Choosing Worth over Weight #NEDAwarenessweek

This one is a little different, this week February 25th – March 3rd is National Eating Disorders Awareness week organised by the National Eating Disorder Association. They’re the largest nonprofit organisation supporting individuals and communities affected by eating disorders. NEDA’s 2019 campaign and theme is Come as You Are, promoting all stages of body acceptance, recovery, self love and also allows individuals to seek help, speak out, share stories and connect with others. It’s a matter quite close to my heart, in a world conditioned by social media, peer pressure and an ever expanding beauty industry, disorders probably affect around 1.6 million people in the UK alone but the stigma around it makes us afraid to discuss it. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental health concerns and now is the time to start talking.

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Here’s my sharing, not for sympathy or attention but as an honest look into my experiences in hope it encourages others to share and ‘Come as You Are’. I work in the performing arts industry. I’ve danced and sung my whole life, I trained at performing arts college London Studio Centre where a gained my BA honours degree, I’ve since been lucky enough to perform for a living. My dream has its ups and downs and I’m still fairly new at it but it’s definitely got to be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. One of the downs however is the constant judgment, everyone says we shouldn’t care what others think but when you get paid to be watched how can you not? Performers put their souls on platters for their audiences and whilst training as a dancer I found my body under constant scrutiny too. Three years of training in-front of a mirror in nothing but a leotard and tights with 100 other young women, I saw it all.

My first flirtations with controlled eating and body dysmorphia began when I started my degree in 2012 at 18 years old, I moved to London where I rented a house with three of my current soulmates who played a huge part in my well being. I suppose within any line of work or education, when you’ve come from a small pond and you move to deeper waters you’re never quite prepared for the intensity or diversity of the unknown. I went from being a big fish to more of a mackerel. I felt out of control, I didn’t know where I would rank, if I would excel at new subjects or if I would be deemed good enough by my tutors. One thing I could control was my body weight and size, after words thrown at me during six form like ‘hench’, ‘tank’ and my thighs being described as tree trunks it was a natural thought process. I couldn’t comprehend the competition within the college so I went into competition with myself. I couldn’t ultimately control if I fell out of a tricky turn that day in my morning Jazz class but I could control my diet and exercise work balance to create a certain body type. I imagined some other girls on my course were going through a similar thing for a variety of reasons but the subject was so taboo I wouldn’t dare broach it. A common condition for some of us might have been Orthorexia, a term used to describe a condition where obsessive behaviours begin in pursuit of a ‘healthy’ lifestyle. Fuelled by the combination of restricted clean eating and high intensity training that puts bodies into a constant deficit. The internet was my accomplice, after outrageous google research into calories, BMIs, macros, cardio and weight loss I started to become obsessed with it. And because the competition was with myself and deep down I knew my behaviour wasn’t healthy I wanted to keep it a secret. I would start to come home after a 10 hour day of dance classes, lectures and singing lessons to a boiled egg and a cuppa soup. I’d tell my housemates/soulmates that I’d already eaten something that resembled a proper meal on my walk home. I’d downloaded an app that would calculate how much I could eat each day in order to reach a certain weight by the end of the week. I weighed myself twice a day. I also kept a tape measure in my bedside drawer.

Then life started to get in the way.

Social life. This was a tricky one, a burger date with friends would mean I’d want to remove the bun, fries and condiments and student nights out meant vodka with diet tonic water instead of 2-4-1 cocktail pitchers at Whetherspoons. Reclusive calorie counting menus before I would get to restaurants and trying to explain or lie about my clean eating was exhausting.

Energy. I was involved in a high intensity work programme at college, we did long hours of varying genres of dance usually starting with 9am Ballet. My breakfast of black coffee wasn’t allowing me to get to grande allegro without feeling faint. My degree was an expensive course and I couldn’t make the most of it when I wasn’t fuelled. The intense restriction (famin) would lead to overpowering cravings where my body would go into fight or flight mode. It’s basic primal instinct, and all I wanted was a friggin’ croissant.

Menstruation. I lost my period. Changes and irregularity in our periods can be due to a variety of factor’s including changes of exercise regime, weight loss, stress and hormonal changes to name a few. When mine was absent for more than three cycles I went to the doctors. Being a mother isn’t something I wanted at 18 but the thought that my hormones and reproductive system was being jeopardised really shook me.

Soulmates. My three housemates noticed my behaviour and size change, a tutor at my college was involved, the girls talked to me about it and although I wasn’t completely honest it was the first time I had ever opened up and admitted how I felt even to myself. It was the best thing that could have happened. I knew that for me to live my fullest, happiest life I needed to put my energy into other things more worthwhile, and believe me it didn’t just happen over night.

Recovery, self love and just being present is a slow process, it’s a long distance run with a few pot holes rather than a finish line.

Things I have learnt.

– Just like us eating disorders come in different shapes and sizes.

– Looking different to other people is what makes us unique and special.

– Being a woman doesn’t just happen, you wouldn’t drive a car on an empty tank.

– No one feels 100% all of the time, being comfortable in our own skin can be found anytime.

– My goals, friends and family are the most important thing in the world. I’m sorry I wasted time that could have been spent with them measuring my thighs.

– Slow and steady wins the race, small healthy lifestyle choices like getting outdoors and eating colourfully are the ones that stick.

– Life is short, eat the croissant.

I hope this encourages others to share and spread awareness and support, being there for our loved ones is sometimes all we can do and all it takes to help. When eating disorders are affecting over 70 million people worldwide being ashamed and embarrassed of them needs to stop. Follow the link to nationaleatingdisorders.org to educate, self screen and find a variety of confidential help. If anyone relates, would like to share or talk to me please get in touch here or via Instagram, my support for this is unlimited and whole hearted.

#NEDAwarenessweek #NEDAwareness

Be the Bomb. ❤️

The day is upon us. Rom-coms are on offer, we’re craving pink chocolate, and meal deals are two for one. As I stared at my face in a giant, red, heart-shaped, reflective balloon, I knew it was time to share. I’m no Alan Turing: this is just the thinking of little old me. But I have a theory on relationships.

The bomb… my nearest and dearest know this one well. I’m not talking devices containing explosive or incendiary materials, think more Tom Jones’s “Sex Bomb”… This is my theory, I live by it, although some days it’s hard to fully feel it, I give it my best go. It allows me to evaluate my relationships, romantically and also with myself.

So let me lay it out. ‘The Bomb’ – the best thing since sliced bread, the bees knee’s, the cat’s pyjamas. In a relationship, every party must be, and also be regarded as, the bomb. That’s a lot of bombs if you break it down. Take Jack and Jill for instance, Jack has to know he is the bomb, and also think that Jill is the bomb, whilst Jill thinks Jack is the bomb and also knows that she is the bomb. Let’s hope they don’t roll down that hill too wildly. If one of these bombs is missing I think you’re in the wrong relationship. Detonation pending.

Now this equation isn’t entirely feasible 24 hrs a day, I don’t know about you but I definitely don’t think I’m the dog’s bollocks 365 days a year. Sometimes you have emergency root canal, pass out twice during your trip, need to be fed a diet of Tomato soup and Jack Daniels for the rest of the day and told you’re still beautiful even though you’re drooling. Just me? That’s the best thing about the theory. If for a moment we forget how important our love for ourselves is, our partner can remind us we’re still the bomb. If we keep levels up and feel bombful 90% of the time, I’m sold. If a friend has that in their partner, I’m Pinterest searching bridesmaid shoes.

Cliché, but I reckon there’s a lot to loving yourself before you can love someone else. It’s as simple as fitting your own oxygen mask first. Then you’re alive to help others. Once we’ve fallen in love with ourselves we then open ourselves up to love others, and if we don’t love ourselves then we sure as hell won’t let anyone else love us. Have you ever had an awful day at work, you’ve had no time to explain to your partner what’s up, it’s date night, you cancel. Negative thoughts can make us retreat from loved ones, but all we’ve done is robbed ourselves of something joyful because we feel we don’t deserve it and unfortunately over time this self destruction can have detrimental effects on our relationships and our mental health. Next time this sort of scenario crops up, breathe and communicate, I’ve trialled, tested and am still working on it! Sometimes we do just need a moment alone, but if we can share and be honest with our loved ones and ourselves, the quicker our bomb level can go back up. Either DIY or with help from bae. My personal bomb squad below.

Being the bomb is unconditional, loving and taking care of ourselves and then forgiving ourselves if we get negligent sometimes.

So this Valentine’s Day I’m kick starting BIY. Bomb It Yourself.

1. Hydrate. Prepare for later… Start your day with your favourite tea or coffee in bed or at your favourite grind.

2. Eat. Fuel your body and mind with good food. Ben and Jerry’s will be on offer 15th February.

3. Give. Check in with your loved ones and tell them how much you love them.

4. Self care. Do at least one thing completely and utterly for yourself. Face mask, get a massage, yoga, start researching your next holiday.

5. Self love. Tonight, go for gold. Your best bottle of red, binge watch Grace and Frankie, go dancing, purely because it makes you feel good.

… and you’ll sleep well knowing you’re the bomb.

Happy Valentine’s Day. x

The Journey Begins

Welcome to The Positivity Wagen. As a 25 year old musical theatre actress currently living in Germany performing in Starlight Express (hence the wagen bit..) I like to think my little but quite wonderful life has been pretty colourful already. I have an uncontrollable want to help humans, from love to laundry. Problems shared become halved and love given gets doubled here. This page is a sharing of thoughts and experiences from me for anyone. Read, take and enjoy as much or as little as you’d like. Gem x

 

Quarter life crisis or is it just January?

I don’t know about anyone else but for me January has felt like a bank robbery, 97 days long, and pretty damn emotional. I’ve heard rumours of some moons in retrograde, we had a full moon on the 21st which left some of us howling I’m sure. to be honest, I know my star sign and that’s as far as my knowledge goes. Must google.

January is a peculiar time, it holds Apprentice boardroom-like pressure, except Lord Sugar definitely isn’t in my living room, it’s just me. Instagrammers go crazy, I myself falling into this trap. Whether it’s new year new me, fitness challenges, veganuary, cleanses, new jobs, relationship culling or wanky quotes, we’ve seen them all.

My question is, weren’t we all doing fine before? I actually felt quite fabulous over Christmas, I may have eaten 46 mince pies and ended up having a slight resemblance to a Quality Street Golden Barrel but it was a beautiful time. However when I mixed this with copious amounts of alcohol, a ridiculously busy schedule of family, work, friends and turkey timings I think I may have been slightly burnt out. Candles lit at every end.

Instinct. It’s basic human fight or flight. My body went into overdrive, I felt guilt for the over indulging although still had 4 months worth of leftovers and I hate waste, I felt panicked by tax returns, combination pills and dentist appointments but worst of all I scrolled through Instagram and decided everyone else was becoming some sort of revitalised cleansed version of themselves and I was just static. My instinct was to compete, not just with the world of Instagram but for myself.

The problem I found with this “rejuvenation” was that life happens at the same time. The more pressure from the deadline of February I felt, the more stressed I became, and things like circumstance, plans changing and spontaneous loved ones shook my “planuary”. It’s only now towards the end of January that I’ve remembered it’s these things that make life interesting and wonderful and we cannot control everything. Once we’ve become down or even sick with “Planuary” pressure, the negativity can become a block. And when I’m happy I’m far more inclined to look after myself, make the most of my pretty incredible job and live in the moment. For those people that say ‘you only live once’ .. this can work in two ways, yes be your best you and work your hardest but also don’t miss moments, people and love. It’s ok to change plans. #balance

With a little forgiveness a few bottles of red wine… I got over it.

My answer is. It’s January.