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The Columnist

My life and other disasters…

The Columnist on Celebrity Magazines

Continue reading “The Columnist on Celebrity Magazines”

Why I don’t like TOWIE

Continue reading “Why I don’t like TOWIE”

What I’d say to twenty year old me…

Continue reading “What I’d say to twenty year old me…”

Breaking News! 30 is NOT the new 20!

Continue reading “Breaking News! 30 is NOT the new 20!”

What’s your Gremlin?

Sometimes, from nowhere, a totally unprovoked wave of self-doubt/negativity/fear will slap me in the face and convince me that I’m going nowhere in life. On occasions, I can brush it off and move on. Other times, it has the ability to swallow entire days or weeks, which renders me helpless, painfully trawling the internet for jobs, seeking new directions, researching courses I should do, challenges I should take on or countries I should visit – all whilst hyperventilating in between mouthfuls of dairy milk. If it’s really bad, a quick scan of facebook is all it takes to set me off when I see just how successful, rich, married or child-bearing so many of my peers now are, and it’s a challenge not to curl up into a ball wailing ‘what have I done with my life!?’

I have a friend who refers to this niggling feeling as her ‘Gremlin’. Some people have more control over them than others. But some, like me, can’t help themselves and will always feed them after midnight. If you haven’t seen the film then this metaphor is totally lost on you and if you’re too young to have seen it – I don’t need to reminded of how old I am! 😉

In my opinion, Gremlins exist in everyone. Some lie dormant and may never rear their ugly heads, whereas others find them much more difficult to control and are a lot harder on themselves. I am in the latter camp. It might explain why I have changed jobs annually since leaving university and continue to explore varying career options in the hope for contentment. Although I’m not really expecting PAYE to pave my path to enlightenment, which is why, I went back to Uni and started working as a freelancer.

I have come to quite a serious conclusion as to why the Gremlin won’t leave me alone and why so many of my friends are battling Gremlins of their own. Now, I’m not going to start waving the feminist flag here, or  burn any bras, but I think being a female is a major part of it. Biologically, we are forced into a much narrower funnel, where certain decisions have to be made, potentially a lot earlier than we are ready to have to make them. The family versus career debate. It’s not new by any stretch but it’s one that really resonates with me (and my female friends) and we can’t seem to shake off the resounding tick of the biological clock.  It’s frustrating to think that if you don’t get the ‘family’ thing nailed down in the next five to ten years, then it’s unlikely that it will ever happen. But by taking time out to start a family, whats the likelihood of slotting right back into the position where you left off? Do you pay for childcare (and potentially cancel out your contribution to the household income) or do you wait until the school years commence and force yourself back into the job market after 5 years?

I know it seems slightly melodramatic as an unmarried co-habitee to be throwing around these concerns, but this is my Gremlin’s latest and I have no control over it.

Men don’t have the same concerns. I know because I’ve asked them. (Not ALL the men, but enough of a sample to come to my own conclusions). Their twenties can be filled with promiscuity and football, their thirties with promiscuity and golf (they’ve got more disposable income by then) and at any point before they sign up for their pension – they have the choice to make an addition to their life path with a partner and children.  There isn’t the same rush, the same potential sacrifices. It’s really a nice optional side line that runs parallel to their career.  I’m sure men have Gremlins too, but in my mind, they are battling between putting a bet on the football and having a pint after work. Men still have more control over their lives because their timelines are longer, giving them more time to really consider their options.  Girls are often slapped in the face by mother nature who’s screaming  ‘You’re not getting any younger so stop farting around and get pro-creating!’

Challenging as it is to ignore, I have discovered one way of shutting up the Gremlin…

Alcohol…

Cheers

Want to live for longer?

I am turning 30 in a few weeks. There is no avoiding or delaying it and I’m not going to lie… I’m NOT happy about it. I like being in my twenties, I actually quite like being 29, on the cusp of adulthood – just enough maturity to hold your own in conversations with the older generation, but enough youth to justify jaegarbombs and an overdraft. A happy place in between Radio 1 and Radio 2, with the odd flick over to Radio 4 when I’m feeling intellectual.

I’ve made it my mission for the last few weeks to drink as little alcohol as possible and work out more than ever to ensure that I am physically prepared for the potential (inevitable) psychological and emotional meltdown that is due to ensue any minute now.

Considering how quickly the last decade has gone, and apparently it only goes quicker from here on in, thanks to my Gran, who politely pointed out ‘this is what happens when you get old’… I’ve decided that some lifestyle choices need to be put in place, permanently (not just when I’m feeling guilty after a bout of alcohol poisoning) to ensure that for the next thirty, forty, fifty years – I’m in tip top condition! Luckily, there are positive statistics to support the fact that we are all living longer.

Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy (82.6 years) followed by Hong Kong (82.2 years) and Iceland (81.8 years). The world average is 67.2 years and the UK average is 79.4 years. One thing that you can’t deny is that lifestyle has a major impact on lifespan (put the doughnut down) and I’m thinking that we should be learning from the nations that are outliving the rest of us.

Developed nations are seeing people live for up to ten years longer than their parents. “We’re living longer because people are reaching old age in better health,” said demographer James Vaupel, author and expert at Duke University’s Center on the Demography of Aging. So it’s really quite simple, if you maintain a healthy lifestyle while you are young,  you are more likely to reach old age in better health, increasing your chances of living for longer.

Life expectancy changes as you get older.  For example, the life expectancy of a child increases significantly once they reach their first birthday. As they get older, their chances of living longer increases year on year. For example, the average life expectancy from birth for those in the United States is 77.7 years, but those who live to age 65 will see their life expectancy increase by almost 18 additional years. This takes their life expectancy up to 83 years.  So the key is to reach these milestones in good health to increase your chances of adding on more years.  There are many lifestyle choices and changes that you can make, which will certainly increase your chances of living longer and improve your overall health.

Apparently, according to Vaupel, if life expectancy continues to rise at the same rate as it has over the past two centuries, then it’s likely that half of the children alive today, in the developed world, may make it to 100 years.

Want to make sure you are maximizing your chances of seeing 100 birthday candles?  I do! At 100, a 30 year old will seem like an infant! Here are some adjustments that you can make to your lifestyle, which might just give you a few extra years:

Balanced Diet

About 40 per cent of cancers are diet related, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day can help to reduce your risk of cancer of the lung, digestive tract, bowel, bladder and breast.

Sweet potato

Loaded with vitamins, iron and magnesium, they are packed with health boosting nourishment.  They are also low on the glycaemic index so a great alternative to potatoes, which can leave you bloated and with a sugar low.

Blueberries

One of the highest concentration of anti-oxidants has earned the blueberry ‘superfood’ status. Anti-oxidants are vital in protecting the body from free radicals, the main cause of aging in living cells.

Exercise

Keeping fit is one of the most important ways to stay healthy. It’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have:

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia

Sex/intimacy

Being sexually active, not only lowers blood pressure and stress levels, but also boots immunity, heart health and self-esteem.

Fun

Gelatology, the study of laughter, (it’s actually a thing!) has brought to light some fascinating facts about laughter.  Not only does having fun improve alertness and creativity, but it’s a natural pain reliever as laughter helps the pituitary gland release its own pain-suppressing opiates

Sleep

Getting enough sleep is vital for overall health.  Not only can it improve athletic performance, attention spans and memory, it has also been proven to reduce inflammation, linked to heart disease and stroke, as well as reduce the likelihood of suffering from depression.

Read

Not only is it great for keeping your brain ticking but reading for pleasure has been shown to help people to relax and improve mood.

Get a pet

Pets can have an extraordinary impact on the lives of their owners. From lowering blood pressure to lessening anxiety, not forgetting the great benefits of regular exercise if you are walking a dog on a daily basis.

Relax

Evidence demonstrates that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we would commonly consider as major, like hypertension, poor diet and lack of exercise. It’s impact on our health is huge so, whether you choose meditation or a hot bath, it’s important to take time out each day to relax and unwind.

Making a few adjustments to your everyday life can make all the difference for and the sooner you start to make these changes, the quicker you’ll begin to feel the benefits. See you in seventy years! 🙂

Should we be taking vitamins?

I’m not going to lie, every Sunday night, head in hands, plagued with guilt after indulging in alcohol and whatever junk the hangover required for recovery – all it needs is a breezy Holland and Barratt advert to fool me into the belief that I’ll supplement my way to atonement.

Whether it makes any difference or not is still up for question.  Some health bods claim that a healthy, balanced diet should provide us with everything our bodies need in order to function healthily. But there is also the evidence of a depletion in nutritional content in a significant amount of today’s produce. Due to changing in farming methods and the use of pesticides. So even the healthiest plate might not be providing us with our recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.

If you’re worried about what you’re eating, it’s important to know which foods provide the best nutritional content. There may be some that surprise you, for example, a potato contains more vitamin C than an orange, shitake mushrooms can contain as much Vitamin D as mackerel and a handful of sunflower seeds could give you your RDA of Vitamin E. Understanding the nutritional content of food is just the beginning in terms of getting a balanced, healthy diet.

Despite the fact that many believe we don’t need to be taking additional supplements, there are certain symptoms that could be the result of a deficiency. This is when it might be worth considering supplementing or increasing foods with high amounts of particular nutrients to meet your daily needs. Women may find pre-menstrual tension relief with vitamin B6 supplements. Vitamin B1 is beneficial for nerve function and can help with restless leg syndrome. A lack of B9 could result in anaemia and fatigue could be alleviated with more vitamin C and vitamin D. These are just a few examples of many, and the information can be daunting.

If you feel you may have a deficiency, then go see your GP who can give you a blood test to determine whether or not you need to increase the amounts of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet.  Self-diagnosis could lead to a mis-diagnosis and as much as the benefits of vitamins and mineral are advertised, you rarely hear about the dangers of overdosing.

The body is able to excrete many vitamins itself, through urination, should there be a surplus. However, too much vitamin A, D, E, and K, which cannot be excreted from the body naturally, can cause problems from headaches, nausea, impaired vision and intestinal diseases. Even some standard doses may interfere with certain prescription medicines.

5-HTP, a mood and sleep supplement, can interfere with Parkinson’s disease medication. St. John’s wort can have an impact on the effectiveness of certain contraceptive pills as well as some blood thinners. Ginkgo biloba, renowned for helping with memory and brain function, can also interfere with blood thinners. Not everyone is aware of the potential risks and this sort of information isn’t on the packaging.  It’s important that you do your research before taking anything, particularly if you are on any other medication.

It’s not just vitamins that you can buy in supplement form, one amino acid that is becoming hugely popular is Omega-3. Getting plenty Omega-3 fatty acids are said to reduce inflammation, essential to the brain and cognitive function, and are especially necessary during foetal development. Due to increased publicity around the increased quantities of mercury found in oily fish, there is an increasing demand for Omega-3 supplements. If you are concerned about keeping fish in your diet but unsure of which has the highest mercury levels, it is recommended to avoid larger types such as swordfish and shark. Tuna is to be eaten in moderation, seeing more levels than other alternatives, which you may wish to substitute for salmon or halibut.

Increasing certain green vegetables in your diet such as kale and spinach, could also make up for the shortfall in Omega-3, as too much also comes with it’s risks; potential side effects include prolonged bleeding, low blood pressure and digestion problems.

My advice would be to ensure you eat a balanced diet. Where possible, buy produce from local suppliers and, if you can afford too, organic products will guarantee quality and less nutrient-killing pesticides.  If you think you are suffering from a deficiency, don’t go mad at the health shop (even if Gethin is telling you it’s buy 1 get one free), ask your doctor for a test and take their advice.

 

You can find a comprehensive table of vitamins, their function in the body and which foods you can find them in here. 

Sunshine! The benefits

FINALLY, summer seems to be hinting at a come back! After a weekend of sunshine and temperatures that didn’t necessitate any form of thermal underwear, it’s time to start thinking about sun exposure, the risks and the benefits.

I’m one of these pasty types that goes red and freckly in the sun, so I tend to avoid it and slather on enough fake tan to appear vaguely human.  But after reading about the possibility of being deficient in Vitamin D, I’ve decided to allow for a bit more sun (although not on my face – I’m on a serious anti-wrinkle campaign and I’m not about to let UVA/B get in the way of that)!

In the words of Jennifer Anniston (circa L’oreal Elvive sell-out) ‘Here comes the science bit’…

For years, research from various health advocates pretty much concluded that too much sunlight can dramatically increases the risk of skin cancers and deadly melanoma.  Sunburn and skin damage from too much sun can lead to premature ageing or skin growths that can become cancerous if untreated. Scientists have discovered that overexposure to UV radiation may suppress the immune system and the skin’s natural defenses, potentially raising the risk for infections. Bad news for tan-aholics and pretty much everyone in TOWIE, Geordie Shore and that ridiculous Welsh one that I can’t even make through the advert for without changing the channel, The Valleys.

BUT…

New research is now revealing that sun exposure can be extremely beneficial to our health and even reduce the risk of heart disease.

We all know that sunshine helps the body to produce vitamin D, which is hugely beneficial as it encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, promoting healthy bones and brain function. Not only have increased levels of vitamin D been shown to aid in weight loss, Researchers from discovered that higher vitamin D levels in healthy individuals have a significant impact genetic illnesses including cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases. Wowsers! (Good news for tangoed reality TV people.)

You can take supplements but the most natural way to increase levels is exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet rays are utilized to synthesize a form of cholesterol already in the body, into vitamin D. So it also encourages decreased levels of cholesterol. Take that Flora Pro-active! (I’m NOT a fan of margarine but that’s a whole other article!)

Vitamin D is not the only benefit of sun exposure. Scottish researchers found that when sunlight hits the skin, a compound is released in blood vessels that reduces blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. According to Dr Richard Weller, a senior lecturer in dermatology at the University of Edinburgh: “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer”.

Considering that heart disease and strokes kill up to 80 times more people than skin cancer in the U.K. (where the study took place) the blood pressure benefits from sunlight outweigh the risks for skin cancer. And I’m from Scotland – to get enough exposure to cause cancer would be a miracle in itself.

Getting more sunshine and ultraviolet light can make you feel happier and improve sleep as it helps the body produce more serotonin, endorphins and melatonin in your brain. Other benefits include and increase of white and red blood cell production, which enhances your immunity. UV rays from the sun can actually kill viruses, bacteria, moulds, yeast and fungi that may be found on the surface of your skin. So it also acts as a natural antiseptic. And while excessive sun exposure can lead to premature ageing, moderate sunlight has been shown to help clear up some cases of acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

I think the lesson here is don’t burn, don’t go mad, get outside more and enjoy the summer!

Sushi Samba

If you’ve ever read/watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then you’ll love Sushi Samba.  There is absolutely no relevance to Roald Dahl’s classic, nor is there much chocolate involved, but the first thing you will experience on arrival is the glass elevator that hurtles you to the 40th floor in about 7 and half seconds. It’s not for the faint hearted, semi-drunk, very drunk or anyone that suffers from vertigo. But close your eyes and it’s totally worth it.

It’s certainly a restaurant with a view and once you recover from the G shock the balcony bar, with spectacular views of the city and buzzing atmosphere will certainly make it worth your while. If all else fails, there is a great cocktail menu, which you can take full advantage of to get yourself back down.

The menu – an eclectic fusion of Brazilian and Japanese classics. Sounds strange, but it totally works. The yellowtail taquitos and rock shrimp tempura were to die for and steaks were served sizzling and ready to share. The desserts were particularly special, but after a cocktail, G&T, sake and wine, I couldn’t tell you what they were, only that they were gooood. Staff were friendly, willing to help and more than happy to keep the sake flowing (so really it’s their fault that the dessert is a blur).  The drinks covered every taste from exotic cocktails to an extensive wine list. After the meal, which we managed to drag out for hours (without any snooty time limits for a second sitting -a pet hate) we took a stroll onto the balcony, which somehow managed to dwarf, not only the Gherkin, but Tower Bridge.

Taking to the bar for a post meal cocktail, the music was fantastic, atmosphere electric and if you could tear yourself away from the city skyline and next to a patio heater, you could be excused for feeling as though you were on holiday, somewhere warm. That is, until the wind picks up.

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