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.  

RIMMEL SUPER GEL NAIL POLISH - A GREAT ALTERNATIVE TO SALON PRICES OR NAH?

Any followers of the blog will probably know that, whilst I might not be anything close to 'beauty blogger ready' most of the time, I do like to have quite nice nails. As any woman out there will know, that is an expensive habit to keep up. £25 a couple of weeks ago is not something to be sniffed at and so a few weeks ago I began my hunt for DIY alternatives, surely in 2017 someone has invented a nail varnish that provides salon quality at home? 

I popped into boots and found what I was looking for quickly, the Rimmel Super Gel Nail Polish at £5.99 a bottle (So that's £12 for the bottom and top coat and then £6 every time you want a different colour after that but still cheaper than the salon right?) and picked it up after I saw the description:

• Only 2 steps to salon quality nails
• Up to 14 days of gel colour & shine
• Apply 1-2 coats of Super Gel colour, followed by Super Gel Top Coat to activate curing
• Quick to apply, remove with nail polish remover
• No UV lamp needed

Perfect, I thought. There are about 20 colours available in this range, not unfortunately in the shop that I was in, so I went for something that I would never normally wear (why Em?!), the 023 Grape Sorbet. 

When I got home I did all the right stuff, I filed my nails, I buffed them and set to work. (I didn't do my cuticles BTW cause who's got the time or the know-how ammi right??) - so what happened?

Day 1 (straight after application)

Initially I was happy with it, it applied easily and dried quickly. It was a tad on the 'thin' side but I think that might have had more to do with the colour rather than anything else. Obviously I'm no nail expert so excuse the slightly shitty job I did. At this point though I was happy and had high hopes for the 14 promised days of perfect (ish) nails.

Day 2:

So not a great start for my poor pinkie nail. The other hand remained perfect though and apart from that one nail everything was fine, I assumed it was my fault as this sometimes even happens after the aforementioned £25 treatment in my local salon. 

Day 3:

So this is when the cracks started to show, pardon the pun. Day 3 and my nails had chipped more than they normally do when painted with nail varnish. In part due to laziness and in part as dedication to this blog post, I decided to keep it on and see if the chipping might stop there...

Day 4:

Yeh no, the chipping didn't stop and at some point I lost the entire coat on my baby finger.

Day 5:

The day that I gave up.

This was last week and I was so disappointed with the results that I actually tried it again this week, just in case it was my fuck up. Sadly, the same thing happened again and so I'm actually booked in at the nail place later today, I've got a wedding to go to this weekend and quite frankly I can't take these with me, even if I did re-apply I don't think I could be sure that it would hold on long enough.

I wanted to love it, to be honest, I really did. I love having nice nails and am all to aware about how lazy I am when it comes to doing them myself, I thought this might be the answer. But for me anyway, it's just not. Your average Rimmel Nail Varnish are all around the £4 mark and so, my advice to everyone, would be to save yourself the extra £8 that comes along with this purchase and stick to that. 

If you're a gel lover it seems the salon is still the place. Having said that, I'm not giving up and vow to try as many as I can on the hunt for a DIY gel nail varnish - I'll keep you posted.

MY FIRST HALF MARATHON - LET SELF DOUBT BE YOUR INCENTIVE...

"If you doubt your ability to finish, do not start." - FUCK THAT.

On Sunday, I ran my first half marathon. I'll say that again, ON SUNDAY, I RAN MY FIRST HALF MARATHON, (thank you, thank you very much) and I'm in absolute bits both mentally and physically. I kept the fact that I was doing this event, a bit of a secret. I thought if I admitted to the world via the magic that is social media then I would be held to account and, until Sunday morning, when I found myself on the start line, I was still fairly sure that I was going to pull out if it.

I signed up to the event about six months ago with my friend Sophie and we were going to run it together. About two months ago though she realised that her knees would not support her on this particular adventure and she had to pull out. Secretly I celebrated, thinking: OK, if she's not doing it, I'm off the hook. Unfortunately however, there were still a few of my friends and family signed up so I kept my reservations to myself. I started running a little bit, a three mile run at first, a five mile run the next week and eventually, just before I went to Barbados at the end of March, a six miler. Whilst away though, my training ground to a halt. Rum punches tasted too good and so, as it turned out, did I, to the sea lice that took it upon themselves to attack my feet. Thanks to the swelling and pain I was unable to wear trainers for the week and by the time I was able to again, I had fallen in love with not doing any exercise and chose instead to put my feet up and not set any alarms. 

Once I returned home though I was reminded that I had less than a month to go and, still toying with the idea of quitting, I thought I ought to go out for a little jog to work out how hard it would really be. Unfortunately the day I chose to run on was the day after the London Marathon and I found myself so utterly inspired by the actions of some extraordinary people that I pulled the ultimate Forrest Gump and somehow found it within me to run 10 miles. Honestly, I don't know how I did it, or WHY I did it but I just kept going. With hindsight, this was really fucking stupid. As it turns out, you can't just run ten miles having not done anything more strenuous than reach for a packet of cigarettes in the month before it. 

I ended up having to see a physio last Friday as the pain in my hip was becoming unbearable. I thought to myself: if he tells me that I've seriously damaged myself, it will be the perfect excuse to pull out. If he fixes me then I will do the run because, if I can run 10 miles, then all I will need to do is a three mile walk at the end of that. Unfortunately, he did neither thing, instead telling me that I had some nerve damage or fluid build up or something in my hip and that I could run without doing any lasting damage but that it would hurt like fuck and I would be crazy. (Direct quote.) Turns out I'm crazy, but I had some more obstacles to overcome before we get to that. 

Still toying with the idea of pulling out on Saturday afternoon, I logged on to the event's website where I read the following sentence: "if you have not trained or have a heavy cold or other febrile illness, you should not run.  Do not expect to achieve what you have not trained for. If you doubt your ability to finish, do not start." IF YOU DOUBT YOUR ABILITY TO FINISH, DO NOT START. What twat wrote that? What evil little shit bag thought that that was an appropriately inspiring message to leave on the website for any nervous race-goers to stumble across? Someone that has had one too many protein shakes in his life probably. At this point I was fully prepared to pull out. In as many words, the website had told me to. Everything around me was telling me to. 

Except my fingers it seems as, on 6am on Sunday morning I had my trainers on, my race-number attached to my top and had written the following introduction to the Pretty Normal Me Monday morning newsletter: "Yesterday I ran a half marathon and it absolutely killed me." - knowing that if I got home later that day, defeated, and had to delete those words, I would never forgive myself. So I ran the bloody thing, and here's what happened: 

8am - arrived at the event, had a cigarette, a nervous wee and totally freaked out when I looked around the carpark and saw hundreds of Mamils (Middle-aged-men-in-lycra) looking totally pro and ready to kick my arse.

9am - start line. I had decided to do this run with my mum, since it was my first one and she is not a quick runner anyway. We both plugged in our headphones (running together but not talking to each other) and ran for the first three miles through the town of Stratford. Christ knows how but we did the first few SO quickly, averaging about 10min20sec miles which was a huge surprise to both of us and eventually the crowd thinned as we all settled into our stride.

Mile 4 - I made my first mistake. The volunteers were really kindly handing out water every two miles and, since it was so hot, I couldn't get enough in me. In training I had never taken any water with me and so it hadn't occurred to me that when you are drinking, you are unable to breath. This really screwed me up and I ended up basically winding myself and totally knocking my confidence. After that I couldn't stop feeling the pain in my hip and talked myself into stopping. I told my mum that I was sorry but that I wouldn't be able to keep going and that she was going to need to go on without me. She thought about this for thirty seconds but concluded that you didn't leave a man behind and encouraged me to get going again. This time, with only one headphone in each so we could talk to each other, we kept going, at a slightly slower pace.

Mile 8 - Somehow, the last four miles had zoomed by and, although by this point I did feel that my hip was on FIRE, I had been able to keep going without too much trouble. That was until the we found ourselves running uphill for about a mile. When I am on the bike I can do any amount of uphill because I know that in a minute it will all go back down again and it will be SO worth it. Unfortunately, it is NOT the same story with running. The downhill that we had 'earned' caught me surprise and put me in more pain that I thought possible, it must have been from the added weight that my joints were taking on what with all the gravity but by the time we got to the bottom I was in screaming pain and had to stop to stretch. This was a HUGE cock up.

Stopping was so painful and I realised to my horror that I could barely even walk. I hobbled my way to a drinks station a few hundred meters away and stopped to stretch. Again I told my mum to go on without me, again, she didn't. I set off at a walk again but found that it was just too painful on my hip and randomly, running was marginally more comfortable, so at an even slower pace the running started again.

(N.B. The amount of people that stopped to ask if I was OK was unreal and they were all so supportive when I started running again that it just melted my heart.)

Mile 11 - Officially running slower than most people were walking at this point and it was about here that I hit the ultimate wall. Walking was agonisingly painful but running was not much better. My head kept telling me to stop but every time I did the pain of walking again had me in tears. With two miles still to go all I could think was TWO MILES IS STILL A REALLY FUCKING LONG WAY and found myself rattling off everything that I knew that was two miles away from my house and how there was no way I could get there. The pace was embarrassingly slow and the tears kept coming but my amazing mum didn't leave my side and the hobble continued.

Mile 12 - Somehow the hardest of all of the miles. The pain was unreal and still, a mile seemed like a long way. This was made so much worse as the course became a really windy little loop to add the distance so although I could hear and see the finish line for ages, I was being herded around totally unnecessary corners that were tearing my soul apart. Hip was beyond painful at this point and I was running at almost half the speed of my first mile.

The last 100 feet - it's funny how pain can vanish isn't it? Upon seeing the finish line mum took my hand and together we picked up the pace. I could see Alex and all my friends and everyone was cheering and I sobbed my way up the final stretch.

The finish line - I had a big cuddle with my mum, got a medal, a banana and a bottle of water and realised that I literally couldn't move another metre. When Alex found me and hugged me I told him that he literally wouldn't be able to put me down again as I was unable to walk so he ushered me away from the finish line and plopped me on the grass where I proceeded to sob uncontrollably.  

I then went home, via the co-op where we picked up cider and crisps, because the thought of this was the only thing that got me round, the non-runners and my mum who is more machine than woman cooked an incredible Sunday lunch whilst I showered and then slept. Although everything hurt and I felt like I had been running for a lifetime, by 1pm we were home and able to spend the rest of the day doing what normal people do on Sundays, reading the papers, enjoying the sunshine and eating too much food. The only MASSIVE annoyance that afternoon was realising 40 miles too late that my half marathon brain had caused me to leave my wallet at a petrol station which made our drive back to London just over three hours: NOT what you need when you're totally exhausted.

So, what did I learn? Well, despite the fact I have not painted a remotely pretty picture, I think I loved it. I am incredibly proud of my achievement and, in a weird sort of way, am really looking forward to the next one. Yes, there will be a next one. One that I will train for properly and not do with an injury and one that I hope to do so much faster. I feel like it will be easier now I know what I am getting myself in for. It will also be easier because I will not make the mistake of reading the bullshit website. 

That sentence really, REALLY pissed me off. Because when I read that, I WAS doubting myself, this was an absolutely huge deal for me and reading that really fucked with my head. What I needed to read was something so much more positive, more supportive and more encouraging. I did not need another excuse to doubt myself. But I suppose the good thing that I did take from that is that I turned my doubt into something powerful. Yes, I was doubting myself, hello, even the website was doubting me, but rather than let them win, I instead found myself having to prove them wrong. And if I'm honest with you, it felt really really good.

I know you get asked this all the time but if you can spare anything, please do donate to my Just Giving page, it was not at all easy and I am raising money for a charity incredibly close to my heart: Help For Heroes. Thank you all xxxx MY JUST GIVING. 

CHECKING YOUR BREASTS: WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR AND HOW TO DO IT

One in two of us will get cancer. That's the scary statistic. That is what we are told. Sometimes we get it because are genetically predisposed to it, sometimes it happens because of our lifestyle and sometimes, it comes from nowhere in particular. It's not choosey, it's not fair, it is pretty fucking shit.

Anyone who has followed the blog for a lone time will know that I am a huge supporter of The Eve Appeal, a charity dedicated to raising money and awareness for all five types of gynaecological cancer. Working with them I have encouraged women to get to know their normal (our vaginas, we need to get to know our vaginas), so that should something suspicious occur, we know what to look for. But it occurred to me that whilst I've been banging on about fannies and discharge and cramps and bleeding and whatnots, I haven't ever really spoken about tits, and I thought it was high time that I changed that.

I follow an INCREDIBLE woman on Twitter @GirlStoleLondon who has been documenting her fight/treatment/journey (there is no good word) with breast cancer. This morning I re-read her blog post about her diagnosis and before I had even finished it, I found myself frantically checking my breasts for lumps, (sorry for feeling myself up whilst reading your blog Lauren) until it occurred to me... I'm not sure what it is that I am looking for here. And I realised that surely I cannot be the only one who has had this thought, I can't be the only one who isn't entirely what she is looking for...

So, in the interest of encouraging women to know their normal 'upstairs' as well as 'downstairs', I thought I would pull together all the information for you so that you know what to look for the next time you cup a hand round your bosom. 

First things first I want to say this: according to CoppaFeel's website, most breast cancers are first detected through self-checking- if that doesn't get you fondling then I honestly don't know what will! They also say that there is no wrong way to check your boobs so that's great too. Having said that, it will be easier when you know what it is that you need to be looking out for:

Statistics on their website show that one in eight women will experience breast cancer in their lifetime and that 400 men are diagnosed with it every year. Guys, it really is worth checking.

It takes 5 minutes to check your breasts. 5 minutes. And yet so many of us are putting it off, me included. Before today I don't remember the last time that I checked my breasts but I am sure that it must have been over a year ago. Why has it been so long? Am I scared? Would that be so wrong if I was? What if I did find something? What if I find something and I go the doctor and they tell me that it is nothing and then I've basically wasted the time of an already VERY overstretched NHS? Worse still, what if I find something and it turns out to be breast cancer? WHAT IF I HAVE GOT BREAST CANCER? (That's the speed that my mind moves at anyway, I suppose I can't really assume everyone is as loopy as me about these things...)

But really, whatever way we look at this, I think we can all agree that it is better to know. Doctors will not, I repeat NOT accuse you of wasting their time in any capacity. They want you to go in if you are worried, they want you to be OK, they are hoping against all hope that they find nothing wrong with you, so that is one thing that you absolutely do not have to worry about. The rest of it? It's normal to be frightened, but the sooner you check, the sooner you'll know and, God forbid there is something wrong? The sooner you know, the sooner it can be dealt with.

I'm sorry if I sound a bit Daily-Mail-Scare-Mongery, that is absolutely NOT my intention, but I did want to bring this up as it is something that is SO important. Let's do this girls, as often as we can. Please. Maybe not at your desk right now (unless your office is totally chilled with a tad 'o breast play) but in the bath this evening, in bed tonight, in the shower in the morning. Please find the time and create this habit. (I'm going to start putting a little reminder at the PNM Newsletter BTW, either subscribe HERE or put a damn reminder on your phone to go off weekly- tweet those to me, I wanna see you do that!).

Also, if you have a moment, please head over to the Girl Stole London website - it is my absolute favourite blog right now and my adoration for Lauren is never ending, it is well worth a read.

THE SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER THAT SAVES MY DRY BROKEN HAIR

I must have tried every single shampoo and conditioner that Boots has had to offer over the years. I have fallen into the trap of believing every marketing campaign ever done and spent a fortune on bottles that promise to ease my frizz and give me soft and silky hair. Treseme, Aveda, John Freida, Elvive, Garnier, Herbal Essences and OGX are just a few of the brands that have graced my shower floor over the last few years and they have pretty much all dried it out, made it greasy or most annoyingly: done nothing at all. 

The thing that annoys me most about this, is that shampoo and conditioner are an investment. Unless you're washing the stuff out with Moet, the idea of using a brand once and throwing the remaining £8 into the bin is not only incredibly annoying, but totally unrealistic and so please trust me when I say that this process has taken a huge amount of experimentation. Having had the words 'waste not, want not' drummed into me as a child, there has never been a bottle that has gone unfinished and the thing that suffered the most in all of this was my hair. 

After years of dry hair treatments that weren't doing me any favours I came to the following conclusion: the problem must be with me. SURELY all of these brands can't be wrong. SURELY other people are having their frizz eased by John Frieda, otherwise: WHY WOULD IT SAY IT ON THE BOTTLE? Perhaps I just need to accept my hair for what it is and find other ways of dealing with it. Introducing my hair oil phase, otherwise known as the 'hissing' period when my straighteners singed my oiled locks and left me with a broken, greasy, mane. This one ended, thankfully, but it was replaced by the inevitable 'hair up' phase - the one that literally saw me pull every strand to the top of my head and leave it there every day so I didn't need to show the world quite how dry and broken my ends had become. I got to the point where I dreaded going to the hairdressers because I knew that they would tell me that they needed to take 'at least another inch off' and it was being removed faster than it could possibly be growing. 

But then. *DRUMROLL PLEASE* my hairdresser suggested something to me which, since we have already established I'm a sucker for a marketing campaign and basically do everything that I am told, I bought. That was the Philip Kingsley Re-Mositurisng Shampoo and Conditioner. AKA the only shampoo that I will ever use, thank you and goodnight. I'm not going to pretend to know what is in it that makes it so damn marvellous and I certainly haven't been paid to say this, I'm literally just telling you the story of how I made my hair look less beasty and more beauty and in this scenario, Philip Kingsley and his team of scientists were my fairy godmothers. 

Since using it my hair has done the following things: grown, stopped looking so dry, dried in a much more manageable way, been something that doesn't drive me absolutely mad. And to be honest that is good enough for me. But if it's not good enough for you and you like the nitty gritty details of things that you put in your hair, here is the official description of the product: Ideal for coarse hair. Coarse hair is hair that feels rough in texture that there is a lot of. This hair type can be either straight or curly but typically is coarse and can be difficult to manage. Gently cleansers, hydrates and strengthens the hair, reducing breaking caused by snapping. The reviews (which all adore it by the way) are all from women with a lot of long, thick or curly and wavy hair, so I suppose you need to judge for yourself if this is something that you will find helpful. 

The only thing that I will say about this product that you might not love, is the price. They are quite expensive, HOWEVER, a little bit goes along way and after two decades of terrible hair I have decided at this point that I would probably pay anything if it meant I'd have smooth and manageable locks. 

The Shampoo
The Conditioner
The Smooth & Shiny Bundle

And while I am here and raving about Philip Kingsley I feel like it is also a good time to mention The Elasticizer Treatment which I believe is the most popular product in their range for the simple reason that it is AHMAZING. I've talked about this before but it is basically a pre-shampoo treatment that moisturizes your cuticles to boost elasticity and bounce. You leave it in for 20 minutes before your shower and ermigaddd I'm obsessed. I also believe that it is responsible with the fact that my hair has grown so much recently. For anyone who is finding that their hair isn't growing at any particular speed at the moment, I can certainly recommend this. 

Mini Bottle (one in picture) Elasticizer
Full size pot Elasticizer

So YES. There you go. To be honest I do love the whole Philip Kingsley range and since discovering them I have not only recommended them to everyone but have deemed it an expense that I can justify. It feels very good to have found something that works for my hair and my only regret is that it took SO long and cost me so much to try every other brand out there!

If you are on the hunt for new shampoo and conditioner but you have different hair needs, check out the rest of the PK range HERE. My mum uses one of the treatments (the swimcap) and my sister uses a the 'no scent' range for her hair and both of them swear by their various ones so perhaps it's worth taking a look!

WHY YOU NEED TO THROW AWAY ALL OF YOUR MAKEUP WIPES IMMEDIATELY.

When it comes to skincare, I have in the past, been frighteningly lazy. I very rarely cleansed my face, I literally never moisturised and the closest I got to really doing anything was scrubbing my face with a makeup wipe.

I'd keep them next to my bed and always felt incredibly proud of myself if I remembered to use them at the end of the day. Feeling that, when I did, I was being responsible and grown up and an all round GOOD adult. I've always owned skincare products; cleansers, toners, exfoliators, moisturisers but they had all found themselves gathering dust. 

I'd also always had quite bad skin. I was lucky enough not to be an acne sufferer but I was not lucky enough to feel confident ever. I would regularly have huge angry red spots on my chin, my nose was a breeding ground for blackheads and the area between my eyebrows was so dry that it wasn't uncommon for big flakes of skin to become detached from my face. (Sorry that's pretty gross).

Anyway, recently I decided that, as a grown woman in her early twenties, who has a pretty good diet, the state of my skin was not only depressing, but also something that I could fix. And fix it I have. 

First came moisturising. My skin drank this like nothing else and I saw an immediate difference. After that I found facemarks and then face oils, gradually my skin improved but still angry spots were appearing. In a last ditch attempt I decided to change the way that I removed my makeup, I started cleansing, only occasionally at first *who can be bothered to do it every night?!* and then, after a while, I drunkenly used my last Simple Cleansing Wipe and somehow, didn't replace it. I didn't even need to as by this point I was hooked on my skincare routine and the difference was ridiculous.

I genuinely, hand-on-heart, promise to God, have not had a PROPER big angry spot for MONTHS. Sometimes I have days where I don't wear makeup just because I can't be bothered and I am 1000% more confident about doing that. There have also been nights where I've thought 'fuck it' and have slept in my makeup but I think I got away with them.

And initially I felt bad, blaming all of this on some little wipes, but after a bit of research, I realised that makeup wipes really were a huge problem. Yes, it probably is slightly better for your skin than sleeping with your makeup on, BUT, they are still so far from good for you. I know that they are literally the most convenient things ever but I'm begging you to think twice about buying them. 

Here is a list of reasons why makeup wipes are the actual worst:

- They're soaked in some ridiculously powerful chemicals. As in, the stuff you had to wear gloves to touch in chemistry lessons at school.

- They'll sit in their packets in shops for well over a year and so require alcohol and preservatives to keep them "fresh."

- They don't actually remove your makeup, all they really end up doing is rubbing all the makeup, oil and dirt around a bit.

- Since you don't rinse your skin after using a makeup wipe, you'll end up leaving a lot of those horrid chemicals on your face which can really irritate the skin! (This is why I was getting such dry skin!)

- The harsh chemicals can cause premature ageing around your mouth and eyes where the skin is sensitive. 

- They're ruining the environment. Slightly off topic maybe, but there is now an average of 35 wipes found for every kilometre of beach and that is getting worse. If you are going to use them: DON'T FLUSH THEM DOWN THE LOO!

Look, I know that you have heard this all before, I know that this is boring and ridiculous and that you probably can't be arsed with all of this, I don't blame you, I was you, deep down, I am you. But investing in good skincare and making time for five minutes of cleansing in the evening has down my skin more good than I thought possible and there is no way I will ever go back now.

So my advice to you is to at least try. It might be a little ambitious to give them up cold turkey at first, and I know that you won't get it right every time, but it is definitely worth trying! They really are devilish those things...

SHOULD I BE SHAVING MY THIGHS?

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

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

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

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

Nah. I didn't think so. 

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

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

EPILATING: THE MOST EFFECTIVE HAIR REMOVAL METHOD?

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

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

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

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

So what is epilating?

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

How do you use it? 

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

Does it hurt more than waxing?

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

Why is it better than shaving?

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

Is it worth the pain?

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

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

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

BRANCHING AWAY FROM SKINNY JEANS...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast. Museli with coconut yoghurt, raspberries and blueberries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEALTHIER HANDBAG SNACKS

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

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

And bugger me. Guys, there's loads. 

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

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

NOM Bars:

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

Deliciously Ella Energy Balls:

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

Yushoi Rice Sticks:

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

Love Raw Bar:

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

Agave Nectar Flapjack:

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

Meridian Cashew Bar:

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

NAKD Cocoa Bars:

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

Pip & Nut Butter:

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

Dried Mango:

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

NOM Popcorn:

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

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

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