Confidence

5 Women To Inspire a Healthier Summer

You can tell we’re now into the summer months (even if the weather doesn’t quite feel like that) because everyone is now even more obsessed with the shape of their bodies. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people around me say “I’ll lose weight for when I go on holiday.”

The most important thing you need to remember is that if you want to lose weight, you need to do it for yourself and you should be doing it for a reason better than because you’re going on holiday. It should be because you want a healthy lifestyle. And to get a bikini body, just do this:-

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but very few real people actually look like those bikini models you see in all the magazines. Instead of worrying about how much you need to suck your stomach in, just enjoy your holiday instead. And remember, being healthy is so much better than being thin.

So if you’re looking to get healthier this summer, here are five women to help inspire you. It’s much easier to exercise when the sun is out and salads are much nicer when it’s not freezing!

  1. Cassie Ho

Since discovering Blogilates a couple of months ago, I’ve become a big fan of Cassie’s. All her workout videos are up on YouTube and are completely free. And, if you subscribe to her mailing list, you have access to a monthly exercise plan where you just do the workouts listed for that day. It’s probably about as simple as it gets…although you actually have to do the exercises too!

http://www.blogilates.com/

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  1. Krista Stryker 

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t exercise because “you don’t have time” then you need HIIT, which basically means you have no excuses!

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all about short, sharp bursts of energy and can burn more calories than 1 hour of steady cardio. Krista’s workouts, part of the 12 Minute Athlete, are designed to push you hard in a short space of time. Her website features workouts and exercise demonstrations. And if you download the App, it comes with a very handy interval timer you can use if you’re brave enough to make your own workouts.

Also, check out Krista’s Instagram for some pretty impressive posts that make you want to try your hand at handstands!

http://www.12minuteathlete.com/about/

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  1. Kris Carr

One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that exercise counteracts all the bad things you eat. Trust me, it doesn’t work like that. The fact my diet isn’t as clean as it could be is probably the reason my body is strong enough to run a half-marathon but I don’t have athlete-style abs!

I first came across Kris Carr while watching the Hungry for Change documentary and her story is a truly inspiring one. After being diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer, she reassessed her lifestyle and used nutrition to boost her immune system.

It’s definitely worth doing some research on her and what she promotes these days. It should inspire you to add a few more greens to your plate at least!

http://kriscarr.com/about/about-kris/

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  1. Lucy Bee

Keeping on the topic of a healthy diet, we need to talk about Lucy Bee and her coconut oil. I definitely think coconut oil is now one of my must haves. It’s so versatile – I use it as a daily moisturiser, eye make-up remover, hair mask, to put in smoothies and as a cooking oil! The actual benefits of coconut oil are endless.

Lucy Bee’s coconut oil is ethically source, is organic and Vegan. Her website is full of tips for using the oil, however you want to use it, and if you follow her on social media, she’s always posting recipes for healthy eating, as well as just generally promoting a healthy lifestyle.

https://www.lucybee.co/about/

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  1. Emma Paveley

It’s pretty much a given that all athletes work incredibly hard and what they put their bodies through makes them more-than-human. The reason I picked Emma is because I used to work with her and saw first hand how much effort she put into everything. And along with all the morning gym workouts or using lunch breaks to practice routines, she was able to resist the many, many cakes our office is notorious for bringing in. If willpower was an Olympic sport, she deserved gold!

As well as being the current British Champion and World No 3. for bodybuilding and making the Ninja Warrior course look like a doddle, she’s now part of Team GB and will take part in Baku 2015. Check out her social media to see how she combines strength and flexibility, making it all look so easy and making you want to push yourself just a little harder.

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So there you have it – five women to help make this summer your healthiest yet. And if you are planning on honing your bikini body this year, do it because you want to and do it the right way! Remember, strong is the new skinny.

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xoxo

The Perfect Body Myth Part 2

A little while ago, I did a blog post on the perfect body and how it didn’t really exist. In relation to that, I wanted to share the below video that I watched this morning. I recently came across Blogilates and started following the workouts, which are great. I also think Cassey is fantastic and she actively helps to provide positive body messages while doing her videos. I’m sure you can agree that she’s in great shape, looking beautiful and healthy. Take a look at the video below and see what you think about body image after it… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsL7W-GHhJA

The Bechdel Test

There’s a lot being discussed at the moment regarding the diversity, or lack thereof, in cinema these days. With the most recent Oscar nominations, there was a bit of an uproar at how it seems to be a white boys club.

Despite some amazing talent out there, women still don’t seem be able to access the same heights as their male counterparts. The highest paid actress in 2014 (Angelina Jolie at $33million) was 10th in the list if you combined males and females. While that amount of money seems very good, if you take a look at the bigger picture, you see some very big female names earning a lot less than the men.

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One of the ways of assessing how female-friendly a film is these days is by using the Bechdel Test. The criteria for it is relatively straightforward. It consists of three rules which must all be met for it to pass the test:-

  1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it…
  2. …Who talk to each other…
  3. …About something besides a man.

You’d be surprised how many films you think would fit this criteria actually don’t.

Obviously, the rules need to be taken with a pinch of salt. You need to consider the context of a film before completely judging it. If it’s a biopic based in a man’s prison, then it’s pretty good odds there won’t be a woman involved. However, if it’s a film where there are plenty of female characters milling around, but not being utilised properly and stereotyped, that’s where we’re going to hit a problem and I think it’s the issues in these sorts of films that need to be addressed.

I’ve taken a look at my own top five films to see if they would pass or fail the Bechdel Test…

  1. The Princess Bride – FAILED

There are only two named female characters in the whole film (Buttercup and Valerie) and they don’t get the chance to interact. I don’t really mind the character of Buttercup, but I do find her a little bit too helpless. And that scene with the ROUS always annoys me because she just stands there while Westley is getting attacked, when she could at least try to help.

2. Some Like it Hot – PASSED

Even if you’re not classing Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as women in this, it still passes the test thanks to the scenes on the train. If you are, then it passes with flying colours!

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3. Life is Beautiful – FAILED

Again, very few named female characters in this. Though the heart of the story comes from the father-son relationship and Guido trying to protect his son in the concentration camp.

4. Lord of the Rings – FAILED

It fails over all three films. Granted, they were working off the original text and Tolkien doesn’t have a great number of female characters (in The Hobbit, Peter Jackson had to create a female character since there were none included in the book). Even though it fails the test, its redeeming factor is that the few named female characters are pretty bad-ass. Case and point, Eowyn’s battle with the Witch King.

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 5. Pan’s Labyrinth – PASSED

A lot of interaction between two female characters here (mother and daughter). Plus it’s a real plus that the central protagonist, Ofelia, is a very strong character, despite being so young.

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How do your own favourite films measure up against the test?

xoxo

The Number 1 Anti-Aging Method? (As shown by Katie Hopkins)

Now, I don’t care for this Katie Hopkins woman very much. I try to ignore any of the nonsense she spouts because I genuinely think she doesn’t really believe anything she actually says, she just mouths-off, knowing it will rile the public and give her attention. As a woman with no discernible talent, how else is she going to get people to pay attention to her?

But recently, I was flicking through some magazine where her name and age was mentioned, causing me to take a slight interest. I read the little two digit number and had a chuckle, before shaking my head, thinking they had got it wrong. Turns out they hadn’t. There, in black text, her age was confirmed as thirty-nine.

Not knowing a lot about her, only having seen the odd photo or video snippet, I had automatically categorised her as late forties/early fifties. Thirty-nine came as a bit of a surprise.

Then I gave it some thought and realised why she looks older than her days.

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The big thing about her at the minute (aside from Ebola-gate) is the fact she has somehow landed a TV show to put on weight so she can moan about people who are more than a size 6 (no, I don’t get it either). I’ll admit, I haven’t watched the show, nor do I plan on wasting any time on watching it, so my information has come from other people who have watched it. The thing is, you can change your body through exercise and dieting as much as you want. You’re always going to be stuck with the same face. And for Katie Hopkins, it seems her vile, hateful comments are seeping out of her pores. Combining that with walking around with a scowl like a cat’s bum-hole has not been good for delaying the aging process.

I know a lot of women who are older than Katie Hopkins who could pass for ten years younger than they actually are. Of course it may fall down to genetics and luck, but all of these women are fun-loving and caring, which always shows through their smiles and the light in their eyes (something Katie Hopkins is sorely missing). I honestly believe this has played a major factor in helping to keep them looking younger and happy. In fact, my own father who is sixty-two and has probably spent half of his life outside, yet never wears SPF, could pass for someone in their early fifties. The most prominent wrinkles he has are smile-lines around his eyes.

Below is a quote from a truly wonderful, beautiful and inspirational woman. If you’re going to take beauty advice from somebody, it’s going to have to be from one of the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

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So as you get older, it’s best to remember that along with looking after your skin, being a loving, caring person seems an effective anti-aging method as anything else. Surely it’s worth a try? Being a nicer person isn’t going to cost you anything. Live life, laugh loads and love properly. I, for one, would much rather look like Audrey Hepburn than Katie Hopkins.

To finish off, just because I love her so much, I’ll leave you with some more Audrey wisdom 😉

xoxo

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The Perfect Body Myth

After a very controversial “Perfect Body” campaign, Victoria’s Secrets have now put an end to it. People have had issues with the way they have paraded impossibly beautiful, slim (and probably slightly photo-shopped) models and essentially made a lot of women feel incredibly inferior. My main issue with it was with the proclamation of the “perfect” body. It’s not just Victoria’s Secret at fault here – most advertising these days uses impossibly beautiful women to flog their products, insinuating that you have to be a certain shape to be happy. It’s taken me just over 25 years to realise this, but there is actually no such thing as a perfect body.

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Like a snowflake, no two bodies are the same. People can exercise all day, every day and go through plastic surgery as much as they want, but stick two people side-by-side and there are always going to be differences. Straight away that contradicts this perfect body myth.

My second point is that beauty is subjective. Just because the modern day advertising machine tells us something is the epitome of beauty, is it really? One person’s idea of what they consider beautiful may differ greatly from the person standing next to them. Then there’s the cultural aspect to consider – one culture may consider one thing attractive but this could be the complete opposite to what a country on the other side of the world considers an attractive feature. You only need to take a look at the great Renaissance paintings to see how the concept of female beauty has changed over time. Today where size zero seems synonymous with being attractive, the subjects of these paintings had bodies that would might make them be considered “plus size” but some people (this being the days long before sit-ups and lunges) yet were considered beautiful.

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Besides, does anyone really want to chase this mythical beast that is perfect body?

I recently read an article by a woman who was doing exactly that and she discussed how having a “perfect” body made her incredibly unhappy. Society had made her believe that to be attractive, she had to be skinny so she spent a lot of time working out. However, when she was down to the weight she wanted to be, she realised her lifestyle and obsession was keeping her from having a relationship. She was so strict about what she ate, she couldn’t go out for dinner dates or generally do anything spontaneous, so her love life was non-existent. Trying to maintain this weight, she spent a lot of her free time in the gym, which in turn led to not having a social life as well.

While health is obviously really important, life is too short to become obsessed with body image. Yes, treat your body right, eat well and exercise – but don’t forget to have fun. Chocolate every so often is not going to kill you. The Victoria’s Secret Angels get that gig because they are obscenely attractive. The reason their roles are so coveted is because so few people actually fit the strict criteria. I’ve got nothing against these women. I think they are gorgeous and could happily stare at the likes of Doutzen Kroes or Alessandra Ambrosio for hours. But while they are stunning, just remember, they don’t represent to majority. And don’t forget, even these beautiful women get photo-shopped for their catalogue shoots (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/29/victorias-secret-photoshop-fail-doutzen_n_1840958.htm). If they need digitally altering, what chance to the rest of us have?

Love who you are and rock what you were given – be your own Angel. To repeat a great quote I heard recently, “don’t chase perfect, chase perfectly healthy“.

Burlesque: A Pro-Feminist Movement.

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Walk into any burlesque show up and down the country and you’ll find that the majority of the audience are women. In fact, a lot of the men in the audience aren’t usually there of their own accord but because they’ve been dragged along by a woman. So why does something that is essentially glorified stripping appeal so much to a female audience?

In this day and age where the standard of female beauty given off by the media is unrealistically unattainable thanks to Photoshop and Size-Zero constantly being thrown in our faces, burlesque offers a refreshing break from this. If you go into a newsagent and take a look one of the many gossip rags for sale, one week a front page will be sporting a feature on some celebrity in a bikini looking unhealthily underweight and the magazine is asking if she is too skinny. But as soon as this same celebrity puts on a couple of pounds and looks healthier, the same magazine is running a front page story asking if she is now too fat. It’s hardly fair and we just can’t win. But go to a burlesque show and you’ll see women of all shapes and sizes, oozing with self- confidence. Dirty Martini is one of the most famous and popular performers in the burlesque universe and she definitely does not conform to the idea that you can only be successful in show business if you are a size zero. Burlesque offers the chance for women to see something that has become almost extinct on the big screen, in music videos or in magazines – a real woman.

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Dirty Martini

One thing I have learnt from the burlesque performers I have met is that they have this incredible ability to see the beauty in everything. Something that might be a personal hang-up to you, they immediately spot the positive and can make you feel better about it. With encouragement like that, it soon becomes one of your favourite features.

The burlesque industry is a unique kind of industry which inevitably leads to close friendships, due to having others around you who understand that world when the majority of society doesn’t. The camaraderie that can exist between the women is incredible. After my very first show, I was astounded at how well everyone else looked out for me over the course of the evening. If you ever get the opportunity to try out a burlesque workshop, do it! Even if you don’t actually want to be a performer and simply want to go to gain a bit of confidence and learn a new skill (there’s nothing wrong with adding another string to your bow) it’s an incredible experience just because of the people you meet. The environment makes you leave any self-confidence issues at the door and exult in being a woman, helped on by the encouragement of the other women in your workshop who most likely felt the same as you at the very beginning. You’ll finish the workshop with some new moves, a new outlook and some incredible new friends. Granted you are always going to come across the catty woman who doesn’t fit this description (and really, really wants that job you want) but that’s life and you’ll find the catty woman wherever you go

The industry also teaches what can be achieved with a little hard work – an important lesson that seems to by-pass some people these days. Whether painstaking hours of gluing rhinestones onto costumes to the point you can’t see straight anymore or repeatedly listening to the song for your act while you practice the moves until you end up hating a song you used to love, most performers put a lot of thought and effort into their acts. But at the end of the day, when the act is complete and when you hear the cheers and applause from your captivated audience, it all becomes worth it.

Burlesque is an important aspect for the female race. It teaches you to love your body and to see the beauty of the female form, no matter how it might be formed. Burlesque doesn’t judge you; it just wants to entertain you.

Feminism doesn’t have to be doused in Germaine Greer-esque sourness. It can be glittery and wear nipple tassels. Whatever you do, as long as you are doing it for you (and are completely owning it) to make yourself feel good, that’s where true female empowerment comes from.

Summer is Coming…Kind of.

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It is that time of year again. Summer is so close, we can almost smell it (the fact I put the heating back on in the house for an hour today is completely irrelevant). Pick up any magazine at the moment and it will probably inform you that summer is on its way and it is time to prepare for dun-dun-duuun bikini season. Those two words that send shock waves through the female population.

I am actually super-organised this year and have already purchased my new bikini – a nice little red number from Boux Avenue. Highly recommend this as a place to buy your summer swimwear because their selection is gorgeous and they actually do bigger cup sizes in these designs. (Should we really have to choose between style and support? Come on.) Plus, it’s worth getting an order from Boux simply for the way it arrives in its lovely box and pretty tissue paper…

 

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The sad thing though is of the holidays I have booked this year, the one I actually require the bikini for is in Iceland in October. Terrible planning! Though I have agreed with my friends we will make a conscious effort this summer to drive to the beach as much as possible this year, even if it is only to Felixstowe.

For all things bikini based, there is a website called A Bikini a Day (http://abikiniaday.com/). Now when I first heard about this, I was incredibly wary of it because I assumed the people running it would just be taller, slimmer, blonder and more tanned than me. Turns out this is all true. But the website isn’t as pretentious as I thought it would be and I subscribed to their daily email because there are some good tips on there.

The main thing the magazines I mentioned above will probably be focusing on is summer diets. Can I just say now – please don’t diet! They do not work and they’re not good for you. Don’t force yourself to stop eating. You shouldn’t give up eating properly just because it’s summer, it should be a lifestyle change for a healthier you all year round. Cut back on the junk, obviously, but add in some good stuff and add in some exercise. Trust me, this a better way than sitting around counting the 500 calories you’re supposed to be eating for that day. There is no magic solution, just eat right and get moving and learn to love yourself! Granted, I still wish my stomach was flatter and my arms a bit more toned, but since making exercise a regular part of my life, I’m the happiest with my body I have ever been. I’m fit, strong and most importantly, not hungry!

I have just started to doing the Squat Challenge to work my bum a bit more for the bikini (you can google the plan and download a copy). I’m used to doing squats in the fitness classes I do but now I’m starting to hit the days where I’m feeling the word challenge! If anyone fancies giving it a go, download a copy and tweet me at the address in the side bar to let me know how you get on. J

So let’s start to stock up on the SPF and all join together in some kind of Sun Dance to make sure things go right this year and we all make the most of it. And remember, the best way to wear a bikini is with confidence!

Lots of Love

Megan

xoxo