Recent writing: Christmas and New Year

Unsurprisingly, the weeks around Christmas and the New Year were a busy time for writing about health. Throughout December and January I’ve written a lot about alcohol, food, diet, fitness, body image, and how to stave off the post-holiday blues.

The festive period now feels like a distant memory, and January seems to be going on forever! But somehow I’ve only just caught up with myself enough to share some of that recent work…

Drink Spiking: Why Horror Story Drug Devil’s Breath Is The Least Of Our Worries – for The Debrief:

Two weeks into December and the festive party season is now well and truly upon us. I can barely go 48 hours at a time without someone twisting my arm into a mulled wine and mince pie, a gratuitous glass of bubbly ‘just because it’s Christmas,’ or a festive spiced gin. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but, for me at least, it also always comes with just a twinge of anxiety.

Continue reading at The Debrief…

Alcohol and health: The mythbusting article – for LV=:

Is there a way to cure a hangover? Can some alcoholic drinks help improve our heart health? In what order should we drink wine, water and beer? We tell ourselves many things to feel better about our alcohol intake, but what truth is there in them? We asked the experts to find out.

Continue reading at LV=…

How to stop binge eating – for Patient:

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But if you struggle with your weight, eating, and body image, the weeks around Christmas and the New Year can be an absolute minefield.

Continue reading at Patient…

Surviving the New Year body image minefield – for Betty Collective:

If you struggle with body image and eating issues (and honestly, who doesn’t, from time to time?) January can be really rough. After a month of festive parties, cosy evenings in with Christmas movies and hot chocolate, and stuffing our faces at almost every opportunity, suddenly it’s all over and the dreary reality of the New Year hits.

Continue reading at Betty Collective…

How to embrace fitness after 50 – for Patient:

You already know it’s worth making exercise a priority. But, if you’re over 50 and haven’t laced up your trainers since secondary school PE class, it can be a real struggle to get going. We spoke to the experts about the health benefits of taking up exercise after 50, and how to make sure your shiny new gym membership doesn’t go to waste.

10 ways to avoid the post-holiday blues – for LV=:

After the joys of late December, January can feel a bit gloomy. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. We spoke to experts about how you can tackle the January blues, and get your year off to a flying start.

Continue reading at LV=…

Is online counselling actually any good? – for Betty Collective:

There’s an app for everything these days, even your mental health. You’re probably already tracking your fitness, sleep, and periods, so why not also track your moods? And, when it comes to more formal mental health support, online counselling services are just a click away – whether you’re not sure where else to turn right now, or need something to bridge the gap while you’re on an NHS waiting list for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).

Continue reading at Betty Collective…


IF YOU NEED SUPPORT

Please note that I am NOT a psychologist or healthcare professional. If you are struggling with mental health problems, contact Mind on 0300 123 3393 or Rethink Mental Health on 0300 5000 927. In a crisis, call the free, 24/7 Samaritans helpline on 116 123.

However, if you would like to get in touch about your own experiences, or a story that you’re keen to tell, please feel free to drop me an email.

Recent writing: antenatal depression, childcare, and why you’re always hungry

In the last couple of weeks I’ve written my first two pieces for Grazia Daily. In the first, I explore the shame and stigma surrounding women’s experiences of antenatal depression during pregnancy. The second looks at the varying cost of childcare globally, and where best to live as a working mother.

Thank you to all the lovely mums who spoke to me about their experiences. Big thanks also to Tommy’s, PANDAs, and the Maternal Mental Health Alliance for their advice around perinatal mental health support. If you need support with antenatal or postnatal depression, do check out these brilliant organisations.

And, in my latest piece for The Debrief, I asked some experts why we can’t stop thinking about food.

Why We Need To Start Being Honest About Antenatal Depression – for Grazia Daily:

“From the day I found out I was pregnant, I felt like a failure because I didn’t have that excitement that everybody says you’ll have,” says 22-year-old Lauren. “All these negative emotions came over me – fear, panic, shock, and massive amounts of anxiety. It was horrendous.”

It wasn’t until after her 20-week scan that Lauren was diagnosed with antenatal depression (AND), a condition that affects around one in ten women during pregnancy.

A similar number of women are affected by postnatal depression (PND), which kicks in after the birth of your baby, but AND tends to be less well known about because of the shame around the condition.

Continue reading at Grazia Daily…

The Truth About How Much Childcare Costs Differ Around The World – for Grazia Daily:

It won’t come as a surprise to working mums that British childcare is amongst the most expensive in the world. A 2016 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that couples living in the UK spend, on average, a mind-blowing third of their income on childcare costs.

So how does it compare to the rest of the world? If you’re parenting as a couple, the UK tops the chart for childcare costs as a percentage of income – followed by New Zealand, Ireland, and the United States, where dual income families typically spend at least a quarter of their income on childcare.

Single parents in the USA typically spend more than half of their net income on childcare, making it the least affordable country for single parent families, followed by Ireland and Canada.

Continue reading at Grazia Daily…

Ask An Adult: Why Am I Always Hungry? – for The Debrief:

Always hungryWe’ve all been there: you’re sat at your desk, work is dragging on a bit, and your mind starts wandering towards that pack of chocolate digestives you spotted in the staff kitchen earlier, or the half a cereal bar that’s smooshed up in your bag.

I really hope at least some of you are nodding along in recognition of yourselves here, and that it’s not just me! But am I actually a ravenous, insatiable glutton, or is there something more complicated behind my constant desire for food? We asked some adults, why am I always hungry?

Continue reading at The Debrief…


IF YOU NEED SUPPORT

Please note that I am NOT a psychologist or healthcare professional. If you are struggling with mental health problems, contact Mind on 0300 123 3393 or Rethink Mental Health on 0300 5000 927. In a crisis, call the free, 24/7 Samaritans helpline on 116 123.

However, if you would like to get in touch about your own experiences, or a story that you’re keen to tell, please feel free to drop me an email.

Recent writing: Bowel disease, and good mood food

I’ve been a little quiet on work updates since Mental Health Awareness Week. Not because there hasn’t been any recent writing, but because there’s been so much of it! I’m going to share May and June’s articles over the next few weeks, grouped together (vaguely) thematically. First up: a couple of my recent pieces for NetDoctor.

The first, my interview with Crohn’s sufferer Ed Corrie, was a real pleasure to work on. Some people are so much fun to interview that it doesn’t feel like work, and Ed was definitely one of those interviewees! Not only that, he’s also incredibly inspiring in his efforts to break the push-up world record and start some difficult but important conversations.

The second, on food and depression, was more personally significant. Many thanks to Lucy, Kirsten and Bexx, who spoke to me about the benefits – and the limitations – of changing your diet to improve your mood.

Bums Out Guns Out: The man using push-ups to get men talking about bowel disease – for NetDoctor

“Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as a 14-year-old boy was crippling,” recalls Ed Corrie, the fundraiser behind the cheekily named Bums Out, Guns Out campaign.

“When you’re rushing off to the toilet for 45 minutes at a time, you can’t really disguise it – and the worst was on school trips, where you’re sharing a bedroom with two other guys. I used to pretend I had a vomiting problem, because it seemed more manly somehow.”

Twenty years on from his diagnosis, 34-year-old Glaswegian Ed is on a mission to break the Guinness World Record for most press-ups in an hour. As well as raising thousands of pounds for Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Ed wants his “fun and irreverent” campaign to get more men talking about inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Continue reading at NetDoctor…

The complicated truth about food and depression – for NetDoctor

“It’s your diet that’s the problem, you just need to eat better.” I’ll never forget those words, said by a university counsellor when – faced with friendship dramas in my shared house, and all the usual student stresses of exams and essay deadlines – I went to her suffering from depression and anxiety.

For most people affected by depression, it’s a familiar story: all those well-meaning people who so regularly dismiss very real distress with advice to simply “eat better” or “exercise more”.

Of course, there is some truth in it – rationally, we all know that we feel better when we’re eating well and getting plenty of exercise – but changing your diet isn’t a quick and failsafe fix for depression, and it’s often the last thing you want to hear, or do, when depression takes hold.

Continue reading at NetDoctor…


IF YOU NEED SUPPORT

Please note that I am NOT a psychologist or healthcare professional. If you are struggling with mental health problems, contact Mind on 0300 123 3393 or Rethink Mental Health on 0300 5000 927. In a crisis, call the free, 24/7 Samaritans helpline on 116 123.

However, if you would like to get in touch about your own experiences, or a story that you’re keen to tell, please feel free to drop me an email.

The Truth About Detox Teas

Detox tea

For The Debrief: ‘Teatoxing’ is on the rise, promoted by celebrities on Instagram, but what effect do detox teas really have on our bodies?

Detox tea

My latest piece for The Debrief looked at the trend for detox teas. Commonly promoted by celebrities on Instagram, ‘teatoxes’ are a supposedly natural, healthy tool to aid weight loss and reduce bloating. Many of these products contain the natural laxative senna, and promise to ‘cleanse’. The idea is that a cup of detox tea every other evening can help you lose weight, when combined with a healthy diet.

Doctor and journalist Dr Lauretta Ihonor recently started a petition, calling for the removal of senna from one particular brand. I spoke to her about her concerns and the medical risks of using laxatives to ‘detox’. I also heard from women about their horrifying experiences of the side effects, which many young women aren’t aware of. Thanks to them for sharing those stories in all their graphic detail!

You can read the article in full here.

The Moderation Movement Is Proof We’ve Lost The Plot About Our Diets

Moderation Movement

Moderation Movement

In my latest article for The Debrief I spoke to the co-founder of The Moderation Movement, a healthy eating trend to encourage people to eat normally – that is, a little bit of everything in moderation. It’s refreshing to see a backlash emerging against the increasingly ridiculous range of ‘healthy eating’ trends – although also quite depressing that common sense moderation needs its own movement. I also chatted with dietician Kirsten Crothers, a keen advocate of the Moderation Movement, for her tips on what we should and shouldn’t be eating.

You can read the article in full here.

Why Are Millennials Falling Out Of Love With Meat?

Why Are Millennials Falling Out Of Love With Meat?

Why Are Millennials Falling Out Of Love With Meat?Just before Christmas I gave up meat, having spent most of last year considering it and gradually cutting back. And I’m not the only one – recently I’ve noticed a growing trend for veggie and vegan options. For National Vegetarian Week I spoke to some young women who have recently given up or cut back on their animal-based diets, to find out why so many millennials are falling out of love with meat.

“Recent research commissioned by the Vegetarian Society suggests mine and my mates’ changing diet is part of a bigger pattern – three out of ten Brits have reduced the amount of meat they eat over the last year, including 34 per cent of women. And, although over 65s are the most likely to have reduced their meat intake, more than a third of 18-34 year olds said they’d either stopped or cut back on eating meat, or were considering doing so.”

You can read the article in full at The Debrief.

Healthy body, healthy mind?

It’s now been eight months since I started doing regular freelance work for rscpp.co.uk, and a lot of that time has been spent in building up the core mental health resources for the website – pieces explaining the causes of, and treatments for, all the various mental health conditions and issues that RSCPP therapists work with. Now that a lot of that groundwork has been laid, I’m working on a few more general interest features around lifestyle and mental wellbeing.

There’s plenty of research suggesting that eating well and getting regular exercise can have a really positive, mood-boosting effect, and most of us know that our minds feel better when our bodies are at their healthiest, but it’s a lot easier to say than to put into practice – particularly if you’re living with depression. I spoke to RSCPP therapists about the complex relationships between food, exercise and mood, and asked for their practical advice on how you can work towards a healthier body and mind – even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing!

.

Food and mental health: Can you eat yourself happier?

iStock_000060906776_Medium_20150413You’re probably already aware that there’s a complicated relationship between your mental health and what you eat. Many of us are prone to reaching for the crisps, cakes and chocolate bars for comfort during difficult days, and eating better when we’re feeling good about ourselves. What you may not realise is that this works both ways: eating well can actually boost your mood and improve your mental health, while a poor diet can contribute to low mood and start a vicious cycle of comfort eating food that you know isn’t very nutritious. We asked RSCPP therapists to explain this complex relationship between food and mood, and how you can eat yourself happier.

“It is widely acknowledged that the mind and body are inextricably connected, so it stands to reason that what you put in your body may have an effect on your mind,” Registered Psychotherapist Shelagh Wright explains. “This relationship is complicated by the impact your thoughts and feelings have on your eating behaviour. In essence, you need to feel ok to be able to eat ok, and you need to eat ok to be able to feel ok.”

Continue reading at rscpp.co.uk…

.

How regular exercise can help boost your mood

iStock_000045110026_Medium_20150414Ahead of this year’s London Marathon, we’re thinking about the impact exercise can have on your mental health and wellbeing. Of course, most of us are never going to become marathon runners or elite athletes, but research does show that regular exercise can give your mental wellbeing a real boost. We asked five RSCPP therapists to explain the power of getting fit and active.

“We’re all aware of how regular exercise can improve our physical health and wellbeing, helping us sustain a healthy lifestyle and fitness levels. But exercise also promotes a healthy state of mind; off-setting the build-up of adrenalin, anxiety, and the slump of depression,” explains Registered Psychotherapist Gregori Savva.

“It allows you to remain in the present moment and improves the quality of your lived experience. During exercise, an elevated heart rate and focused breathing enlivens the body’s sensations with oxygen, supplies energy to our muscles, and releases endorphins and serotonin to the brain,” he says.

Continue reading at rscpp.co.uk…

Princess Wedding Diva Diet? No thanks, Facebook!

Originally published at The F Word.

Photography: Shallom Johnson

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with Facebook but when my boyfriend and I got engaged in April it was a very easy way to let all our friends and relatives know with one simple click.

As feminists we’d already discussed all the patriarchal implications of marriage, so I was prepared to deal with our parents’ expectations and I’d already planned out some of the conversations, like why I’m keeping my name and won’t be “given away”.

The one thing I, perhaps naively, didn’t expect was the barrage of targeted ads Facebook started throwing at me – daily attacks to chip away at my self-esteem, remind me of my inadequacies as a “proper” traditional bride, and indoctrinate me into the pervasive wedding industry rhetoric of “THE HAPPIEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!”

So, how do these ads propose that I prepare myself to be the “Ideal Bride” on the so-called “Happiest Day Of My Life”?

The Wedding Day Diet

The first advert that really irritated me was for a wedding diet, advertised by a dieting brand known for their “meal replacement” products. As a keen foodie, there’s no way the “Happiest Day Of My Life” is going to be preceded by months of hunger and pretend “replacement” food. If anything, it would probably only result in the grumpiest day of my life. The advert almost had the desired effect though – I came home and cried in front of the mirror about the weight I’ve put on over the course of my final year at uni (affectionately known as my Finals Belly) and the state of my exam-stressed skin. And to add insult to injury, the day I saw this advert my fiancé was sent one about wedding cakes!

Being a Princess

A recurring theme in the language of these self-esteem attacking adverts is the insistence on the words “Princess” and “Diva”, which I’m convinced are just nicer ways of saying “Bridezilla” while shoving the “Fairy Tale Wedding” propaganda down your throat. It’s your perfect day, they remind you. You can have everything you want, and you must look perfect, because you’re a princess! But will guests actually judge me an inferior bride if I don’t have a sparkly enough tiara? The whole “fairy tale” image pedalled by the wedding industry is unrealistic and expensive; it’s oozing with consumerism and lazy, heteronormative gender stereotypes, and it’s the reason I’ve already had to disillusion my younger sisters of their fantasy about me arriving in a horse-drawn carriage!

Wedding Day ESSENTIALS

I’ve been blown away by the enormous number of apparent essentials that previously hadn’t even crossed my mind. It seems there are loads of things I “need” in order to make my day the “perfect day”, and me the “perfect bride”. A chocolate fountain, for example – what wedding is really complete without one? When I was a child my mum used to say, “do you really need it, or do you just want it?” The wedding universe could take lessons from my mum, because there’s no way in hell that a wedding needs a chocolate fountain, or those colourful little paper cranes that are all over Pinterest, or wedding souvenir keyrings. And what exactly is the point of chair covers?

Within about a week of getting engaged, I’d complained so much about these adverts that several different friends had recommended AdBlock, which is now saving me lots of stress. But I’d also seen how quickly the bullying of the wedding industry can start to get under your skin and convince you that, if you’re not conforming to their patriarchal, capitalist notion of a wedding, you’re somehow failing at womanhood.

It’s all bullshit, of course – cunningly designed to make women spend thousands of pounds on achieving “perfection” in the form of decorative birdcages, fad diets, and designer shoes. It’s all very shiny and alluring, like a big theatrical performance of femininity, but there’s also something very impersonal about having these choices dictated by a constant stream of Facebook ads. I can totally see why so many brides-to-be get sucked in, but I’ll be giving the hungry Princess bride routine a miss and getting married on my own terms.