products are totally vegan and cruelty free, but what do you do, when you find that the face of the brand is actually a bully and a racist? The drama is actually too much and too complicated to explain, but to put it shortly: he has attracted more than his fair share of bad press. Past videos of him have emerged being racist and sexist, he is famed for his temper and recently described another YouTuber as a 'rat' on Twitter. He has this week posted a video on his channel titled 'racism' and in it he apologises for the comments he has made in the past.

And whilst this might be enough for some people, for me, I'm afraid it was too little too late, and much like with NARS I will finish with the products that I have and will not be buying from him again.

I think the thing for me, the bottom line, is as follows: there is not, to my mind, any product good enough to get me turning against what I believe in. A good foundation is, at the end of the day, a sacrifice that I am more than happy to make if it means I am not supporting a brand, or an individual, who I do not believe to be good. 

Whilst I understand that brands such as NARS find it nearly impossible to turn away the billion dollars market that China opens up the them, I personally cannot support a brand that has put money before ethics and have gone back on the promise that made them so popular in the first place.

Ultimately the fault here lies with China and their government for requiring this, but until it can be accepted world wide that no animal should be subjected to testing, I believe that it is the responsibility of a brand to do the right thing. As for Jeffree Star? I simply cannot support a racist, apology or no apology.

I'd be interested to hear your views on this if you have any...

MY FIRST YOGA CLASS AND WHY I WORE MAKEUP TO IT

For as long as I can remember, I have been frightened of yoga. The thing itself scares me. Despite the fact that everybody in the whole world seems to do it (and shows us this every day through the medium of Instagram), it's something that I was absolutely sure that I could never do. Even though the aforementioned Insta-Yogis made incredibly difficult manoeuvres look like the easiest thing in the world, their amazing bodies, dedication to the sport and my few drunken attempts at the exercises myself, put me right off. 

I love the idea of it. I would love to be a yogi, I would love to be strong enough to do the crow and be able to show off to my mates about the fact that I just 'don't feel myself until I've done my yoga watching the sunrise'. But the realities of it, scared me half to death. Not least of all because I have never met a person who was bad at yoga. Everyone I know that does it now has been doing it for ages and loves it, my boyfriend included (although when we talk about that we have to call it broga...). I think I thought that everyone who does yoga has been doing it their entire lives. I've never seen a 'beginners class' advertised anywhere or spoken to someone about their first time doing it. I didn't want to be the worst, I didn't want to be crap at it, I didn't want to stick out from the crowd or be laughed at, I didn't want to embarrass myself.

But I did want to do it. And if I was going to make that work then I was going to have to get over the rest of it. So yesterday morning, that's exactly what I did. I booked myself into a class, I woke up at 6am. (6AM?!?!?!) got dressed, had a cup of coffee and then looked at myself in the mirror. SHIT, was the exact thought that I had. I'm going to yoga for the first time to a 6.30am class that will no doubt be full of countless beautiful regulars and I look a mess. An actual mess by the way, it's not just me being self-depricating: the immense heat in London has meant that every morning I wake up with a bird's nest on top of my head where my hair used to be, I have sleep in my eyes and a sever case of pillow face. I was NOT going to go to yoga for the first time looking like this, today was going to be hard enough, I wanted to at least feel confident enough to try this properly. 

So I did something I thought I would never do, I put makeup on just for my gym trip. I thought I'd feel shallow and pathetic but was surprised to find that I actually felt empowered and quite impressive. So THIS is what it's like to be a yogi eh?? I didn't go mad with it, I went for what I think we'd call a 'no makeup, makeup look' using the Nude by Nature collection (which was made with exactly this in mind btw), I put a bit of foundation on (it's very light and dewy so I didn't feel like a cake), did my best with the bags under my eyes using a concealer, contoured ever so slightly, to give the illusion of a cheekbone, applied a spot of highlight to make me look healthy and yoga-ey and then powdered the shit out of my forehead because it was already 22 degrees and I foresaw sweat.

It can't have taken more than three minutes but the difference was massive. Rather than avoiding mirrors on the way to the gym (something that I normally do) I was happy to give myself the appreciative head-bob as I caught my own reflection. Walking in I didn't feel like the biggest fraud of them all and totally out of place (even if I did have to put my hand up at the beginning of the class and admit to my novice-status), of course no one in there was looking at me, they probably wouldn't have given two flying fucks if I'd come in in my pyjamas but for my own anxious, over-thinking mind, this made all the difference, I. felt. good. Which is something I will rarely say about ANYTHING at 6.30 in the morning. 

The class itself? You know what? I fucking loved it. There was a LOT that I could not do. When the instructor told us that we could 'jump' between positions rather than stepping I ignored her, when she instructed us to attempt the crow I adopted child's pose (basically lying down with your arse in the air) and when something got too difficult or too confusing I simply stopped doing it. No one noticed me, no one even looked at me, I was left totally to my own devices. 

I am going to go back. it's going to become my Tuesday morning thing. I think it's going to be great. I have even set myself the challenge of mastering the crow by September so now I know I can't bail. I can't believe I'm saying it but I think I might become a yoga-er. (I'm not going to say 'yogi', as much as I would like to be one of these I don't think that will ever really be me.)

And I'm also going to keep wearing makeup, I'm going to start wearing it to all of the classes that I've been scared to get back into. I know that it was all in my head but psychologically I felt so much stronger, better and more confident because I knew that I looked good. I'm sure this won't last forever, I'm sure that within a couple of weeks I'll feel secure enough to walk in to the gym with my #justwokeuplikethis face on but for now, I'm painting. 

Confidence is 90% of everything. And if makeup helps you to feel a little more confident than you gotta do it. I wrote yesterday about my relationship with makeup and how, despite the fact I keep being shamed for wearing the stuff, it's my face and it helps get me through the day, this totally applies here. And so just in case you're on the hunt for some products that are natural as hell, subtle and actually very good for working out in, check out Nude by Nature a totally cruelty free brand that make beautiful products that I love: p.e.r.f.e.c.t for summer! 

'BUT... WHY SO MUCH MAKEUP???'

What is it about makeup that makes us all so weird?

Almost daily, I am shamed for my makeup choices. Normally it happens on Instagram. When I don't wear makeup for a selfie (and then have the brag about my 'bravery') I lose followers by the dozen and then, when I do, even stranger things happen: I find people, women, relentlessly commenting on every 'made up' photo asking the same thing: "why so much makeup???". I am told that I am prettier without it. That they wished I didn't wear so much. That I shouldn't be wearing it in the first place. I can't do right for doing right it seems. I don't wear it, people jump ship and abandon me forever. I do and then someone shames me for making that choice. What's a girl to do? (Other than simply say 'fuck it, it's my face, leave me alone' I mean...)

Let me tell you about my relationship with makeup. Sometimes I don't touch the stuff at all. Sometimes I feel like I look great without it on and decide to embrace my "natural beauty". Sometimes I don't wear it and for every second of that day I hate my face so much. Sometimes I put it on and instantly regret it, feeling that I've either ruined a perfectly good canvas or that I have, in some way, not remained true to myself. Sometimes I wear it simply because I want to. Sometimes I put it on because I am bored and it's fun and therapeutic. Sometimes I don't feel myself without it on. Sometimes I feel like I should wear it to impress someone or because I feel that it is expected. Sometimes I put it on and get angry that it hasn't made me 'perfect' and end up resenting my face. Sometimes it makes me feel totally beautiful. And then sometimes I just need it. End of. It is complicated, to say the least. I don't understand it at all, but there is one thing that I know for sure: it is incredibly personal. 

The makeup that I do, or do not, put on my face is there, or not there, for a very good reason. I don't always know what that reason is but I do know that it is not, I repeat not, a conversation for anyone to have, but me. Commenting on someone's weight/shape/height/colour is, by most, considered inappropriate. Although it still happens (GRRR), normal people know that that is not an acceptable thing to do and our opinions are often not welcome. And yet, for some reason, where our makeup choices are concerned, people feel that their opinions are CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. Not only appropriate but totally necessary. They comment as they please. 

But my choice to wear makeup is so much more than just fancying it on any given day. I've chosen to wear it, or not to, for a reason, whether or not I really know what that reason really is. I am creating a face to present to the world, it is a reflection of me in that moment, it's often the thing that gets me through. If makeup is, like my boyfriend says, warpaint, then it is vital to my success in battle that day. Battles that change daily, but that happen daily. Battles that represent me, that are part of me and my life. Battles that are complicated and personal and important. Battles that you can't see, that you don't understand, that you're not a part of. And with that in mind, I'll ask, do you really think it is appropriate to tell me not to wear my makeup?

To tell me that I'm prettier without it? To imply that I'm somehow shallow and weaker because of the choice that I have made?

I think people often make the mistake of thinking that by telling a person that they look better without makeup on they are giving them a compliment. They are, after all, telling this person that they are a natural beauty and that they shouldn't feel that they have to change. but of course what they are actually doing, albeit by accident (hopefully) is telling them that right now, in this moment, they don't look so good. How's that for a confidence booster eh? The other thing that they are doing, btw, is critiquing this person's art work. 'Cos let's be honest here: makeup is art. 

You may well think that a person looks better without makeup on you may hate the choices that they make, you may be SO angry with them, though God knows why you care so much. But you may not comment. Especially when it is clear to see that someone has obviously put the time into it. 

I am lucky, I don't really give a shit. Makeup/no makeup, I know that it's my face. But despite that, it's still annoying me.

If someone puts a 'no makeup selfie' online, by all means, tell them how gorgeous they are. But please do not assume that this is a 'before' photo. Please do not compare them to their made-up self of the day before. In the same way that it is inappropriate to ask another person: "but... why so fat?" "but... why so tall?" or "but... why such an unflattering dress?" asking "but... why so much makeup?" is not an entirely appropriate question. It's a personal question.

Although, if you must know actually, WHY I've worn so much makeup....

I did it because I wanted to. 

NB. Just as I finished typing this a woman commented on a new Instagram photo telling me that she thinks I do too much with my hair. Eyes peeled for a piece on why that's not very nice either...

URBAN DECAY HEAT PALETTE REVIEW BY *NOT* A BEAUTY BLOGGER

Don't let these amazing photos fool you, I am not a classic beauty blogger. In fact, I'm not a beauty blogger at all. I like makeup, I wear it, I enjoy experimenting, but I am yet to write about it, for a few major reasons: I'd normally rather spend my money on food or tequila than my fortieth makeup palette, I'm not THAT good at it yet, I'm getting better, don't get me wrong, but I'm no Manny MUA and I do not wear it enough to convince anyone, anywhere, that makeup is in anyway my thing. Despite this however, I love the stuff and when my brand new Urban Decay Heat palette arrived today, I had to write about it. Write about it for all the women who, like me, love makeup, who hop on any bandwagon the beauty bloggers send our way but then, when it arrives, aren't entirely sure what all the hype was about.

So despite my non-expert status in the beauty world, when news spread that Urban Decay were releasing a new palette last week, I knew I had to have it. I have been eyeing up my sister's Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette for months and when I saw the colours in this one, I had to try it (I cannot resist a dark purple). So during Urban Decay's flash sale of the palette last week I joined the queue with thousands of other bloggers clambering to give away £40 of their hard earned cash. 

Today was supposed to be one of my no makeup days (no meetings, no makeup) but when it arrived I knew I had to have a little play. Like I say, like you can see, I'm NOT a beauty blogger, but a couple of minutes playing was just what I needed and I've gone from zero to sixty in the makeup department without even passing go. (But I feel fabulous so give a shit right?!)

Anyway, this palette is great. I already have all three full size Naked Palettes upstairs along with a couple of the mini basics ones and I've always loved them. They're easy to use, the quality is obviously amazing and the colours are perfect. This is no exception and I know that anyone who sees me at a party in the coming months, can guarantee that this is the palette that I have used. (Told you I wasn't a beauty blogger, when I find something I like, I'm loathed to try anything new...).

The only thing I would say is that, if you're not an expert, like I am not, it's not entirely safe. The shades are all incredibly pigmented, this is obviously normally a really great thing, it can just be a little thick and creamy and 'heavy' if you're practising for the first time before darting out for a nice dinner! Despite my ineptness though this isn't really a problem as such and it just took a little extra blending, for most people the pigment is probably an absolute bonus! 

The shades however, are p.e.r.f.e.c.t:

(I did those like two hours ago and, despite the heat and my sweating, they haven't rubbed off so that bodes well eh?!)

All in all, if you are, like me, a lover of makeup but not a pro, I would recommend this. I don't feel like you can go too far wrong with Urban Decay and if we're honest, thousands of beauty bloggers can't be wrong can they??? The colours are gorgeous, the quality is amazing AND you can't help but feel like one of the cool kids when you can #UrbanDecayHeatPalette on Insta right?? Oh. Just me then. 

The palette is currently out of stock but you can sign up HERE to be notified when it comes back in. Not that you have to take my word for it, since I'M OBVIOUSLY NOT A BEAUTY BLOGGER, but I'd recommend it - I love it. 

I'VE BECOME A FAKE TAN CONVERT - ST MORIZ REVIEW

Was it just me that was SUPER weird about fake tan as a teenager? 

"What, me? No. NO I haven't fake tanned. This is just the colour that I am. I'm really lucky I have such olive skin. Ahaha why would I fake tan? That's so, like, tragic." 

Christ knows why, since all I wanted to be was tanned, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it; the fear of being judged for wanting to look good was colossal, not helped by the fact that the potential to fuck up was massive when you had no money for anything that cost more than £1.99 and no clue how to apply the damn stuff anyway. 

For years I thought to myself that fake tanning was something that I just couldn't do. I didn't want to be fake, to be seen to give a shit, to be laughed at, to stain my bed sheets, to get it wrong. I liked the idea of being a natural beauty (even though I didn't think I was beautiful anyway so that was all a bit daft) and associated fake tan with the women in The Only Way Is Essex, a show that I watched in secret. Trying to fit in and be cool was exhausting. With hindsight the fact that I was smearing a pencil over my eyelids every morning, gloss over my lips and god knows how much bronzer on my cheeks every day but was still too embarrassed to rub a little lotion on the rest of my body has got to be the stupidest damned thing. 

I attached a stigma to fake tan which meant I was either pasty as hell and too embarrassed to get my legs out OR risking third degree sunburn during the summer months and my holidays in the hope that I could absorb enough colour to be seen as beautiful. I longed to wear the stuff, to top it up, to keep the summer going on forever but I worried what people would think about me and, since I would never have admitted to wearing it even if I did, I worried about having to lie to my friends. I worried more that I would lie but then they would find me out and then expose me as a fake when they saw my orange ankles/elbows/hands. 

But this year, I realised something: my tan, or lack thereof is so bloody irrelevant. I went to the pub with a friend the other day who had amazing colour. I told her that she looked so healthy, she said thanks. That was it. Was it real? Had she faked it? Did it matter...? Since I still don't know the answer to the first two, I'd say the third one answers itself. 

So when I was sent a bottle of St Moriz Fake Tan to try, I jumped right in. I was going to a party on Saturday night and I wanted to get my legs out. There was no time to get brown naturally, not least of all because it was raining, so I did what I thought I would never do: I faked it. 

I expected to go orange. I expected to be laughed at. I expected judgement and mockery. I really need to get a grip and stop worse-case-scenario-ing everything. Here's what actually happened:

I got some fake tan. I put it on the mitt. I used the mitt to rub it in. I went brown. Three hours later I had a shower. I got ready for the party. Everyone told me how nice I looked. I went to bed. It didn't stain the sheets. I got on with my hangover, a little bit browner than I had been 24 hours earlier. Maybe I got lucky, maybe St Moriz is just a really good brand. Or maybe, maybe, I have spent the last twenty years making mountains out of mole hills. I think it might be a combination of the two things.

I'm not the best person to give you a fake-tan review, as I quite clearly don't use the stuff much BUT what I can say is that this shit was great. It didn't streak, it didn't smell, it dried in about two minutes and it looks really natural. We're about three days into it and it still looks great, it has totally converted me. I plan on doing it at least once a week for the rest of my life. Or the rest of the summer at least.

I don't know why I was so ashamed of fake tan before, why I was so utterly panicked by it. I suppose it probably has a lot to do with the fact that most of my teen years were spent trying so damn hard to not give a shit, or to not be seen as giving one anyway. But I realise now that there is absolutely no shame in giving a shit. Applying fake tan does not all of a sudden make you shallow and self obsessed, it just makes you a bit browner. And if you're anything like me, a bit more confident. 

Fake it 'till you make it. That's what they say. I have done that, fairy successfully with every other area of my life for the last ten years and I am now going to apply it to this too. So until I can afford to literally spend my life flying between St Tropez and Barbados and getting so brown that I resemble an old handbag, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

MY TRIATHLON: "I'VE STARTED SO I'LL FINISH..."

Don't ask me why, but three days ago I did a triathlon. Some of you who have been here for a while may remember that I did one this time last year too. No, I'm not insane... totally. Last year I trained for my triathlon. I did an open water swim before hand and visited my local pool at least four times in preparation. I did it with my friend Ross and we had a great time that we remember fondly with the most epic photo of us crossing the finish line together that we each have a copy of framed in our houses.

On the back of last year's excitement, when registration opened earlier this year to do it again we decided to do it, this time signing up a new recruit in the shape of Ross' girlfriend Sophie, who wanted to get in on some of the fun. (We omitted to tell her that the lake smelt like goose shit and everyone weed into their wetsuits to warm up when they got into the water).

But as the weeks and then months past, I didn't go swimming. I find it to be a big faff and I had put this triathlon in a box of things that were happening 'ages away' (you know the box, it's full of things like the date your car needs a service, Christmas and weddings of relatives that you don't really want to go to). A few weeks ago I did my first half marathon, which although I'm so incredibly proud of, kind of fucked me up. I've had a pain in my hip and a really bad knee since then and so, truthfully, I had quietly gone about hatching a well laid out plan to pull out of the tri. First I told my mum that it hurt too much to run (which was true), then I told my boyfriend that I would see how I went and then I subtly dropped the fact that I was toying with the idea of quitting to my friend Soph, who I had planned to do it with. By the Friday I was not going to do it. I had pulled out. I didn't have anything to prove, I told myself. I'm fit enough. I did it last year. I ran a half marathon last month. I can always try again next time. Sophie won't mind, she can do it with Ross. No one will miss me. No one will judge me. That's what I said, over and over again. To myself, and to anyone else that asked. I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO PROVE.

But then on Saturday morning, the morning of the tri, I woke up and just knew that I would be doing a triathlon that day. My excuses and justifications were falling on my own deaf ears and I knew I had to do it. For two main reasons. One, I'd kick myself for ages if I pulled out. I'd hate watching everyone doing it, I'd feel like a total loser and would be so angry with myself for not at least giving it a go. (That's FOMO for you). Two, I'd made a promise to Sophie that we would do it together, she would pull me through the swim if I would pull her through the run. I couldn't bring myself to let her down on the day and so, true to my word, I pulled my tri suit on. (Which, if I'm honest, due to it's tightness, showed in excruciating detail. how much more unfit I was this year compared with last...).

Anyway, I ate my breakfast, packed up a bag and, with as little preparation as is probably possible, we headed to the event. After a quick nervous wee, a couple of nervous cigarettes and a huge battle with my wetsuit which hadn't been out of the cupboard since last year, we made our way down to the lake. It was here that it hit me for the first time that I was about to go swimming for the first time since this day last year, and I panicked. Whereas last year Ross and I had entered the water with excitement, this year I freaked, I was nervous and scared. Getting in the water it was freezing and I felt my chest getting tighter and tighter. Thankfully Ross and Sophie stayed nearby and my friend Sally, a superstar athlete who does this kind of stuff all the time talked me round. As the whistle went I started swimming, slowly, very very slowly. I was too afraid to put my head under the water and was all to aware that the more I swam the harder it seemed, it was taking a crazy long time to do and no matter how hard I worked, the finish line just didn't seem to be getting any closer. (Not helped by the fact that my goggles were so steamed up I couldn't see my arms, let alone something 750m away). Ross, Sophie and Sally all stayed nearby though and with their constant encouragements I somehow made it out of the water. 

Ross and Sophie ran ahead and Sally and I made our way up the bank to the first transition area. Exhausted, I got myself totally stuck in my wetsuit (might have been funny last year but this year it just got me stressed) and couldn't think of anything worse than a 20k bike ride. Nevertheless I was raised to adhere to the 'I've started so I'll finish' rule of thumb so I persevered. Ross and Sophie had gone by this point but thankfully Sally stayed with me (and I do mean thankfully otherwise I would 100% still be sitting in that transition now trying to remember how to do up my bike helmet!) and we did the cycle. Not entirely in keeping with the competitive nature of the event we kept things light and chatted the whole way round, stopping occasionally to let me drink some water (because no, I still can't confidently take my hands of the handlebars) and even got told off for 'drafting' at one point - funny when you realise *quite* how little that would have helped our pitiful time away. 

And then, thankfully, we were onto the run. This is something that, despite my left leg totally hating me at the moment, I don't mind doing at all and, following Sally, who has done about 100 marathons in her life (and even had the Guiness Book of World Records for doing the fastest marathon dressed as a piece of fruit), I ran the 6k. I finished in 2 hours 7 minutes, slower than last year but at least it was done. I found the rest of my team, Ross and Sophie who had come in a couple of minutes before me, Alex had actually won his category (oh to be superhuman eh?), my mum who had beaten last year's time and the other fab people who we had done it with. 

And although it was hard, really really really hard, I am so pleased that I did it. It wasn't the same as last year, it wasn't as fun and it wasn't as easy and I hadn't done anything like any training for it but despite that, I'm so happy that I did it. As it turns out Sophie didn't need me at all, but for my own brain and confidence, doing it for myself was very important. Yes it would have been easier if I had trained, yes it would have been more fun if I was fit enough to keep up with my friends, no it won't go down in my book of all time favourite days but at least I did it. I have something to be SO proud of, I proved to myself once again that I am capable of so much more than I thought. 

If there is anything that I have learned over the last few years of saying yes to ridiculously difficult sporting challenges, it is this: life is very easy in your comfort zone. Spending your Saturday morning like a normal person, nursing a hangover and drinking coffee is great and important and lovely and sometimes it is enough. But it's easy. Sometimes too easy. Spending your Saturday morning up to your eyeballs in geese shit isn't easy, it isn't fun and when you compare it to the aforementioned coffee morning, it's not nearly as tempting, but it's so much more satisfying, so much more interesting, so much more fulfilling. I'm not a natural athlete, I don't love training that much, I don't love doing things that makes my body hurt, but I do love the feeling that comes with it. The sense of achievement, the endorphins, they're things that you simply can't find anywhere else. Pushing yourself to breaking point doesn't sound like much fun, I grant you, but it's what keeps you alive, keeps you fresh and proud.

For me, these events have nothing to with my fitness and everything to do with the challenge. Em of five years ago would have done anything for an easy life and would have purposefully avoided challenges at every opportunity, but this Em, me now, lives for them. Having pride in yourself is an amazing thing and to have earned it? Well that's just unreal. 

LET'S TALK ABOUT IBS

One in five people suffer from IBS. I am one of them. As too, are many of my friends. In fact, of my seven closest girl friends, four of us have something wrong with our stomachs in some capacity. We have, what you could call, irritating bowels. My bowel is incredibly irritating, I have IBS, or FIBs as my mum labelled it last year (fucking irritating bowels). A few years ago I stopped being able to eat gluten and dairy due to a bad reaction which was eventually diagnosed as IBS by a doctor last year after the pain got so severe that I was bent over in pain with a constantly upset stomach. 

Where my FIBs are concerned, I don't have an awful lot of shame - it's totally natural and something that I can't control at all, I have never kept it a secret and I am rarely embarrassed about it. The fact that I have to be relatively near a loo when I have a hangover or that sometimes I'll react to something so badly that my stomach swells up the size of a beachball is not something that I try to hide, why would I? I can't help it. Apparently it's not lady like to talk about poo. Well it's not very nice to shit your guts out for hours on end either and that's still happening, so here I am. 

So what is IBS? Well to be honest, it's a bit of an umbrella term for lots of stomach issues. It is something that is acknowledged by the medical profession but not totally understood as the cause is still widely unknown. What brought mine on? No one has any idea. It looks like it may have had something to do with a lack of good bacteria in my gut but really your guess is as good as mine. IBS is an illness that has no specific cause, no distinctive pathology and no single effective treatment. The symptoms vary massively from person to person and even in the same person different times. 

Women are more likely than men to get it (3:2) and it normally occurs in your late teens or early twenties and is something that can affect you for the rest of your life. It is often managed by a change in diet (at least that helps in my case) and can be made worse not just by certain foods but by stress or tiredness. (I can almost feel my stomach growing as I do something stressful, which is of course a huge stress in itself, it's a total catch 22...). There are a wide spectrum of symptoms including tiredness, nausea, heartburn and indigestion, backache, a need to pass urine frequently, headaches, muscle pain, anxiety, depression as well as of course, a swollen and upset tummy or constipation. Basically, it includes a bit of everything.

Which makes it hard to diagnose and is probably the reason that a lot of people avoid going to the doctors. If you're a little bit tired, have a headache, a sore neck and an upset tummy that are coming at different times and not totally frequently, you're not going to rush the doctors, probably out of fear that you will be labelled a time waster. I know that was the case for me. Although I'd had an upset tummy for ages I didn't really think to do anything about it and mostly hoped that if I waited for long enough that it would go away on it's own. I also sort of thought that it was normal. 

Looking back I kick myself, for living like that for much longer than I should have done and now I spend a lot of time encouraging anyone with an upset stomach or any cause for concern to go and talk to a doctor or at least try to determine what is causing these 'flare ups' in the first place, often the answer is staring us in the face, but we are loathed to admit that we know for fear that we will never get to eat a pizza again. 

So lots of us have it. But not that many people talk about it. And that's what annoys me. I have a friend with IBS who once told me about it as her biggest secret ever, as if I wouldn't be friends with her once I found out. I have another friend who never speaks to their boyfriend about it all. I hear a lot about their conditions, I think to a lot of people I am now the poo-guru, but for these girls to announce it at a dinner table? Not a chance. For so many people it's something to be embarrassed about, not talked about, ashamed of.

And that drives me up the flipping wall. It's a medical condition, one that causes a lot of pain and frustration and annoyance and yet a lot of us suffer in silence. Blokes the world over have talked about, shared photos of and had pride in their shits, in front of us, for years and yet as women we feel that our faeces is something to be embarrassed about.

I remember when I was about 11, someone told me that the even the queen poos. I honestly could not believe it. The idea of our great leader so vulnerable and stinky was just beyond my comprehension. But it did help me to realise quite how natural pooing was. Do you know why a dog makes eye contact with you whilst they are having a poo, normally looking sheepish as hell? It's because they are looking to you for protect them whilst they are vulnerable. Two things, first of all, that is adorable, secondly, if dogs in the wild can ask for help when it comes to taking a poo, then why can't we?

No, it's not the sexiest thing in the world. You don't see women in films farting all day long cause they had some bacon at breakfast and you can't imagine the likes of Mila Kunis having to rush to the loo to shit her brains out every hour but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen to them. Pooing is vital to survival and IBS is a huge annoyance that you actually can't do anything about, let alone be ashamed of. I know it's not pretty, I know it's not ideal but it something that is going to happen whether you like it or not.

Since giving up gluten and dairy and more recently avoiding whole nuts and seeds I have felt a million times better, I don't have to talk about my bowel movements with every single person that I come across and I can almost be guaranteed a whole day of being out without having to know where the nearest bathrooms are and that is great. But on days when I'm having a flare up, I don't want to have to hide that, to be modest and ladylike. Sure, I don't want to photograph the damn thing and upload it to ratemypoo.com, but to be able to excuse myself from the dinner table for a bridesmaids-esque moment in the loo without shame is something I definitely am within my rights to ask for. 

Basically what I'm saying is this: if you suffer with IBS, please don't do it in silence. Women only don't talk about poo because women don't talk about poo. The only way that we can change that is to actually, you know, talk about poo. And if you don't suffer with IBS? Please take me at my word when I say it is the single most annoying thing that my body does and every single sufferer out there could seriously do with as little judgement as you can manage. 

THE GAME CHANGING VEGAN, GLUTEN & NUT FREE COOKIE DOUGH

I haven't been able to eat gluten or dairy for three years and it's so funny how different people deal with that. Although there are times when I think OH HOLY SHIT I COULD MURDER A DOUGHNUT RIGHT ABOUT NOW, most the time I forget what I'm missing. Yes it is really annoying to miss out on pizza night, no I don't 'like' having to have a salad with no dressing every time, but I make it work, cause that's what I gotta do. 

But then sometimes a company pops up that makes something that I can eat and I get more excited than you could ever know. The first time I tasted dairy free chocolate after I'd had to banish cows milk? I cried. Same story with Firezza's GF and vegan pizzas and that moment in February when I found NOM bars for the first time. The excitement of finding something not only naughty but also delicious when you have your diet limited for whatever reason? Well you don't know until it's happened to you, but take it from me, it's pretty damn magical. 

How often did you eat Cookie Dough as a child? We did it ALL the time and when I remember sleep overs with my friends, I'm pretty sure it was there every damn time. Although I loved it, when I was told that I had to give up all yummy foods, the sudden absence of this did not spring to my mind - sure it was a pain but I'd be alright. I didn't think about it and I didn't really miss it, until last week when I was very kindly sent a batch of what I can only describe as HEAVEN from the company Angels & Cookies. I don't remember what 'real' cookie dough tastes like anymore, but if it's anything like this then I CAN confirm that I have been seriously missing out. 

If you can eat gluten/nuts/dairy/eggs/soya etc then this might not be for you (you are lucky enough to have delicious food available to you in every aisle of every shop) but if you are, like me, deprived - please read on...

So Angel Cookies come in three flavours, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Fudge and Ginger & Spice. All three are delicious both raw (not sure if I'm supposed to do that...) and as cookies. The ones in the photos are Ginger & Spice because I honestly can't remember the last time I had a ginger bread man and the nostalgia really got to me when I smelt it. 

Normally if I want to do free-from baking it's a huge faff, smaller supermarkets very rarely stock the ingredients that I need and I end up spending a fortune and a whole heap of time either online or trekking to bigger shops for certain things. Obviously the benefit here is you still get the fun of baking (albeit the easiest thing in the world) and you don't have to rip your hair out looking for complicated ingredients. 

The cookies literally take 10 minutes in the oven and are totally faff-free. If I'd have been organised and properly blogger-y I'd have cut them into cute shapes but if I'm honest I made these at lunch time and was just so desperate to try them. I even gave one to Alex who had no idea they were 'free from' - so I can confirm that they are crowd pleasers.

I cannot tell you how nice it is to find brands like this in the world and I'm just so excited that these guys are now on my radar. If you know you've got a slumber party coming up, a tricky party guest or a child with an intolerance I'd say these are defo worth a try. Check out the Angels & Cookies website HERE to order yours. 

(PS. This isn't sponsored, I just bloody loved them and had to share). xxx

NARS SHEER GLOW FOUNDATION & SOFT MATTE CONCEALER REVIEW: MY MAKEUP OBSESSIONS OF THE SUMMER.

If you had told Em of five years ago, or anyone that knew her, that one day she would be doing beauty reviews, they'd probably have laughed until they couldn't stand anymore. Makeup was never my bag and I famously got it wrong for years (shout out to all my girls who were teenagers in the mid-noughties and that damn blue eyeshadow period!), but recently, as I have started blogging more (and since my sister became the world's best makeup applier) I've started to clue up and I find myself overwhelmed with the urge to share my findings. 

So I've tried loads of foundations over the years, I was a total 'drug-store' gal for years, Maybelline, Revlon, Rimmel, whatever I could afford really. I progressed to benefit, then to Laura Mercier, still with no clue what I was doing. Since blogging though it's been easier, I tried and loved the Dior Forever (which although amazeballs I do find to be a spot-o heavy for day to day use), then I went to L'Oreal True Match but realised the coverage wasn't quite up to scratch before I moved onto the Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation & Concealer. Anyone who knows me or reads any of this stuff will know that that was my obsession for ages, and I still adore it. The coverage is unreal and the applicator is amazing - my only complaint as we come into the summer months was that it was quite 'matte' (something I love in the winter but not something I'm looking for in the summer) and I was counting on quite a lot of highlighter to gain a glowy effect. I figured there wasn't any harm in trying something new and now here we are, with the Nars Sheer Glow Foundation - a classic and a favourite for many a beauty blogger, and something that I have TOTALLY fallen in love with. 

Initially, I'll be honest, the name frightened me a little - totally paranoid about my skin and rarely without at least one spot I didn't think I wanted anything with the title 'sheer' in it (same applies to clothes tbh!) and I was worried that the coverage wouldn't be up to much, oh how wrong was I?

I have what would probably be labelled as 'dry' skin, if I don't moisturise my face fairly quickly after washing it or getting out the shower, you'll know about it. I get a bit flakey between my eyebrows and on my chin which has always been a bit of an issue with foundation, it would gather there and I'd always look a bit gross - for lack of a better word - think of the fella in Austin Powers who peels his skin off and saves it... The great thing about the Sheer Glow is that it is SO un-cakey (my professional opinion) that it hardly does that at all and if I've moisturised that morning then there is literally no problem.

One layer, although thin, gives me all the coverage that I need and gives me the 'luminous' look that I just wasn't getting from my heavier favourites. If I know I'm having photos taken or need to hide something a second layer can be applied super duper easily and it doesn't cake at all. 

The only thing that really annoys be about this product is the fact that it doesn't come with a pump at all - I feel like the risk factor is much bigger (leaving the life off and spilling it everywhere) etc and it's a pain in the ass when too much comes out onto your hand but tbh it's not the end of the world and you can buy a pump for it HERE. (Clever Nars stealing more of our money eh?!)

Basically, I'm in love with the foundation, it's P.E.R.F.E.C.T for summer and even survived the sweat that poured out of me during the heatwave just been. On Saturday I left my house at 10am and didn't get home until 1am - I didn't reapply once and I swear down my skin looked cracking all day. (Beer goggles may have helped compound that belief but I'm fairly sure I came home looking just as flawless as I did when I went out). So yes, I recommend the foundation, I really do. BUT, my obsession doesn't stop there.

I made the (financial) mistake of popping over the the Nars counter in John Lewis to buy this foundation to ensure that I got the right shade and whilst there I was talked into trying their Soft Matte Complete Concealer, something that I had heard SO many good things about in the blogosphere. Man they were not wrong.

I didn't think I'd love it, the fact that it was in a pot slightly put me off as I totally assumed that it would sit on my spots and make them look worse (as experience with concealers in pots has taught me...) but I was so wrong and I *think* I might go so far as to say that this is the best concealer that I have ever used. BIG words Em... back them up. 

OK so it's super duper creamy and not drying at all, honestly I've been putting it under my eyes and just feel like I look SO much more awake - it doesn't dry me out at all or sit in wrinkles and it is just moisturising enough that it works with my spots or dry patches rather than sitting on them and drawing attention to the trouble area. A little bit goes SUCH a long way and apart from anything, I adore the packaging. Before I tried this I was loving the Urban Decay Naked Concealer and everyone's favourite cheepies by Collection but this has shat on them all to be honest - it's great and I'm never going back to a stick again. (Big big claims here!).

I'm really happy that I tried these products and know that I will not be branching away from them this summer, I feel my skin looks so healthy and not at all like I'm wearing too much makeup, which is something that I just hate in the summer months! I am wearing the Punjabi shade of foundation and then, because I like my concealer to be a tad paler I have the Creme-Brule shade. The Nars website is quite good for showing you colours but if you're unsure, especially where the foundation is concerned, I'd recommend popping over to a Nars counter if you have the time!

Please let me know what foundations you're using and why you love them! Hope this was helpful, big love xxxx

(Links are affiliated) xxx

"INTUITIVE EATING' - SURELY I'M ALREADY DOING THAT?

Have you ever heard of "Intuitive Eating" before? Me neither. Nevertheless it is a thing and I need to talk about it, so you're about to learn. It was a diet, a lifestyle if you will, that was first made famous in 1995 by nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Rescue who wrote a "recovery book for The Chronic Dieter" in which they shared this groundbreaking way of life that they had discovered. They shared their 'stay thin but don't diet secrets' at a time when we all wanted to look like Kate Moss and needed to hear them. It's not new, it's been around for 20 years, but much like Friends, I hear it's making a come back. 

I first heard about this via a friend's Instagram story in which she described it as the new 'buzz word'. Since she is very into healthy eating (she is The Goodness Guru) and I'm sort of, not, I took her word for it, accepted that, much like the Atkins, the cabbage soup and the 5:2 diets, this would be something that I wasn't rushing to try. 

But for the rest of the day I could not get this out of my head. Not only was I pissed off to high hell that we were being encouraged again to limit our food intake (or at least hop on another bandwagon that cost me a fortune in Whole Foods on stuff I don't like that much), I was confused as anything about the name of this one: surely, I thought, by it's very nature, eating is intuitive anyway??? We don't fancy starving to death, so intuitively we eat. We don't enjoy being hungry so, intuitively, we eat. Intuitive right? Eating. Staying alive.

So what IS intuitive eating? (Out of the life and death context and in the health and wellness context I mean)... A groundbreaking way of life that will bring the obesity epidemic to a grinding halt or simply another fad for millions of insecure and unhappy women to buy into on their life long quest for the perfect bikini body? I am of course worried that it is the latter. 

But first things first, let's find out what it actually is. To do this it's easiest to look at the 10 principles from the book which are:

- Respect the diet mentality
- Honour your hunger
- Make peace with food
- Challenge the food police
- Respect your fullness
- Discover the satisfaction factor
- Honour your feelings without using food
- Respect your body
- Exercise - feel the difference
- Honour your health

Theoretically, that all sounds great. I would like all of those things. I should have all of those things. But is a book going to teach me that? Is £££ spent on nutritionists going to teach me all of that? Or is it something that actually, just happens instinctively, that I'm being told that I need to pay for? 

(The intuitive eating method is actually used a lot for those recovering from eating disorders, for that of course it is a great thing, the context in which I am writing about it is as a buzz word!)

The whole idea of intuitive eating, as far as I can work out is that 'not dieting is the key to losing weight' (at least that's what google says) and that annoys me, because it just isn't, at least not for me. Listening to your body is all well and good unless of course your body, like mine, tells you constantly how much it wants chocolate. Weight will NOT just fall off you the minute you STOP dieting, for most of us, the opposite will happen. 

The fact is, if you want to lose weight, you will need to alter the way that you eat, whether that's by using this method or any other out there, and that is, by very definition, a diet. I appreciate that someone has found a way for us to do that that doesn't necessarily mean never eating a carbohydrate again, but let's not beat around the bush with the name of this thing. At the end of the day, even if you're being told that it's not a diet, since you are now watching everything that you eat (and probably paying someone a shit tonne to 'guide you' to the right choices), I'm afraid that you're being lied to. A diet is exactly what it is. At least at the beginning.

What do they say about how it takes eating healthily for 30 day to make it a habit? You may well find after a month of 'intuitive eating' your patterns have changed and this habit has become so ingrained in you that it has stopped becoming a diet and instead become a lifestyle and that is GREAT. But you need to know that when you start, you will be on a diet. At the beginning, it IS a diet. 

By taking on the intuitive eating method, you are turning your back on traditional diets, that much is true. What you are also doing is succumbing to the real 'buzz word' of the moment, which is of course: B A L A N C E. (The word said to you by every single person on Instagram who shares endless photos of themselves looking fierce in a bikini, holding a slice of pizza, that they said they ate because they're all about 'balance', but probably didn't eat because their lifestyle doesn't really permit it). 

In theory, balance, intuitive eating, it's great. Balance is great. Retraining your mind to get you to eat healthily is great. It's something that I wish we had all been taught much, much earlier. So I encourage balance (real balance, not Instagram balance) and I acknowledge that it is a popular choice for people who are watching what they eat. Make the half a loaf of banana bread that you had at midnight last night okay by going for a run today. Eat a shit-tonne of vegetables the day after a night on the tequila. Stick to one pizza a week, that sort of thing. But for ffs, do we have to label that? That's instinctive. That's intuition. That's something that I just know. 

'Intuitive Eating'? I'm already doing that. Trusting my intuition when it comes to my stomach is the thing that has kept me alive all these years and, whilst I love a new hashtag as much as the next girl, I don't really want the way in which I chose to stay alive to become a trend for others to follow on Instagram. #nothanks.