about eating disorders

About Eating Disorders: Do You Know The Symptoms?

Last week at a networking event I used my member spotlight to talk about Eating Disorders.  The response I received was overwhelmingly supportive. One attendee said that she had goose bumps listening to me speak.

about eating disorders

I speak from my heart, as someone who battled anorexia for over 20 years. As a result I am passionate about raising awareness of eating disorders.

It’s my belief that we need to keep improving our understanding about eating disorders.

The more we understand about these mental health conditions will help others. Both in terms of those who are suffering as well as their loved ones. By educating ourselves we make it easier to look out for others.

I feel very strongly that some professions need to have a greater awareness about eating disorders.  For example fitness instructors, as exercising to dangerous levels is symptomatic of an eating disorder, particularly anorexia.

But today I want to talk about a demographic not automatically associated with eating disorders, older women. There is still a misconception about eating disorders.  They are something that happens to adolescents or teenagers. They are a young person’s disease associated with puberty. Eating Disorders have no boundaries in terms of age, socio-economic group, race or gender.

About Eating Disorders And Older Women

It is difficult to assess how many women suffer from eating disorders from mid-life through to senior years. As, on average, people take up to 3 years to seek help.

A study in Australia in 2006 among women 60-70 years of age, 60% said they were dis-satisfied with their body. 4% met the criteria for an Eating Disorder diagnosis.

Women who are diagnosed with eating disorders as they get older, fall into one of three categories:

  1. Those who have secretly battled with eating issues for years, but have never been diagnosed or sought treatment.
  2. Women who were treated for an eating disorder as a young woman and the symptoms resurface
  3. Those who have not previously suffered from an eating disorder.

There can be many reasons why older women start to suffer or why an eating disorder resurfaces. I was 44 when my father died. He’d been my rock since a child and we had an incredibly close relationship. As I grieved I became conscious that I was slipping back into old patterns of behaviour. It took a lot of willpower to realize that wasn’t the solution.

Why Do Older Women Start To Suffer?

Let’s be clear eating disorders are not about food. They are about a loss of control in someone’s life. They manifest in the perception that by controlling food intake the sufferer regains control.

eating disorders are not about food

This was something that I took a long time to realize about myself. I thought for ages that it was about my desire to be the slimmest, the fittest and most desirable.

It was years after my recovery that I realized that I felt out of control in aspects of my life.   When I was 13 my mother was diagnosed with MS, then suffered a complete nervous breakdown. I felt out of control and unable to help her.

Catalysts for eating disorders are often several stress factors.  The stress leads to the sufferer feeling out of control:

  • Death of a parent
  • Parenting troubles
  • Divorce
  • Children leaving home
  • Menopause
  • Fear of aging
  • Financial difficulties
  • Career stagnation
  • Isolation and loneliness

Add to this Society’s perception of the desirable body shape.   How we admire and respect celebrities and public figures that look amazing despite their age. It’s a cocktail that has the ability to reap havoc.

So What Should I Look For?

Anyone who suffers from a compulsive or addictive disorder can be extremely good at disguising his or her behaviour. In my case, not even my husband knew the full extent of what I was doing to myself. He was not always aware of the extreme levels of exercise that I undertook.about eating disorders and exercise

For example, we were out with friends for the day and returned to their house for a late afternoon barbecue. I insisted on driving home to feed the cat before we started the barbecue. While I was there I put on my trainers and went for a run!

The ability to hide signs and symptoms is backed up by new statistics from a survey conducted by YouGov. The survey questioned UK adults’ knowledge when it comes to spotting the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder:

  • 34% were unable to name a correct sign or symptom
  • 23% listed physical signs only
  • 79% couldn’t list a psychological symptom

Signs and symptoms of eating disorders can be categorized into behavioural, psychological and physical signs.

There are several types of eating disorders and by nature of this the signs and symptoms will differ for each.

BEAT which is the leading UK charity on Eating Disorders has a detailed list by eating disorder type on its website.

 

BEAT Is Calling On The Government

Each year as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, BEAT focuses on an aspect of Eating disorders. The charity campaigns to raise greater awareness. This year the campaign is focused on early intervention and is called #whywait

On Tuesday 27th February, Parliament will be debating eating disorders and early intervention. The Charity is campaigning to get as many MPs as possible to attend.

Beat is asking you to contact your MP as your voice in Parliament to ask them to attend the debate.

By completing the form on Beat’s website, you will send an email to your MP asking them to attend.

The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.

Thanks for reading this post. If you feel brave enough to share your own experiences, then please feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error
eating disorders are not about food

725,000 Are Affected By An Eating Disorder

eating disorders are not about food

725,000 people suffer from an eating disorder in the UK according to a recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers*.

Women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, although the study found 11% of sufferers were men.

Adolescence is often the time that an eating disorder surfaces. But they have been diagnosed in children as young as 6 and adults in their 70s.

There are three main categories of eating disorders Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating.

10% of eating disorders are diagnosed as Anorexia.  Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

You cannot tell if someone is suffering from an eating disorder by looking at them.

So Why Am I Sharing This?

I planned to publish this post during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but something held me back. I battled with the ‘should I/shouldn’t I’ monster for a few days and before I knew it, I’d missed the window.

But last week I had an inspiring discussion with someone who had overcome eating disorders.  She had both bulimia and anorexia. It was that conversation that led me to kick the ‘shouldn’t I monster’ into oblivion. Awareness week may be over but this doesn’t mean we should forget or ignore eating disorders.

eating disorder monsters

My Eating Disorder

As a child I suffered from continual bouts of tonsillitis, which made eating painful. I was 6 when I had a tonsillectomy and then I discovered food!

My mother, ecstatic that she no longer had a fussy eater, overcompensated! The result – one overweight child!

But at the same time I was receiving mixed messages.

My mother was always on a diet and would live on crisp bread and lo fat cheese long before it became fashionable to do so!

While I do not blame my parents, it’s often said that children who develop an eating disorder have one parent they idolize that pushes them hard. Enter my Dad! He had the best intentions, but put me under enormous pressure.

Telling a family friend that I’d got 98% in a French test, she remarked you must be proud.

Dad’s response was Carol’s disappointed she didn’t get 100% – err no she wasn’t actually! Given that I was 11 at the time and still remember this as if it was yesterday …

eating disorder parent pressure

Leaving school at 16 at college I lost weight, gained shape and self-confidence. I started to feel good about the way I looked.   My confidence suffered a huge setback though when my boyfriend made a negative remark about my figure.

Years later I realized this was the ‘trigger’ that sent my teenage desire to look good into an obsession that spiraled out of control.

For 20 years I was an anorexic/functioning anorexic/recovering anorexic as I battled with my own self-esteem issues and the desire to have control.

At my lowest point I was almost hospitalized a couple of times. As other sufferers can testify, deception becomes an art form. So while the admission forms were being prepared I set about convincing the medical team that hospitalization was not necessary. Once the pressure was off I slid gracefully back into my pattern of self-destruct behaviours.

 

How did my eating disorder affect my life?

Putting aside the physical signs and symptoms, Anorexia is a mental health disorder.  It is much more than an eating disorder.

It’s complex and manifests itself in different ways. Let me share with you how anorexia gave me a the control over my life that I didn’t believe I had.

The scales governed my mood for the day. I would weigh myself every morning.eating disorder scales

If the needle had gone down it would be a good day, stayed the same it would be okay, gone up and disaster!

I would immediately be thinking of ways I could reduce my food intake, purge my body, fit in another exercise class to burn more calories.

I was addicted to routine. The idea of spontaneity filled me with horror.   The suggestion of going out for a meal without enough planning of how I could burn off the inevitable extra calories would bring me out in palpitations.

The closest I got to this was a barbecue with friends – we’d been out for a drink and they invited us back for an impromptu barbecue. I made the excuse that I had to go home and feed the cat.

On arriving home I put on my running gear and headed out for a run, so that I felt I could justify eating. I then showered, fed the cat and headed back to the party.

eating disorder barbecue

The more that people commented on my slender figure, the more this encouraged me. I was being admired, as I’d not been as a chubby teenager.

It certainly affected my career. I lacked self-confidence and didn’t push myself forward. It was easier to stay in jobs that I’d outgrown than to risk my fragile self esteem teetering on the edge of my comfort zone.

 

How Did I Overcome My Eating Disorder?

That’s a really good question!

It certainly wasn’t an epiphany and neither was it the result of therapy, a life event or wakeup call.

It was a step by step process. I came to terms with food and not purging my body whenever I felt I had overeaten, before I cut down to more moderate levels of exercise!

Running, swimming and step aerobics every day (yes, all three!) finally took its toll on my body! I ignored injuries and did not give my body a chance to recover.

At my worst I insisted on going running on icy pavements with my arm in plaster.

On another occasion I ended up in hospital under observation, having gone running while suffering from concussion.

eating disorder exercise addiction

My running shoes were packed and taken on almost every holiday. Although even I couldn’t figure out how to get a decent run in when we went skiing! But that meant I would only go to hotels with a decent sized pool so that I could finish a six-hour skiing day with a mile swim!

Finding out I couldn’t have children sent me on a guilt trip. It was never diagnosed if this was down to AN. However, I saw a positive side, as I’d never have deal with a post pregnancy tummy!

When my marriage ran into the rocks my immediate reaction was that the stress would mean I’d lose weight!   A lifeboat saved my marriage but had little effect on my body image.

But as for recovery? It was a gradual process of coming to terms with my body and starting to realize that I didn’t need to be a size 6 to be happy. Injury meant I had to find new ways to exercise and establish a more balanced lifestyle.

Who To Turn To?

If you have or believe you have an eating disorder, it is important to find someone to talk to. If you do not feel that you can talk to anyone you know then Beat* offers a helpline and lots of advice.

Eating disorders are tough not just on the sufferer but on loved ones too. Sufferers will say that it’s vital for their recovery to have the unconditional love and support of their family and those around them.

My own experience showed this to be the case. Looking back I wasn’t always fun to be around. Despite my behavior, I was lucky that my family was always ready to pick up the pieces.

If you suspect that a loved one, friend or colleague has an eating disorder getting advice on how to approach them is vital. Beat has some great support and information.

Remember that an eating disorder is complex but can be treated, once the sufferer is ready to acknowledge the problem.

Do you have any experiences to share about eating disorders?  If so I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Please share this post on social media, together we can create more awareness and help others.

 

*PwC – The Costs of Eating Disorders – Feb 2015 – commissioned by Beat.

Beat is the UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape

Please follow and like us:
error
exercise the physical benefits

Workout Clothes Bad For Your Body?

You have got your gym mojo and love your workouts, but what about your workout clothes?

Do you have to have the most amazing trainers but can’t remember the last time you thought about a new sports bra?

Or do you struggle to get to the gym and are very conscious that others are watching you when you are there?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then I’d love you to read this post and you can also download my FREE guide to workout clothes for your body shape!

You will have a much more enjoyable workout if you feel good about the way you look. I have an outfit that I wear for my favourite classes. My workout clothes make me feel great and it shows in my performance.

exercise improves self-esteem

Trainers are Tops!

The footwear you have for working out is not a fashion accessory!

I speak from personal experience.   When I started to do high impact workouts I wore the wrong trainers and paid for it in aches and pains! Let alone a couple of dramatic ankle twists and torn ligaments!

If you’re not sure where to start find a retailer who offers gait analysis. Tell the retailer what you plan to do, how often and if you’re a runner, the distances and terrain.

Gait analysis involves running on a treadmill while being filmed. This is then played back at slow speed to see how your feet land to assess the best products for you.

Longer term if you do find yourself suffering from aches and pains in your lower body it may be worth seeing a Podiatrist, as you may need orthotic inner soles.

Finally before I climb down from my soapbox, don’t expect trainers to last forever.

Their lifespan will depend on the bashing you give them in terms of the types of workouts and intensity.   This doesn’t mean buying cheap styles to compensate for replacing them regularly.

Workout Clothes Trainers

Quick Tip: How to pay less for your trainers

If you find a brand and style you like, note the model number. You’ll probably find the next time you go to look for that style it’s been updated by a new model at a higher price. But search online for the original model number. The chances are you will be able to find the original discounted.

 

Good Foundations

The next most important item in your gym bag is your sports bra. Not wearing the proper support when you are working out may cause you breast pain in the short term. But the long-term effects are irreversible damage to the breast tissue and ligaments, causing boob droop!

The style and amount of support you need will depend on the type of workouts you do and your cup size.

Workout Clothes Sports Bra

Low Impact Workouts – Pilates, Yoga and Floor Based Workouts

You will need straps that stretch or adjust.

It’s important that straps stay on your shoulders when you bend.

Avoid back clasps as these may dig in.

D Cup or more then consider underwired sports bras.

 

Medium Impact Workouts – Cross-Training, Cycling and Boot Camps

You want freedom of movement and support. Look for styles that are not too tight round your ribs but do conceal your cleavage. This de-risks an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!

Cross Straps can be helpful to give support without restriction.

Again if you are D+ then I recommend underwired styles.

 

High Impact Workouts – Running, Kickboxing and Contact Sports

You need to protect against bounce! You are at more risk of suffering from discomfort caused by sweating and chaffing.

Look for moulded or underwire cups, wide straps and fabrics such as polyester or nylon, with spandex to give the best support.

For D+ cup sizes look for padded straps to give extra comfort and protection against chaffing.

 

It’s All In The Tech!

Before we even consider what styles to buy, consider the following points about workout clothing.

You may have heard the term Wicking Technology and wondered what it meant! It simply refers to breathable fabrics.

These are fabrics that have been developed to take the moisture away from your skin. The fabric draws sweat away from your skin to the exterior of the fabric.

The moisture is more easily evaporated from the exterior of the fabric.

Many of the big brands in fitness clothing have their own technology, for example freshFX® technology by LYCRA®.

Do not be tempted to ‘go natural’ and wear 100% cotton fabrics. The fabrics will become wet, heavy and will chafe.

Look for garments with at least 15% Elastane. These will hold their shape and have a better fit.

When your workout gear starts to take on an odour of its own, it’s time to shop for some more! You can prolong the life of your gym kit by ensuring you wash it immediately after a workout.

Workout Clothes Fabrics

Clearly the same rule applies to colour for workout gear as much as any other clothing. Darker colours will help you to look slimmer.  Equally wearing colours in your colour palette as far as they are available in gym gear.

If black is not in your colour palette and makes you look tired and drawn, imagine how it will look if the lighting is bright and you’ve had a hard day!

Beware of pale colours, particularly plain or colour block designs. These will show up the damp wet patches more than darker colours or prints.

Use prints and patterns wisely – larger prints will make a small person look smaller. Equally smaller prints will make a large person look larger.

Horizontal patterns or lines will create width vertical lines will help you look taller.

Workout Clothes Body Shape

Hopefully this post has given you some useful points on what to consider before you buy workout clothes.

It’s very easy to be drawn to fabulous looking trainers, bright colours or fabulous patterns when the priority should be functionality with workout clothes.

It’s also easy to become overwhelmed by all the ‘Geek Speak’ about fabric technology when in fact it is quite simple. Does it draw moisture away from your skin?

But having understood the basics it would be helpful to know what to styles to select for your body shape and where to buy?

Why not download a copy of my FREE Guide Workout In Style where I explain what you should be looking for in Workout Clothes For Your Body Shape

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error
pregnant woman

80% of Pregnant Women Hate their Bodies

What better time to show off your beautiful body than when you are pregnant?

You do believe your body is beautiful?

Sadly 80% of women struggle with their body image when they are pregnant.

If you are pregnant and suffer from body confidence issues you may be consumed with guilt and anxiety.

  1. Guilt because you should be celebrating the miracle of new life growing inside you. However instead you’re just worried about your own body image.
  2. Anxiety that these negative feelings may transpire into resentment towards your baby. You may not love your baby as you feel you should because he or she has caused these changes to your body.

It’s important to acknowledge that these feelings are normal and that you’re not going to be a bad mother because you have these emotions.

woman pregnant body confidence

Having a maternity wardrobe that helps you to look and feel fantastic is a great way to improve your body image.  If you feel you look dowdy or frumpy when you are pregnant your body confidence is not going to be at its highest!

To help you I’ve compiled my five top tips to help you with your maternity wardrobe.

1. Underneath It All!

The most important item in your pregnancy wardrobe will be your maternity bras.   You want the maximum comfort and support for your growing tender breasts.

I would strongly recommend that you go to a lingerie specialist and have a proper fitting and get advice on the styles that are right for you.

You will want to consider looking as you start to outgrow your current bras.   This may be around 8-10 weeks but will vary between women.

Sleeping bras can also be a good investment to give you more support and comfort at night.

As for pants you may wish to continue with your G-strings and good for you!

Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to wear Bridget Jones Pants, there are alternatives which will help you to feel sexy and attractive.

You can elect for some pretty maternity thongs which sit under or over your bump, depending on what style you prefer.

heels

2, Move Over Heels

If you are a heels devotee, unable to countenance a life without your stilettos, giving them up is going to be difficult. Heels may give you confidence and you may feel frumpy wearing flats. But you will be more comfortable.

There are also sound medical reasons why you should put your heels away:

  • The increase in your body weight and changes to your body shape change your centre of gravity. This means you walk less steadily.
  • Your pelvis becomes more flexible during pregnancy as hormone changes help to make your body ready to give birth. The downside is that you may suffer lower back pain. Wearing heels changes your posture and may exacerbate backache.

If you really cannot cope with life without heels then at least lower the inches or keep them for special occasions.   If you want to wear heels for an occasion then maybe take a pair of comfortable shoes too for backup!

3. Comfort – Embrace It!

This doesn’t mean you need to spend your pregnancy in leggings and a baggy top.

You want to be comfortable in your clothes and not distracted by what you’re wearing, so consider the following:

  1. Fabrics – stretchy jersey will be more comfortable than stiff fabrics.
  2. Keep it natural – your body temperature will rise during pregnancy, natural fibres will keep you cooler than synthetics
  3. Accessorize –you don’t have to sacrifice style – dress up those simple leggings and tops with bold accessories
  4. Avoid buying clothes such as jeans in a bigger size to accommodate your bump. Pregnancy jeans are designed to give you comfort and style.
  5. Pregnant during the colder months? If you don’t want to invest in a coat to sit over your bump – consider a poncho.
  6. Maternity Camis – great wardrobe staple over which you can add a draped jacket or loose chunky knit sweater

pregnant woman in bikini

4. Don’t Lose Your Style

You will have more confidence if you express your style personality.

Do you think you should be dressing differently now that you’re pregnant? Perhaps as a Mum to be you feel that you should dress a little more conservatively than your pre-pregnancy style. Hell no!

Let me offer you some examples, depending on your style type:

  1. If you are a glamour girl, then consider a jumpsuit or simple dress in plain dark fabrics with bold jewellery to show off your beautiful cleavage!
  2. If you’re more of a boho romantic then maxi dresses will be perfect for you.  Look for Empire Line and for a bit of boho meets rock chick add a  leather jacket to finish the look
  3. Prefer a more natural style?  Then consider a boyfriend shirt or a long sleeveless jacket over a cami top and jeans.

pregnant woman

5. Before You Go Shopping…

Think about your lifestyle.   Remember your wardrobe needs to work for you and not the other way round!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What time of year is your bump going to be at its largest?
  2. Do you have any occasions coming up that you need to plan for?
  3. What items in your wardrobe can you still wear during pregnancy?
  4. What is your dress code at work?
  5. Where are the gaps in your wardrobe?
  6. If you are working out consider maternity gym wear
  7. Do you want to be able to wear your maternity wear post partum?
  8. Will you be going on holiday with a bump?
  9. What’s your budget?

Now compile a list or a vision board whichever works for you! Think about what you need before you hit the shops or Internet!

First stop will be to get your maternity lingerie fitted.   There are a lot of national department stores who offer a bra fitting service.   In my own experience I’ve found independent lingerie boutiques to be the most helpful.    My advice is to check out with friends or mums & bumps groups to find out who they recommend in your area.

There are lots of brands that offer maternity clothes.  Some of the high street brands have been criticized for being too frumpy. There are notable exceptions including Topshop who offer a more modern approach on maternity wear.

If Topshop is not your style there are some fabulous collections such as US Brand Hatch available in UK on Net A Porter. This brand is more expensive but the clothes can be styled to wear long after pregnancy.

Seraphine offer a boutique style and have a fabulous section on party wear – glamorous dresses to show off your bump!  Seraphim also offers a good range of workwear if you need to look smart during working hours.

 

pregnant

 

If you have experience of putting together a wardrobe when you were pregnant do you have any tips for mums to be about their wardrobe?  If so I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error
Image Bri Mansys

#DisabilityFight4FashionRight

Welcome to Part Two of my interview with Gemma Flanagan.

In Part One we looked at Gemma’s story and how from being an active young woman travelling the world for her job, she ended up in hospital completely paralysed.    How she was in hospital for almost a year and has had to come to terms with life in a wheelchair.

In this second part of the interview we explore the work of Models of Diversity (MOD).  Angel and her team are challenging the perceptions of beauty as portrayed by the fashion, beauty and media industries.  They are campaigning for change, inclusion and equality.

In this second part we will explore the campaign #DisabilityFight4FashionRight.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

I will share with you how important the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight campaign is, not simply for people with disabilities who want to make a career of modelling.  This campaign has a much wider impact offering inspiring role models to others.

Beauty is diverse across the full spectrum of Society.  There are many beautiful men and women who would not fit into the conventional and frankly outdated sense of what is defined as beauty by the fashion, beauty and media industries.

CH: MOD is more than simply fighting for acceptance of disability on the catwalk and is having some great wins – would you please share some of these with us?

GF: For a start diversity embraces much more than just disability. It includes ethnicity, age, size, height, non-binary gender.

Yes we are having some fantastic wins and that we have some businesses and brands we’re talking to. Unfortunately there are a lot who are not so enlightened and so it’s slow progress.

We are in discussion with various brands and some are really embracing what we’re doing. Top Shop are meeting with us and discussions are ongoing.   Jack Eyers is part of this Men’s Fashion Week for TopMan.

Male Disabled Models seem to be more readily accepted and I think that’s because of the association of War Veterans.

CH: Is the UK different from other countries in its approach and acceptance of diversity in the fashion industry and if so how?

GF: The UK is certainly behind other countries. Take the US as an example

There is certainly more diversity in New York Fashion week. In February this included our own Jack Eyers who was on the catwalk. The first amputee to feature in New York Fashion Week.

US Brand Nordstrom takes a more inclusive approach using models who would be considered diverse in all of its shows.

The UK does lag behind not just the US but other countries in Europe.   Our culture is much more reserved. We seem to be more awkward about embracing and celebrating diversity.

Image by Chio Photography

Image by Chio Photography

CH: Is there any sense that the fashion industry will use diversity simply to gain public approval, be seen as ‘doing the right thing’, an act of tokenism?

GF: Sadly there are indeed acts of tokenism. With a ‘hey look at us’ approach and the media attention dies and life returns to the way it’s always been.

We want it become just normal practice.

Our message is very clear.  We are passionate about not having special treatment.

We don’t want to be taken on as models because we are disabled, or due to our ethnic origin etc.

We want to be accepted as models because we have the attributes required for a model: Beauty, confidence, we are professional, able to take direction.

What we are campaigning for is not to be treated differently and to have a level playing field.

 

CH: Of course the campaign that MOD is fighting for is so important for anyone who wants to work in the fashion industry, but what are the effects for people outside the industry

GF: With over 80% of people suffering from body confidence issues it’s so important to celebrate beauty in all its forms.

Before my illness I was size 8, toned and tall. GBS has meant that my body shape has gone through many changes.

I know how seeing someone that I could have related in a role that is all about being visible would have helped me to get through an incredibly tough time in my life.

Our campaign is much more than the modeling industry. We want retailers to think more about Diversity.

  1. How many mannequins do you see in wheelchairs?
  2. Disabled changing facilities are often used as storage space?
  3. Which retailers provide a lower counter facility for wheelchair users?
Image by Tim Los Hemmingway

Image by Tim Los Hemmingway

CH: As an Ambassador for MOD and its campaign for Diversity can you tell us a bit about the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight and what you want to achieve?

GF: To put it simply we are 4 disabled women addressing exclusion of disability in Fashion.

We want to see fairness and equality. We do not want to be shamed or excluded.  We wear clothes, so why shouldn’t we be represented in the Marketing and Advertising campaigns that the industry generates?

Our #DisabilityFight4FashionRight Campaign is simply to ask the Government to Enforce & Regulate strict guidelines to the multiple areas of this industry.

On September 18th 2015 we launched our petition at the House of Lords.   We met with Baronness Benjamin and Baronness Hussein-Ece who were happy to add their support to our campaign.

We have until 23rd March to get 100,000 signatures for the Government to consider this for Parliamentary debate.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

DisabilityFight4FashionRight

 

CH: Are people being supportive? How are you raising awareness of the campaign?

GF: We had a great response when we launched. But we’ve still got a long way to go.

We are starting launching a UK tour on 30th January and we’re hoping that this will generate more publicity.

It’s actually harder to get the disabled community engaged, their concern is that we’re trying to make money out of disability – nothing could be further from the truth!

None of us get paid for what we do!   We are all volunteers. A lot of modeling shoots and fashion shows are done to generate publicity – we don’t earn from them.

However, as our #DisabilityFight4FashionRight campaign is for equality, this will include embracing engaging models on equal terms.

DisabilityFight4FashionRight Tour

CH: How can we support Models of Diversity?

GF: Please, Please sign the petition.  We want as many people as possible to see the #DisabilityFight4FashionRight  campaign and have a chance to support us.

To get this out to as wide an audience as possible we are asking for everyone to SHARE this campaign.

Please put a link on your Facebook Profile, Twitter Feed, Instagram and wherever you hang out online.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who does sign for #DisabilityFight4FashionRight as you are supporting inclusion and fairness.

*Part 1 – read more if you missed how Gemma’s life changed almost overnight – from traveling the world to lying paralysed in hospital.

 

Please follow and like us:
error
Image by Paul Cummings Photography

Gemma Flanagan an Inspiring Model

Gemma Flanagan lived a life that many would envy.   Travelling all over the world, partying in some exciting cities and getting paid it!

Gemma was a member of BA’s cabin crew until 2011 when her life changed forever.

Within a week of starting to notice slight tingling, Gemma ended up in hospital completely paralysed, where she stayed for almost a year. Gemma had been struck down by Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)*1, a condition that affects only 1 in 100,000 people.

I met Gemma last year when Angel Sinclair invited me to provide clothes for her Models of Diversity Catwalk Show in Shepherds Bush Market.

In this 2-part interview you can learn about Gemma her amazing courage and positive attitude.  In this part we talk about her illness and recovery.  In part 2 we will discuss the amazing work that Models of Diversity Does and how you can help.

Gemma Flanagan

 CH Hi Gemma can you please introduce yourself and your current role, plus your really exciting news!

GF: Hi I’m Gemma Flanagan I’m the Assistant Director of Disability for Models of Diversity. When I’m not campaigning for Models of Diversity (MOD) I am a fashion model, but this is also an extension of my role for MOD.

I’m so excited that I got engaged at Christmas!! We went to look at our first wedding venue last night and it made me realize just how real it is now!!  We are just celebrating our fourth anniversary.

 

CH: Your life changed forever in 2011 – what happened?

GF: I was on a stopover in Vegas and realized that I wasn’t feeling quite right.

My feet started to feel strange.  I had pins and needles and my legs felt heavy – Sounds daft but I put it down to the 6” heels I’d been partying in!

On the return flight I felt really tired and thought I’d been overdoing things.   I was due to report for my next flight to Nairobi 2 days later.

I made it out of the door and on to the street (in full uniform!) only to collapse in the street. I struggled to get up. The weird thing was that I was in no pain. I just couldn’t walk.

Gemma Flanagan Before & After GBS

 CH: Presumably you didn’t make the flight to Kenya?

GF: Hardly! My flatmate took me to a WalkIn Clinic – not surprisingly they were really unsure what to do with me!  So I ended up in A&E and was admitted to hospital for tests.

It was then that things started to get a bit scary as they mentioned stroke, meningitis and tropical diseases as possible causes for my symptoms.

The doctors confirmed the diagnosis as GBS* after a lumbar puncture.

From that point things deteriorated really quickly – within a week of being admitted to hospital I’d lost my swallowing reflex and was totally paralyzed. I was literally trapped within my own body.

 

 CH: How frightening it must have been to go from being an able bodied person to being completely paralyzed?

GF: The doctors kept telling me that it was a mild case and I was really calm.

However, I did get a bit hysterical when I’d been in hospital for 4 days and a friend who was visiting asked what was wrong with my face.

My face had totally dropped on one side. It sounds so vain but that was the point I got a bit upset!

I was moved to Intensive Care (ICU) for two weeks, when the paralysis kicked in.  This was despite the fact that I still didn’t think I was ill enough to warrant being there!!

After 2 months it stopped deteriorating and I was transferred to Liverpool. In January 2012 I entered rehabilitation.

Image by Matt Jamie

Image by Matt Jamie

 CH: What did the rehabilitation involve?

GF: It was tough with 6 hours per day of therapy.

As the nerves start to recover they become hypersensitive. This involves a burning sensation so intense it’s like an electric shock you can’t move away from.  I was in a lot of pain and trying to cope with this and 6 hours of therapy per day was not easy.

I had to learn to swallow, talk, write and partly walk again.   Not exactly what I’d planned to be doing aged 27!   I was in rehabilitation for 7 months.

I left the amazing Walton Neuro Centre on crutches and was told that it was highly likely I’d make a full recovery.   I missed the bit where they said it would take time!

CH: At what point did you realise that life was never going back to the way it had been and how did that make you feel?

GF: For 18 months after leaving hospital I refused to use a wheelchair. I believed that I would get better if I kept pushing myself.

Unfortunately I was my own worst enemy and have irreparably damaged my spine and skeletal system. It means that I now need to use a wheelchair full time.

Over the last 2 years the doctors have been telling me that I’m not going to get better.   It took me another year to accept the fact, so it’s been a long time.

Last summer I went through a grieving process as I came to terms with the changes in my body.

But I’m one of the lucky ones! Not everyone survives GBS!

Image by Andy Green

CH: You are now diverting your energy into an incredibly worthwhile cause can you tell us a bit about that and how you became involved?

GF: I needed a purpose in life and have been lucky that I’ve found that with Models of Diversity (MOD)

Since meeting Angel Sinclair in 2012 I have been an ambassador for MOD and recently been promoted to Assistant Director of Disability.

I have so much to thank Angel for as she helped me realize I could be glamorous and get back in front of the camera. It had an amazing effect on my self-confidence and self-esteem.

As a model Angel realized that in order for changes to be instigated someone needed to start raising awareness.   Angel founded MOD in 2008 and has been campaigning for change ever since.

In Part 2 of my interview with Gemma we explore  Models of Diversity and their tireless efforts to campaign for change in the fashion, beauty and media industries.  We will look at the Petition they launched at the Houses of Parliament in September and the race to get as many signatures as possible before March 23rd.

 

*1 Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)

GBS is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.  The peripheral nervous system is found in the feet and other extremities of the body.

GBS can affect anybody. It can strike at any age and both sexes are equally prone to the disorder. The syndrome is rare, and only about 1 in 100,000 people are affected.

No one yet knows what causes GBS or sets it in motion. What scientists do know is that the body’s immune system begins to attack the body itself, causing what is known as an autoimmune disease.  It can spread to the body’s organs and that’s when fatalities can occur.

The disorder mutates differently in each case which makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.  Some sufferers make a full recovery, others like Gemma are left managing pain and suffering mobility issues for the rest of their lives.

 

Please follow and like us:
error
Workout Clothes Trainers

Exercise in January is Pointless

exercise makes you happy

How fit are you feeling right now?

Have your gym sessions or exercise routines broken up for the Christmas holidays yet?

Or maybe you don’t have a regular routine? Are you planning to make time to get fit as part of your 2016 goals?

Are you squirming in your chair yet knowing you ‘could do better’ – the phrase we dreaded on our school reports! Or perhaps you’re scrolling through this post as you cool down after a run and feeling virtuous but curious as to what I’m going to say?

I’m  a huge advocate of keeping fit and so I’m keen to share why you should exercise.  The benefits go far beyond burning calories.  So if you are being told by your GP, or simply have this nagging doubt that life would be better if you did, then let me share with you the reasons why you should make exercise a part of your routine.

1, Exercise is Better than Drugs!

During exercise powerful mood and mind boosting chemicals are released into the brain. They are natural and have no side effects (well only positive ones!) and are legal!

Be warned though you may get addicted!

Endorphins

Endorphins are chemicals which are released during exercise.  They help to reduce pain from exercise.   This in turn allows you to exercise longer and more intensely.  Endorphins are also responsible for:

  1. A euphoric post exercise ‘high’
  2. Decreased appetite (must admit haven’t noticed that one!)
  3. Boosting your immune system. Less snuffles and sneezes – yay!

Serotonin

Mood enhancing Serotonin is also released during exercise. There has been a lot of research done on the effect of serotonin levels on the body and while earlier studies claimed that boosting serotonin levels could help depression, this is now being rejected. But serotonin’s mood enhancing effects are accepted.

Glycerol

A faster metabolism means you burn energy faster and more effectively.  Glycerol can be thought of as the courier service that delivers oxygen from the lungs to your muscles during exercise.  This happens regardless of your fitness levels after exercise.  Why is this important?

After only 10 minutes of exercise, this can have a positive impact on your metabolism. Scientists also believe that if you exercise regularly this can stimulate long-term changes in your metabolism, but admit they are at early stages in understanding this  (read more *1

Blood Chemistry

When you exercise the muscles use oxygen transported from your lungs via your blood. A chemical reaction takes place to convert glucose in your bloodstream into energy. As this process takes place chemicals are produced which reduce your blood’s acidity levels.   An over-acidic blood supply can lead to constant fatigue and low energy levels.

exercise the physical benefits2. Exercise the Look Good Factor

Of course there are the outward signs, you will see increased muscle tone. You won’t see this happen overnight but over time you’ll develop more shape. This will of course depend on what you do, how long you do it for and to some extent genetics. Expect to see a difference after 2 months of regular exercise.

Manage Your Weight

Exercise can help you to manage your weight. I’m always reluctant to go as far as to say that exercise will help you to lose weight. This is because we tend to eat more when we exercise.  We are hungrier and over-estimate how much energy we burn.  It’s also a known fact that gym goers are more likely to indulge in chocolate bars!

Keep Going for Longer

Depending what exercise we do we will feel other benefits including increased stamina and flexibility.   Every day tasks become easier as we get stronger and fitter.

Hidden Benefits

There are also the hidden physical benefits of exercise.  We can see some of these with the help of technology, such as the effect on our blood pressure and the fat v muscle ratio.  Others are not so obvious but are long-term health benefits we should not ignore.

Research has also shown that exercise can reduce our risks of succumbing to serious diseases such as heart disease and type 2 Diabetes. Research also shows a correlation between exercise and a reduced risk of some cancers.

By strengthening our bones through exercise we reduce the risks associated with osteoporosis. This was one of my motivators for high intensity cardio aerobic exercise when it was diagnosed that I’d had my menopause in my 20s and I could be at risk of brittle bones later in life.

exercise improves self-esteem3. Exercise Helps Self-Esteem

If you are feeling fitter and becoming more toned it’s very hard not to feel better about yourself.  As a result you become more confident about the way you look and in turn this will make others attracted to you.

I cannot stress this enough for new business owners who get caught up in wanting to put their time and energy into their business.  If you don’t feel attractive to yourself then how will you be attractive to your prospective clients?

Pilates is a great way of improving your posture, which in turn will ensure you stand taller and will look better in your clothes.

Just a word of warning though!  Without wishing to put anyone off exercise it can also create some interesting clothes shopping dilemmas!

I used to do a lot of running and step aerobics.  The result was very over-developed calf muscles!   Finding skinny jeans was always a laugh!

My current routines mean while the skinny jeans issue is no longer a problem, my arm muscles are well developed.  I find some jackets and tops are not an option as they compromise the blood supply to my upper arms!

Exercise can also be relaxing.

Yoga has become a part of many people’s lives over recent years.  It is a great way to learn how to slow down the relentless pace of life.

Working out also helps you to put life back in perspective!

If we feel better about ourselves, are more relaxed and physically tired this helps our sleep patterns. Getting enough sleep is essential to our overall well-being.

Exercise classes are a great way to share a common interest and have fun with others.

Since adding Boxfit to my weekly routine I’ve made new friends, through the camaraderie in the class.    We work in pairs and as a group.  This leads to a lot of peer motivation and encouragement.  There’s a lot of laughter during the class and the banter continues for hours afterwards on social media.

OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) has become huge over the last few years and is not elitist.  You do not have to be a hard core fitness fan to take part.

The events are open to mixed abilities.  It is a another way of meeting people and offers a very supportive environment – so I’m told!

Getting wet and extremely muddy is not my idea of exercise heaven! The exception I make to this is walking my dogs but the amount of water and mud is thankfully less extreme!

exercise is relaxing

January is the worst month to start a fitness routine!

Dedicated gym bunnies are not the ones who started their fitness journey on January 1st.

They are the ones quietly grimacing or smirking from the rowing machine as the sales staff show prospective clients round the facilities.

Grimacing as they know that inevitably people will sign up and gyms become crowded for a few weeks until people give up.

Smirking because the statistics prove that people signing up to gym membership in January are most likely to fall off the wagon.

If you are not used to exercise and have indulged over the Christmas break you are setting yourself up to fail.   Most people joining a gym at the beginning of January find that it’s very difficult to stay motivated.  It’s hard enough to get through the longest, darkest and often coldest month of the year.  Many people are also starting to diet or change their eating habits and this is really making life hard.

I’m not trying to put you off, but why give yourself a mountain to climb, when you could start with a walk in the woods?

December is a much better option to kick-start your fitness routine. If you do decide to join a gym they are relatively quiet and there are some good deals around. You can feel less guilty about Christmas indulgences! Get yourself in the exercise groove in December and you’re much more likely to carry on into the New Year.

I’d love to hear from you about your fitness journey.   Whether you make exercise a part of your life and how it helps you or if you’re just starting out or returning to exercise it would be lovely if you share your thoughts and ideas.

 

*1 Chemical Reactions in the Body after Exercise  

Please follow and like us:
error