8 Weeks To Go!

So, it’s been ages since I last wrote anything. To be honest all I wanted to do once University deadlines were over was take some time out and concentrate on relaxing for a while.

After giving in my portfolio after my one and only all-nighter of the year, I spent the rest of the day in bed and caught up on some much needed sleep!

I’ve had a lot happen in the last month; I’ve started a new job, I’ve taken a two week trip to Tokyo, moved house, I’m graduating and I’m now entering into the final stages of show prep….jeez!

The trip to Tokyo, if you haven’t already been paying much attention to my Instagram, was absolutely incredible! I had the time of my life out there with my partner and could go on and on forever about the things we did/saw/ate/travelled to – but I’ll spare you that much for now and just give a few highlights.

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My favourite places in the trip were the areas that most tourists don’t tend to visit, which gave me more of a feeling of authenticity. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy the more popular areas; we’ve nearly all been a tourist in London to see all the famous sites, so I guess it’s no different to that. But it was nice to get away from the crowds and visit places that were more popular with the locals such as Shima-Kichijoji, Mount Takao and an amazing drinking spot called Harmonica Yokocho.

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We also spent time with two couples of two generations, so we could get to know more about the culture and really find out what it would be like to live in Japan itself. Being able to meet couples that were so different in age gave us some incredibly different and rewarding experiences, whilst also making new friends that we will hopefully keep for life.

The older couple – the Hosoda family – took us to see Mount Takao and make the climb to the top, half way up was an incredible old shrine with incense burning all day. We of course prayed for wealth and good fortune before heading to the top! They then invited us into their home for dinner, where we experienced traditional food and a house still with tatami mat floors and paper walls.

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The younger couple – the Tsugawa family – showed us what it was like to live in modern Japan, where and how to shop, as well as showing us to cook traditional food in their home – giving us some amazing gifts upon our departure.

My partner and I decided a long time ago that once we both graduated, that we would move out there for a few years, and we went out there this time to really get a feel for it. Now it’s official, in a year’s time I’ll be living in Japan!

Now, onto prep!

Prep since getting all other stresses in my life out of the way is going amazingly well. Now I’m no longer doing late nights to keep up with deadlines or working 9-5 I’m able to spend real time prepping food that tastes good and completely focus on my training. So far the progress in 2 short weeks has been great, and I hope it continues.

I won’t lie, it’s still tiring and the mental battle with self-confidence, fatigue and hunger is difficult, but seeing the progress makes it all worth it.

Today I had my first posing class with Hayley Clough (@posingbyhayley) and though I thought I was going to be a clumsy dinosaur in heels, I actually managed to pull some poses off to the best of my ability and see the changes in my body even more.

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Now it’s getting closer to show day, the intensity has sky rocketed and I’m training twice a day with at least an hour of cardio, along with reduced calories. I know that it’ll be worth it on the day, and I’m now getting super excited to be tanned up.

The weirdest part for me, though I’m looking forward to it, is being tanned, made up and on stage. It’s something that is the opposite of my personality. I’m usually a complete introvert and an anxious mess 90% of the time, but I’m sure once I’m on stage and the adrenaline kicks in it’ll be completely different. I don’t have the expectation in my head that I’ll place or win anything, that was never my intention as self-defeating as that sounds – but for me to go through prep, to stand on stage looking my absolute best and enjoying the fuck out of the day is all I want. To have the confidence to stand on stage in front of hundreds of people, saying that this is me and this is how hard I’ve worked…that’s all I want. For me this is personal. Anything that happens on top of that is just an added bonus.

Until next time.

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A Little Time For Reflection

For some reason, May has always been a pretty pivotal month in my life.

Two years ago, it meant the end of homelessness, sleeping on friend’s sofas and finding my own place. I also found an amazing guy.

A year ago it was the beginning of learning to live with a chronic bowel condition.

This year, it’s meant the completion of my degree after a two-and-a-half-year gap, leaving my job for something new, and unfortunately the loss of a friend.

So, every year, I like to reflect on how far things have come for me.

I think after losing my home after a pretty rough break up (I’m not going to go into detail, I’ll spare you that) it’s made me more grateful than ever, and appreciative of the things that I do have. I lost all my self-worth and confidence, and a lot of personal items with it. I don’t think I’ve ever reached such a low point in my life and it was, for the first time since I was a young teenager, that I ever considered suicide. I spent a few months diving in and out of unhealthy coping mechanisms but was lucky enough to spend a long time with a very good therapist who helped me unravel the tangled knot of myself, and rediscover who I was and make peace with the past. I also had an extremely close support network for the first time in my life, with friends and a new relationship that helped me every step of the way.

At this moment in time, I love myself for who I am, and have learned that you can’t please everyone. My little room in my shared house is mine, the things I have in it, though I don’t own a huge amount, are mine – I feel safe here and everything in it I have earned myself. I wear what I want, I do what I enjoy, and for the first time in a long time have stopped worrying what others think.

Learning to live with a chronic bowel condition was tough, and I thought life was trying to punish me for being a terrible person for a long time. Imagine feeling so nauseous that you can’t eat, and every time you tried to your insides just felt like they were on fire. Over the course of a couple of months I lost a lot of weight, nearly a stone in around 4/5 weeks, which was mostly through starvation. It took a long time for doctors to consider that it was down to my gut health and eating habits rather than a medical condition they could fix with medication or surgery. I had ridiculous amounts of tests for pregnancy and STDs (yeah thanks for that assumption guys!) appendicitis, bowel cancer, liver damage, ovarian cysts, gallstones…ultrasounds, blood tests and even the fun time of a colonoscopy! It’s been an adventure finding out that my bowels just decided not to work one day.

People often laugh and joke about IBS, and don’t really view it as all that serious, but more like having a case of the shits every now and then…which admittedly is partly true! It has changed my relationship with food and made me more aware of the things that I was putting into my body. The silver lining to it, is that it’s caused me to make even more healthier choices than before, and due to gluten and dairy intolerance it makes it hard to go on massive binges when I’m craving sugar or high fat junk foods. For a long time, the foods I ate became incredibly bland, as I can’t have garlic, onions or most vegetables/pulses that bring a lot of flavour to food, but you learn to adapt and find new ways to flavour your meals. It also meant that it put a stop to take-aways…but it won’t stop me risking a pizza every now and then! (if you see me looking grumpy or pale-faced, you’ll know why!)

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If you take some time to look at the FODMAP diet, you’d see how restrictive it can be. Thankfully with a diagnosis and the help of a specialist I was able to regain some control and learn to live with it. It still flares up occasionally, and I can’t prevent it completely, but knowing why my body is reacting a certain way is more reassuring than being left in the dark.

This year, the biggest event for me has been completing my degree. When I failed third year thanks to some really shitty tutors, and a summer retake I wasn’t able to do due to losing my home, I had really given up on it and myself. It wasn’t until I’d gotten back on my feet that I really found my drive again and wrote a letter to every University that taught Architecture to take me in and let me finish. In the end it was my previous University that took me in and gave me the chance, and I somehow managed to get through an incredibly tough and intense nine months. I apologise to everyone I studied with about the amount of times I cried during tutorials, presentations, site visits…(emotional mess much!?) But with the mental battles, I also had some amazing experiences both abroad and on campus – my tutors were some of the best and more supportive people I could ask for.

Somehow, I got through it and made some friends along the way, and now it feels like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. All I need to do now is make it to graduation day!

The most recent event has been leaving my job. I didn’t think it’d be quite as emotional as I thought, as my relationship with the team is really what kept me there for a long time. I made some amazing friends and had some great times, but I knew it was time to move on when a new and better opportunity was offered to me. On my last day it hadn’t really sunk in that I was leaving, and waking up the next day and not having to get up, be anywhere, put on uniform….that’s when it really hit me. I’m so thankful for the support that I was given during my time there, and I will miss seeing the lovely faces of my team every day.

Today however, brought with it a loss. An old work colleague and friend passed away and it’s hit quite hard – though he left months before me we always got along so well and he always made time for me. We’d often laugh and joke about how terrible the world and the struggles of mental health were, and he was someone to confide in when you were really struggling. It’s rare that I meet someone more sarcastic and cynical than myself, but my god, he really was a laugh. Beneath the harder exterior he was kind and cared, but was also honest and would never bullshit to you.

I was so looking forward to you being with us at the weekend, as I hadn’t seen you in a long time, but we’ll buy you a beer anyway. You crazy fool.

Tim and Ash

To reflect on the last few years, I’ve learned that life can be hard and throw some really fucking difficult struggles at you, but with it has come some amazing opportunities and events that have shaped me. Life was made to challenge us in ways we never expected, and through all of this I’ve come out the other side with the biggest fire under my arse. I’ve pushed myself to limits I didn’t even know I had and learned a lot about myself along the way – and I can say that I am proud of the things I’ve achieved. Alongside part-time study, I’ve not only worked a full-time job, but gone through an immense prep journey (which I will blog about soon!) as well as training for a half marathon. I look forward to what the next year brings for me, and I can’t wait to stand on stage in September.

Until next time.

Mental Health Awareness Week (A little late)

So, I was supposed to post this yesterday when it was still actually Mental Health Awareness Week. However, and ironically, University stress got in the way!

Now I’ve actually submitted and am currently sitting in bed with nothing to do (!!!!), please have a gander at the below. Or not, I’m not the boss of you.

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I’ve taken a little break away from social media and the gym over the last week, as I’ve had more pressing concerns like my University Degree. How selfish right?

It seems appropriate that with my return to civilisation from a month of intense stress, that not only is it Mental Health Week, but also a focus on stress itself.

I find it interesting that currently, there’s far more Mental Health awareness than there has ever been, yet the stigma of those suffering is still very much prevalent. It’s only in recent years that I felt confident enough to be honest and open with my own mental health difficulties, whereas before I would hide it due to fear of judgement and that it was a sign of weakness on my part.

Throughout my life I have seen other people suffer the same stigmas that I have, many of which have been close friends or family members. One of my parents was suicidal when I was growing up, and when other kids at school saw them riddled with scars and clearly struggling to cope, I got bullied for it…actually bullied.

Kids can seriously be cruel.

Later in my own life I then got bullied for having my own scars – even now people still stare at me like I’m diseased – and in my teens I too was suicidal. But they no longer bother me so much. I don’t make the effort to cover myself in the summer, nor should I have to. That’s not to say I like them being there, but they are unfortunately a permanent part of me, and I have grown to accept why and how they came to be there, and how I have moved on with my life since.

However, no matter how open we seem to be about our mental struggles, I still feel that there are out-of-date attitudes and judgements that hold us back. People that don’t tell their boss for fear of losing their job, don’t tell their friends in case they think they’re weak, don’t tell their teachers for fear of being cast out as a problem child or don’t tell their GP for fear of being sectioned or not taken seriously. I myself was told by my family GP a number of years ago that my depression was ‘just a phase’ and that I would grow out of it. 13 years later here I am, still.

“While stress isn’t a mental health problem in itself, it often leads to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. It can also lead to physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease and joint and muscle problems.” (Mental Health Foundation)

It’s astounding that 1 in 4 of us will experience Mental Health problems in our lives, and that almost 74% of people have felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Then why are do we not reach out properly to those that clearly need some help?

In the modern working world, we are expected to do more than what is expected of us in our roles, whether this be working ‘voluntary overtime’, staying an extra half an hour in the office so you’re not the first one out or even taking on a million different responsibilities due to staffing levels. Nearly every business these days is trying to make the most out of their employees to save money. Whatever it is, we are too often afraid to say no to those that ask too much of us in case we come across as selfish or lazy. I know I’ve fallen into that trap before and worked myself to the point I made myself ill, just because I felt it was expected of me to do so. Those that didn’t were often spoken badly of and I wasn’t going to let that be me anytime soon – so in nearly every job I’ve had I never really had the confidence to say no.

This, and with the rise of social media and smart phones/gadgets, we are unable to escape from our lives for more than 5 minutes, never letting ourselves have any down time because we’re either too busy checking work emails, obsessing over what everyone else is going in their lives via social media, or even having terrible news articles spewed at us constantly. We wonder why we haven’t got the big house, or the loving family that some random person we went to school with has; why we don’t have the amazing body that some cleverly posed Instagram model has; why we just aren’t good enough…

No wonder why we’re all so fucking stressed.

Throughout my life I’ve never dealt all that well with stress. As soon as I get myself into a high-pressure situation, my depression and anxiety take over and my whole brain goes into melt-down. (I think I’ve cried nearly every day at Uni so far…) But then I’ve never had anyone teach me how to deal with it properly, nor have I ever given myself down time until this year.

As difficult as we find it to tear ourselves away from work, study, our phones/laptops or even family and friends – it’s vital that we give ourselves a chance to breathe. We need a chance to not only absorb the things that have happened to us, but also give our minds a chance to reset and rest. This could be as simple as going for a walk, reading a good book or even just taking time out to do nothing at all. I’m a big fan of the ‘self-care’ movement but find that some parts of it can be a bit patronising and fluffy, such as ‘taking a bath’ or whatever. ‘Self-care’ can even mean taking time to make that doctors or opticians appointment you’ve been too busy to make, cleaning the house or doing something just as practical.

My own ‘self-care’ is looking after my body. I stick to a good diet and a workout at the gym. Why? Because it genuinely makes me feel good. The one good way I have of dealing with stress in my life is taking it out on the weights. It’s the one place that I can put my headphones in and lose myself in my music and my lifting for an hour or so a few days a week. The only problem is that lately Uni deadlines have gotten in the way, so the last few days I must’ve become unbearable to my poor damn boyfriend! The best thing about it is that not only does it make me feel good, it also means that I am caring for myself in the long-term.

So when you get too stressed, do something that makes you feel good. Eat something tasty, go do something you love, give yourself time to heal and process. Stress has more of an effect on us than we think – and it’s about high time, along with all other mental health issues – that we addressed it and took it seriously.

Until next time.

I’m Fine!

This week’s theme is about stress.

Mother fucking stress.

Ever seen the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S where Ross is ‘fine’? That is me. I am fine.

I’m fine.

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After having my house burgled and sorting all that out – I’ve actually managed to land on my feet and not only get an extension, but also be given enough time off work to get to the new deadline in time. Which is currently a week and a half away. Fuck.

Unfortunately, this means I now have to work to two deadlines in tandem with each other. And I don’t know how or where to start. And I think I’m going to fail again. Stressed.

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I’ve got a tutorial tomorrow in which to talk to my tutors and find where to go next, but even that makes me nervous as I worry that I haven’t done enough – but I know that I will be behind everyone else because I’m working to a different deadline. Plus the fact it’s the last tutorial of the year.

My logical brain is currently in a constant battle with my emotional one.

Also, being back on a prep diet that has had some adjustments, after several days of being completely off plan due to illness and robbery I’m finding it really hard to get back into the headspace.

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Most people don’t realise how much of a physical struggle stress can be, rather than just a mental one. I tend to find that my appetite either skyrockets or just disappears completely – but this is very much dependant on how my insides react to it. Anxiety and high levels of stress make my IBS flare up like nothing else, so I end up feeling constantly sick until it’s over. So far the stomach aches and diarrhoea (soz, not soz) have kept themselves to a minimum, but I’m sure as the deadline approaches they’ll come and rear their ugly heads too.

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So here I am trying to write a decent blog post but have ended up rambling like an idiot because I can’t concentrate at all, and my head is a bit everywhere. I apologise for the awful format.

I always like to end things on a more positive note, so I would like to mention that my training session on Sunday went really well. My squat felt a little sticky, but watching it back on video I found my form was fine and it went up quicker than it felt. My left side weakness is showing, but we can improve that with some unilateral movements where necessary.

I also took some time out to enjoy the sunshine and get out of the house. I’m sick of looking at the four walls of my room, working at the desk and cabin fever started to creep in – so a friend invited me out for coffee and a picnic, which I really needed. It was nice to just sit and talk to someone about life and random bits, rather than work and deadlines, and it gave me a chance to unwind after everything that’s happened. Though I’m a bit of a mess today I’m sure after tomorrow I’ll get past it.

I’ve been through worse.

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“Is there anything she can’t handle? She’s been broken. She’s been knocked down. She’s been defeated. She’s felt pain that most couldn’t handle. She looks fear in the face; year after year, day after day, but yet, she never runs. She never hides. And she always finds a way to get back up. She’s unbreakable. She’s a warrior. She’s you”

Until next time.

So, I got burgled…

This has quite possibly been one of the worst weeks of my entire life.

I might be being a little dramatic but stay with me here.

Last Saturday I came down with a really shitty chest cold/infection thing that’s had me pretty much out for the count the whole time, and I haven’t been able to make it into work. I spent three days without a voice and coughing up yellow gunk (I’m so sexy, right?!) The worst part is I had my first formal deadline this week so even though I felt awful I still had to drag my ass in front of a computer screen to get it done on time.

…and the Doctor says? Just wait it out…Fun.

So, I spent most of my waking hours in bed, coughing half the night and napping through the day, minus some time spent in front of a laptop. Final hand-in 1 of 3 completed, and still have to push on to get the next two done. Safe to say I am extremely stressed out right now.

Even better things happened when Mother Nature decided to come knocking on my door, so not only am I stressed and feeling ill, I also get to feel bloated as fuck and be rendered hormonal and useless!

But wait there’s more…

Friday night I had my flat burgled. I was in the flat at the time.

I was in my room the entire day, mostly in bed due to aforementioned illness. When my boyfriend left for work I thought I’d pamper myself and put on a face mask and watched an episode of something on Netflix whilst it ‘set’ or whatever. Once it finished I thought I’d have a long, hot shower to try and clear my chest a little and do the whole exfoliating thing, ‘cause I love my skin I do. It always goes mental when I’m on, as well as being ill. Whilst I was in there I could hear someone rummaging about in the kitchen drawers, but thought nothing of it as my housemate had been cooking earlier and I’d just assumed she was cleaning up after herself.

WRONG.

Once I’d dried myself and walked through the house, I walk to my bedroom door to find a complete stranger standing in the doorway on his way out.

This is literally my worst fear in the entire world, since leaving my previous relationship. I often have night terrors about being chased or followed, especially to my house, and suddenly it became a reality.

I was terrified.

I stood in shock for a few seconds, before blurting out something like ‘what the fuck are you doing?,’ – he doesn’t look me in the eye and pushes his way past me saying that he was looking for a ‘friend called Daniel that lives here’. In hindsight I wish that I had challenged him or stopped him from leaving, but that could’ve made things worse.

Once I walk into my room it instantly clicks that I’ve been robbed. My phone has disappeared from the end of the bed. My rucksack and handbag have been moved and emptied. Panic attack ensues. I tear the room apart to find that my purse has also gone. Even though my hair I still soaking wet and I’m only in a dressing gown, I charge through the house banging on doors looking for him, asking if anyone else has seen him. My poor neighbours must’ve thought I was mental. I run outside and do a lap of the street in bare-feet and he’s nowhere to be seen. There’s now a hole in the bottom of my foot from broken glass or whatever.

Now I’m in full panic and I can’t breathe. I feel like my heart is going to explode and I’m sweating like a champion and crying hysterically.

I want to call the police, my boyfriend, but I can’t. I feel trapped. My laptop is still on the bed so the first thing I do is message my boyfriend on Facebook and demand that he calls my phone, NOW.

He knows me well enough to know that something’s up, and once he realises what’s happened he tells me to lock the door and wait for him, and he runs to my house.

I was ridiculously hysterical at this point, deep in a level of panic I haven’t felt in over a year.

He gives me his phone to call the police, and asks one of my housemates to sit with me whilst he does a patrol of the houses and outside to see if anyone is out there – and everyone sits with me whilst I wait for them to arrive. The police helped me cancel all my cards and stop my phone whilst they were here and made sure I was alright before they left.

It felt like forever. By the time they’d looked around the house and taken a statement it was about midnight when they left. My housemates made sure I was alright, and my boyfriend helped me grab a few bits from my house and take it over to his for the night. He sat up with me whilst I cried, ordered us some food and watched TV with me until I felt ready to try and sleep. It was about 3/4am by the time I got into bed.

8am the next day I was woken up by the forensics team to let me know they were on their way, so I left my boyfriend sleeping and went to get dressed. I thought I’d get some air and sat outside the house to smoke whilst waiting for them, only to find the creepiest bit of all.

There were footprints in the grass outside my bedroom window. The fucking creep had actually either been watching me through my window, or peered through to see if anyone was in before going round to try the doors. I felt like I was going to vomit. My blood ran cold.

Once the forensics team came I showed her everything, and she printed the entire house. There’s still dust in my room where I can’t bring myself to wipe it off. My estate agent has been extremely helpful with the whole thing and is now finding me a new house to move into, as I can’t bring myself to sleep in that room anymore. As soon as it gets dark I go over to my boyfriend’s place and stay there again until morning.

Thanks to this twat, my insomnia has come back, my anxiety has hit the roof, I’m depressed as fuck – and the best bit – the stress has set off my IBS like never before. I feel constantly sick, my stomach hurts and I’m basically spending my day coughing in the bathroom.

I should be glad that though he saw me, and I was vulnerable at the time, that he didn’t try anything and just left the house as quickly as he could. I still have my health…ish.

The best bit is that he actually used my cards within a 15 minute walking distance of my own house, and has tried to use my phone. I hope he enjoyed both the meals he bought himself…

I needed to go into town to see a Doctor over the weekend, and I couldn’t face being in the flat anymore, but I got so anxious that I ended up hiding in a friend’s shop for over an hour after doing what I needed to do.

I still have two deadlines to go

I. Will. Not. Let. This. Beat. Me.

I HAVE to end this on a positive after a shitty time.

I’ve got 18 weeks now until show day, and my bikini has now arrived at work! I’m so excited to try it on, it’s so sparkly!! (Basically, the opposite of me!)

My coach has adjusted my workout and my diet so even though I’m facing another calorie reduction, and I’m dying inside just thinking about it, I’m more determined than ever to look fucking amazing come September 2nd.

I also finish University in 3 weeks’ time. 3 goddamn weeks! I’m not ready for it to end, but also can’t wait to have a summer where I can finally relax, go on holiday to Japan and graduate. Thankfully, probably because I disturbed him, my laptop and hardrive were still intact, so I haven’t lost my whole year of hard work. I will finish this, I will absolutely smash it. Even though I’ve had the shittiest time, I have been through worse and I will not let this ruin it.

This year is still going to be my best yet.

Until next time.

The Sun Is Finally Upon Us!

So, it’s nearing the end of April, it’s a beautifully sunny day outside and where am I?

Inside, wearing a hoodie, with the heating on and a mug of hot coffee in my hands…

…I might just be slightly under the weather!

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Over the weekend I developed a fucking horrible chesty cold/infection thing that currently has me keeping myself awake, coughing up yellowish green and feeling pretty shitty (attractive image, right?) This means I also haven’t been to the gym in four days and I’m starting to get antsy.

I know that I need to rest but with 19 weeks go I’m getting pretty on edge.

Plus I’m also bored out of my mind after spending all my time since Saturday evening in bed, cabin fever is approaching.

However, being ill does also not excuse you from your diet – eating well will only help you recover faster, rather than filling your body full of unhealthy junk food that it doesn’t need. Sure, eating a little bit more can’t do anymore harm, so I’ve been filling up on more veggies and stuff rather than submitting myself to the sugar I’ve been craving. Last night was a perfect example; I felt too shitty to cook so instead ordered take-out, one that enabled me to still reach my macros whilst also being filling and generally tasty. Nando’s – your delivery takes a fucking lifetime, but goddamn were you tasty!

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(Butterfly Chicken Breast, side salad, corn and halloumi cheese <3)

In more exciting news, my show day bikini has been finished and I’m now waiting eagerly for it to arrive, so I can put it on! The amazing Lucy at Allure Couture (@allure_couture_lucy) made me something absolutely beautiful. I wanted something that was slightly alternative looking, but also wasn’t too dark – as much as I love wearing black it’s not something that shows particularly well on stage – so we opted for purple and graphite instead. I wanted her to design something she felt was right, so she had a lot of free reign over it, and I’m astounded at what’s she’s done! I want to wear it every day up until show day!

Now that it’s finished it’s made everything a little more real. I’ve been so focused on my studies that I’ve kind of forgotten that I’ll be standing on stage in September and just kind of left it as a bit of a dream. I’m both scared and excited that this is actually happening. I’ve booked the hotel, tan and now the bikini is finished I’m just waiting for the make-up and hair slots to become available – I’m going to look like a completely different person by the time I get on stage. I’ve also got a posing class booked at the end of May, right after my final University submission, which I’m dreading as I know I’m going to look like a right idiot. I’m not very coordinated or graceful, so I’m just gunna look like a confused Bambi by the time it rolls around! Between then and September I’ll go to a few posing classes as I need to get it nailed; how are you supposed to show off what you’ve got if you don’t know how to show it off as best you can? I do have a pair of shoes from my old pole dancing days that I’m hoping will match my bikini, but I don’t even know if I can walk in them anymore…practice practice practice right?…

It was also check-in today, so the only thing I forced myself out of bed for. My weight has been very consistent for the last month, and after two weeks of weigh-ins every four days, it still remains as such. Currently sitting happily at 51.3kg and looking pretty good for it – the weight has come off evenly on my upper body and my abs are a permanent fixture rather than appearing on the odd day of training or increased cardio. My lower body has yet to accept the fact we’re trying to shed that fat and my thighs are still stubbornly holding onto as much as they can. But I have 100% trust in my coach (@shaun_gillespie_pt) and he’s done an amazing job so far on my fat ass.

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In regards to University I’ve only got one month left. That’s terrifying.

It still feels like yesterday that I burst into tears on the first day meeting everyone (I’m awesome at first impressions) and convinced myself before I even started working on anything, that I had already failed. Now I’m feeling a lot more confident in myself, and about 60% sure I’ll pass this time…but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I’ve been working my butt off and sacrificing a lot of time and sleep to get the work done as I’m having to juggle my job alongside it, which it why I think I’ve ended up getting sick so close to the deadlines.

To be honest my final presentation went okay, and now it’s just a case of taking the feedback on board and producing the final bit of work required for portfolio. I think I can do it…I think…

For now I’m just going to take my hot water bottle and blanket and wrap myself in a burrito of infected sadness.

Until next time.

What does it mean to be ‘Feminine’?

There’s a subject I’ve been wanting to touch on for a while, and today is the perfect opportunity.

Today I cried at work.

There I said it!

Wanna know why?

Because at least every other day, someone will make a comment on how ‘manly’ I look to them.

Today was one of those days.

On 99.9% of occasions this doesn’t usually bother me. Since I was a teenager I’ve always questioned society’s ‘norms’ and what it means to be ‘girly’.

When I was a small child my own Grandmother told me that I would never be a real girl because my hair was too short and that I looked like a boy. I was still in primary school at the time – I think I was about 6 years old.

I was bullied ruthlessly throughout my school years as I was a complete tomboy, and shorter than the average person (pretty sure I stopped growing when I was about 12!), going on to develop an affinity for things alternative and people thought I was mental. Therefore, I was a school bully magnet.

Throughout my life this is meant that I’ve developed a complex about the way I look and am. Admittedly I have no interest in make-up, tanning, hair styling or anything that might be considered ‘feminine’ by any means. I don’t get up early to make-up my face up before work, and I’d rather be wearing army boots than I would heels any day of the week – and there’s nothing wrong with other women that prefer otherwise. It’s all about being yourself and comfortable with who you are.

Because of this I seem to make people uncomfortable.

I work in an environment where most of the female workers are perceived as more ‘feminine’ than myself, and because of this I attract negative comments that are often defined as ‘banter’ rather than crossing a very personal line.

I understand that as I used to be a powerlifter, often making lifts of around 80-95kg at my peak, that this will mean I have a lot more muscle mass than most people. Now I’m prepping to be in my first ever fitness competition, this muscle mass is becoming more defined as my body fat slowly comes away – and god dammit am I proud of the achievements that I have made so far. But fuck me does it make for some uncomfortable conversations…

The most common thing I’ve been asked is “aren’t you going to stop lifting, you’re gunna look like a man?” or “I bet you go home and beat your boyfriend don’t you, cause you’re bigger than him!” Now isn’t that a lovely stereotype of gender roles. Yeah, you can laugh it off because it’s a ridiculous thing to say, but deep down it also hits a nerve. I work my ass off in the gym several times a week, and stick to very strict diet to look the way I do and achieve the body I am proud of – and the best thing you can say to me is that?

The other thing people comment on is my less than feminine features and how they play a big part in my ‘manly’ physique. I’ve always had a small chest, only going up to a C-cup when I was overweight at University, since then I’ve sat comfortably at a B-cup which will eventually recede down to an A-cup once I’ve cut down nearer the end of my prep; and people feel the need to comment on this too. Unsurprisingly enough it’s by men that have bigger tits than I do…

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Throughout this fitness journey I’ve also become a little obsessive in the way I look compared to others which has also affected the way I deal with these comments, and is also bringing me down, but with constant food weighing and check-ins sometimes it’s not so easy to let go. My body is changing and it’s taking me a little while to get used to that, just as it did when I put on weight and became equally uncomfortable with my appearance. I also need to keep in mind that this is not forever, nor is it a sustainable way of living and training. My body is being put to the extreme to shed the excess fat and show off the muscle mass sitting underneath, I should be proud of the way that I am beginning to change and embrace and further changes that will inevitably come with it, rather than let the opinions of a few people get under my skin.

Personally, I like to think that the negative comments directed towards me are because I threaten what makes people comfortable and challenges their perception of what it means to be feminine. We are going through a societal change in which gender stereotypes are being constantly challenged, and women are no longer expected to act and appear a certain way. The fitness industry for us is also changing, and women are now wanting to be ‘strong not skinny’ which I think is fucking awesome.

“There’s a sense of dedication and pride that comes with training for a competition and transforming your body that I think men are attracted to. If they don’t like it, I don’t care. I probably wouldn’t want to date them anyway because they don’t have the same drive as me.” (https://www.cosmopolitan.com/health-fitness/advice/a6881/female-bodybuilder-photo-essay/)

In the last few years I’ve found myself far less alone in the weights area of the gym, as more and more women are embracing the free weights and strength training that encourages them not to be just skinny cardio-bunnies, but also strong-ass individuals that can do anything they want to. I love it.

So, before you comment on how masculine I am, how ugly you find my abs and biceps, how weird my diet is, how different I look to what you desire; think about how much fucking effort I put in to achieving it.

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In the last 12 months I’ve worked on my body throughout bowel issues which meant I didn’t eat more than 500 calories a day, throughout mental health issues, throughout fucking busy and stressful days at work and through injury. I’ve run my half marathon, I’m a month away from graduating University and 20 weeks away from my competition – I am fucking nailing it. I love the fact that I have abs coming in, that the only clothes I wear are 90% black (but I’ll wear a fucking skin tight pink dress if I want to!), that I have no idea how to apply make-up and that I lift heavy things for fun! That is just a touch of what makes me, me.

I’ve touched on this briefly in my Instagram before on International Women’s Day, and I’ll quote exactly what I said back then – “Being a woman is whatever the fuck you want it to be! Embrace who you are, and fucking celebrate it!”

So, I’ve cried today, but now I’ll carry on just as I am, being me.

Until next time.