Shame on Body Shaming

Are you beach body ready? This is a question I am asking myself as I prepare to go to Italy next week (yes, Italy. Sorry. I wanted to get that in here somewhere, and it turns out the first line is the best place). I mean… if six months pregnant with no tan and some nice spidery veins is anything to go by, then yes. I am beach body ready.

 

However, millions of other women are being asked the same question as they pass this advertisement for Protein World:

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And by heck has it caused some backlash. The main offence is that the combo of the very attractive, but rather unrealistic, model with the tag line suggests there is only one body that is ready for the beach, and it has perky boobs, a flat stomach and just a hint of collarbone beneath flowing blonde locks. And guys: there’s not a spidery vein in sight.

 

I actually agree that it is an insulting way to promote protein. It feels like the ad is designed to make women panic or feel inferior that they don’t look the right way. It doesn’t seem to promote healthy eating at all. As the backlash gathered momentum, Protein World got the smartest PR brains on the case and dug themselves in deeper:

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Well excuse me while I rush out to buy some of this awesome product! They clearly know who to target their audience.

 

However, I was talking to a guy I know about it all and he honestly didn’t see the problem. He pointed out that the product is targeted towards a certain audience, and that audience might not look at that ad and see an insult, but a challenge. They might not feel ashamed but inspired. After all, don’t women’s magazines write whole articles and even whole issues about such topics? I know I’ve seen headlines like ‘Bikini body in 6 weeks!’ and ‘The Summer Issue – Get Your Flat Stomach!’ before. Heck, before I started this very deep and intellectual post, I was watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians where Kim tells her 16 year old sister it’s ok to get temporary lip fillers if she is feeling insecure. This is not a new subject, and whilst it’s not ok, why is it this ad that has sparked the fury of many?

 

My guess is because it’s placed where everyone will see it, not just their target audience. When you’re elbow-t0-elbow on the tube escalator, feeling frumpish and crumpled in your Winter coat (because let’s face it, the sun has yet to make a real appearance this year), the last thing you want is an ad that makes you feel like you should start trudging up the escalator stairs in an attempt to get ‘beach body ready’. And I’ve watched enough MadMen to know that if the public don’t buy what you’re selling, then you should just go and drown your afternoon in Scotch, because you’ve lost this account and Mr Cooper will not be pleased.

 

But then again. Before I get too ahead of myself in the ‘OMG how DARE they’ campaign. I agree that the ad itself is insulting to the many who are trying to be happy with what they have been given. I agree that it doesn’t actually promote a healthy lifestyle or healthy diet, but rather a single, unattainable standard that could actually have some unhealthy consequences. And, if this lady is on board with the advertisement, that’s a clear warning to question it!

 

As a society, we could do more to champion actual healthy lifestyle choices. This particular ad isn’t necessarily the smartest way forward, and yes, every body is beach ready if you just go to the beach. That’s a dumb question. However, we are responsible for our own choices, and it seems that certain pockets of people are making the choice to eat more and exercise less. It’s a tricky subject to negotiate, because it’s also highly sensitive: it’s more socially acceptable to publicly challenge a smoker for their choices (who, in my experience doesn’t even need to be smoking in your presence for this to occur) than it is someone who eats a lot to an unhealthy level. Both have severe health consequences, and are a growing strain on the NHS, but because of the stigma and sensitivity surrounding being overweight, I do feel that sometimes people are more accepting. Not that we need to be judging!! I am not saying that. Just that sometimes people need encouragement to change their choices, and this is a subject where it may be harder to encourage.

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Finally: body shaming goes two ways, and this is part of a bigger discussion. The model in the Protein World ad says: “I think nearly every ad campaign you have ever seen is open to interpretation. But saying the ad is body shaming by body shaming the image is very contradictory. Two wrongs don’t make a right” (source). Maybe the backlash is against the overall sentiment rather than the model herself, but this proves the point of body image: it’s a very, very sensitive and subjective issue.

 

That goes to the heart of this discussion in my opinion: how does it make people feel? Everyone has their own insecurities, and it’s not fun to be reminded of them. This ad plays on the insecurities of many, many women who feel they aren’t good enough. And in turn, many of them may build themselves back up by doing a bit of body shaming themselves. Comments like ‘it’s ok for you, you can eat that because you’re so tiny’ or ‘exercising again? I’m tired just looking at you’ are designed to let you know that the speaker is annoyed by your choices, or they feel uncomfortable by them. Although dressed up in humour, the intention is not to be supportive. I know it’s not easy, and right now in this paragraph I sound like a giant hardass, but we should take responsibility for our own choices rather than breaking down others down for theirs in an attempt to make ourselves feel better.  

 

Body shaming should stop – on both sides. Remember the wisdom from Tina Fey in Mean Girls: “You have all got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores”. This is the same. Protecting yourself from judgement by judging others should not be acceptable: it just perpetuates the circle, and makes it easier for the advertising guys to do it to us. Maybe we can all aim to stand up a little taller.

 

Tina Fey is my choice for President of the World, FYI.

Tina Fey is my choice for President of the World, FYI.

 

I’m not writing this with a clear solution in mind, but  we should at least take ownership of the situation. This backlash shows that people aren’t willing to just accept what the media tells us, which is great. Now we can take it one step further and make sure that generally we live in a supportive environment. It’s on us to change the climate.  I’m convinced that if we help each other make healthier choices rather than shame them for the choices they have made in the past, that is a good step forward. And if we can all do it while on the beach in our beach-ready bodies – complete with stretch marks, spider veins, stomachs, cellulite included and maybe even a smidgen of hair peeping out – then we will all feel better because we are all getting our vitamin D as well.

Dry November and December

 

You know what’s sad? When you bite into an apple or a banana and they’re going off. I did both yesterday, and it made me want to cry into my granola.

 

Anyway, that’s not what this is about. Today’s post is a little exploration into something I like to tall Tee-totellie. Since the start of November, I haven’t been drinking alcohol. Very much. Ok, once or twice I had a red wine or two, like at my brother’s 30th birthday. But other than that, no alcohol for me.

 

There wasn’t a real reason for this…. I had thought it might be a good thing to do in the lead up to Christmas. To be honest, wine is my most favourite drink. Of course in moderation, but you can’t beat a crisp Chardonnay in the Summer or a bold Shiraz in the Winter. I’m not a huge drinker, but I remember my Dad picking me up from a party once when I was a teenager and I was mortified that I couldn’t do the seat belt up properly without a few attempts. I still remember his bemused face while I was trying (very unsuccessfully) to play it cool. It’s been a while since I’ve gone for longer than a week without a drink, so I thought now is a good time to chill out a bit and see how I go.

 

There are lots of health-related reasons why you should not drink, as well as health-related reasons why you can, or in fact should. One glass of red a day is supposed to help your heart. And Runner’s World have featured articles showing that a small amount of alcohol can actually help you: here’s one describing how beer can reduce the risk of stroke as well as help hydrate after a run. So, cheers to that!

 

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My own choice wasn’t motivated by training or health, more curiosity. Once I abstained, I noticed that my pleasure in the habit of having a glass of wine was just as tied up with the ritual of it all than it was the drink itself. In the beginning, I bought a bottle of non-alcoholic wine to try out because I enjoyed the practice of getting the glass, holding it in my hand and sipping.

 

That was a surprise to me: but the non-alcoholic wine was ok, and I was still able to get that feeling of winding down. I have never been really into tea – herbal or normal – and sometimes I wanted something a bit more grown up than squash. That’s where good old alcohol-free, in it’s nice long wine glass, came into it.

 

As the weeks have gone by, I’ve become quite the herbal tea fan. And that makes me feel so mature and calm, like I should also start pilates. My favourite is Twinings Mango and Cinnamon. Now I’m not so fussed as to whether I’m holding a wine glass or a mug in my hand: that association of a wine glass = relaxing after a long day is gone. In terms of how I feel: I don’t feel much different on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps I have more energy in the evenings, and I spring out of bed more easily, and without a thick head, but it’s not like I was drinking loads before. I would love to be able to do a comparison on running pre and post-tee total. In November, I did feel that I was getting stronger and had more energy to run, but then things had to slow down in December anyway in terms of running.

 

That’s not to say there aren’t some down sides. For all I’ve not been drinking alcohol, I have cultivated quite the diet coke addiction. It just tastes so good, and is my current substitute when out with friends. And I’m eating a lot more chocolate. I guess that’s because I always would have chosen a glass of wine over some chocolate in the evening. Sometimes you just need to treat yourself, particularly after a stressful day: there are times when Peppermint tea just ain’t gonna cut it. So…. yeah. More chocolate. Also, and this is a concern for me, my dance moves aren’t as adventurous, so the world is clearly missing out there.

 

It’s not a permanent thing. I know people who have made the choice to give it up permanently, and I admire them. I don’t think it’s for me: I enjoy the social element of sharing a bottle of wine with friends, and I enjoy the taste of it. But it’s been a good thing to do before Christmas – it’s made the lead up much cheaper for me, and in a season of over-indulgence, it’s been nice to wake up feeling healthy!

 

I wish you all the happiest of Christmases. SB and I are driving cross-country from Durham to Devon today – the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve. I saw this online and it made me LAUGH:

 

An Austalian Christmas Card from the Victorian era. Apparently. Thank God Aussies have Father Christmas now instead of the Nasty Emu.

An Austalian Christmas Card from the Victorian era. Apparently. Thank God Aussies have Father Christmas now instead of the Nasty Emu.

 

And finally, if you need a pick-me-up this Christmas, PLEASE look at this link. It’s a little girl experiencing the rain for the first time, and her face is THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Look at the bottom ones!!!!!!

Ellie B

Christmas + Detox = Any good at all?

Tis the season to be jolly! It’s here at last. And what better way to be jolly than to overindulge in mince pies, mulled wine, and a few cheeky encounters under the mistletoe?!

 

It’s all fun and games now, but we are only a few short weeks away from the most dreaded time of the year: January. Dark January, with its conspicuous lack of Christmas lights, and its focus on making up for December’s overindulgence. That’s right folks – I don’t mean to rain on your Christmas parade, but the Season of Detox is just around the corner.

 

Although, it doesn’t have to be. I for one have never been very good at detox diets. I have tried a few in my time, and when I found myself stockpiling 12 jars of Nutella ready for the diet’s end, I knew it was time to stop.  So for me, January doesn’t mean a detox, but rather a re-focus. There is a difference: a re-focus means that you won’t be drinking ginger tea for days. With a little planning, now is the time that we can all satisfy the urge to indulge, but not spend all of January paying for it.

 

Here are the top reasons why I won’t be detoxing in January:

 

  1. It’s boring. Let’s be honest. The appeal of a 3 day concentrated juice detox is that it’s quick. Quick but painful. I read that one of my favourite actresses had salad and chicken for dinner every night, with more chicken than salad. I decided to try it out (in case I am ever required to step up to the London stage), but by the second night I was done. There was a distinct lack of flavour that I couldn’t face night after night. I may well be ruining my chances of winning an Olivier, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
  2. It’s expensive. Another detox I once tried came equipped with recipes and a shopping list – ‘perfect!’ I thought. The list was wheat-free, meat-free, dairy-free. I almost choked on my quinoa when I heard the total: for a diet that excluded practically everything, it sure was expensive. Not to mention that so much fresh food goes off quickly if not eaten…which means you end up stuffing spinach into your mouth like a crazed rabbit.

Detox

  1. It’s not healthy. Perhaps controversially, I subscribe to the opinion that anything that makes you feel sick as part of its process isn’t helping you. It’s making you sick. If you feel better at the end of three days of carrot juice, might that be because you’re allowing yourself to eat real food again? It can’t help to completely cut out protein, fibre and roughage. I absolutely don’t profess to be an expert here, but here’s an article that has more credibility than me to go into detail.
  2. Detoxes are part of a huge marketing machine. These days everything has an ‘angle’, and is targeted towards a specific market. Again, here’s another article that explores the marketing side of the detox diet. These dieticians and experts might not always have our best interests at heart, if you can believe it.
Quick Google search for 'detox': look at all the sponsored posts...

Quick Google search for ‘detox’: look at all the sponsored posts…

  1. It’s unnecessary. As the two articles above describe, your body is actually pretty good at detoxing itself. Anything else can be more of a hindrance than a help. Plus, if you’re aware of your indulgences now, you can go some way to balance them out before January even shows it’s ugly little face. Personally, I think there’s nothing better than a Boxing Day run in the bracing winds to clear the mind and help your fitness after Christmas Day.
  2. I don’t want to. I might sounds like a petulant child here, but we’ve all just spend four glorious weeks of minced pies, mulled wine, egg nog, chocolate, christmas cake and socialising. I could handle cutting back a bit in January. I could handle making an effort to exercise a little more, to balance the December fun and to make sure I have the balls to run in the Winter cold! But what I could not handle?  Eating celery while thinking of lasagne.

 

So…. they’re my two cents on the matter. It seems far more reasonable to use the old ‘everything in moderation’ adage because then you don’t miss out. Case in point: today I had a smoothie for lunch, but I also had a pizza for dinner. And now I’m eating ice cream because SB is at his Christmas party, so I’m having a little party of my own with Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Haagen Dazs.

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I may regret posting such a blatant account against detoxes, especially if I give one another go in the future (God help SB). But I guess the main point of this is: January is dark enough as it is, why make it even harder?

 

Ellie B

The Saviour that is the Green Smoothie

 

After Wednesday’s post about how I approach food (answer: know when I’m eating rubbish, and eat good things at other times!), I wanted to introduce you to a very good friend of mine, and a staple in my diet for the last 18 months.

 

The Green Smoothie.

 

Green smoothies seemed to be all the rage last year, and this year they have been usurped by the Paleo diet, the gluten-free diet and the sugar-free diet. But I am a creature of habit, and don’t have the will power for any of this year’s crazes, so I’m still revelling in the beauty of the Green Smoothie.

 

This smoothie helps me balance all the curry, wine and chocolate I mentioned on Wednesday. It serves as lunch, breakfast or a mid-morning snack (this very much depends on what’s in the cupboards, which in turn is depends on what day of the week it is!).

 

The core ingredients to my smoothie are:

  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • Handful of berries
  • Yoghurt – preferably natural Greek
  • Milk
  • Honey
  • Juice (if available)
  • Super dooper ingredient

 

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The Super dooper ingredient changes depending on what I feel I need in my diet – and also what I can afford, because  any visit to the health food shop shows that healthy supplements aren’t cheap! In the past I’ve used protein (when marathon training), chia seeds (loaded with fibre, antioxidants, protein and omega-3) and currently I’m enjoying flax seeds (also containing omega-3 and protein) with added iron and vitamin-D.

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If I’m using the smoothie as a meal substitute, then I’ll also add some porridge oats too. And then you add all the ingredients together and blend – I like a thick smoothie, so I keep the milk/juice light.

 

And that’s it!! It’s such a good way of getting 4 of my 5 fruit and veg each day, and you also get the added smugness of having enjoyed a green smoothie. If I’m doing a long run that evening, I would also eat a snack about an hour before hand.

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Next week I’m in Oslo and London for work, so not sure how my running will go! I have the best intentions, but it’s also my birthday. And birthday celebrations aren’t always conducive to pre-work running.

 

AND LOOK WHAT ARRIVED TODAY:

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Yes. I am seeing Kylie in November. Look, I won’t pretend it’s the first time I’ve seen her, but honest-to-god, I’m just as excited. Feel sorry for the poor friends who have to come with me, and put up with me singing all the words (at least I’ll know the words, unlike that Elton concert I went to!).

 

Have a totes amaze weekend, and catch you all soon!

 

Ellie B

It’s time to talk about Food.

 

There seems to come a time when all running blogs address the F-word: food. And now it is my time.

 

Recently it feels that I’ve talked a lot about food. My instagram abounds with pictures of chocolate, it feels like half our holiday pictures are photos of what we ate (yeah…. I am that person. Don’t come to a restaurant with me unless you’re happy for my camera to be an additional dining companion). I love food: I love the experience of eating out, the comfort of eating in, and the treat of a takeaway. My favourite foods are curry and chocolate, and I love a good wine to go with both.

Here is a plate of poppadoms. They weren't even the main meal. But I took a pic.

Here is a plate of poppadoms. They weren’t even the main meal. But I took a pic.

 

Food is a very sensitive topic for many people. Eating is something that literally everyone needs to do if we want to lead any kind of existence, and yet it often brings with it all kinds of associations and opinions. There’s nothing like someone drawing attention to what’s on your plate to make you feel suddenly very self-conscious, and these comments can often be weighed down with additional meaning, both positive and negative.

 

Like a lot of people, I had a complicated attitude towards food when I was growing up. Sadly, I think most people have a complex relationship with food at some point, and some people experience this more keenly than others (just as a side note, don’t you think there’s something cute about using the word ‘relationship’ with regards to food?). Right now food and I are in a good relationship. We get on well. It massages my feet at the end of a long day, and I take the rubbish out cos that’s its least favourite chore.

Full plate for this Bride please.

Here are food and I on the happiest of days.

All joking aside (and I do amuse myself with these stupid jokes!), the key for me has been to recognise what my preferred eating habits are, and then make sure it’s healthy and balanced. My favourite meal is dinner, and we like to eat out. Plus, there’s always some evening chocolate going on in our house. So, therefore, generally I try to make sure that breakfast and lunch are relatively healthy.

 

Running is also an influencing factor regarding food. Training means that you physically require more food, and consequently, eating patterns change. When marathon training, there was no way I could have achieved my goals if I was too worried to have toast every day, or a big plate of pasta. I don’t eat quite so much toast now, but I’m also not running 40 miles a week.

food is fuel

Initially, running helped me mentally: it was easier to eat without guilt (which is a whole separate thing – maybe not for today!).  Then as I got faster and entered more races, I could also physically feel how the body needs fuel to do what I wanted to do.  About 60 minutes after I finish a race or a challenging training session, I can feel my stomach empty and my limbs start to feel like jelly. In these moment I understand just what food actually is for us, and it’s much easier to separate it from any additional baggage.

 

In case you are interested, chocolate milk is my favourite post-anything-difficult drink. It is good for replacing fluids, carbs and protein, and keeps that awful jelly-feeling at bay. Beyonce wasn’t wrong when she said ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly’ (I think I’ve used that quote here before. You can’t quote B too many times, you know).

 

Gatorade in my wine

 

And that’s how I manage my food. There’s really no secret to it.  Figure out when you’re likely to get your treats (and everyone should have at least one a day if they can!) and what your biggest meal is, and work around that. Honestly, people aren’t lying when they say ‘everything in moderation’. If only you can get your head to believe it too!

 

Ellie B