#MENTALHEALTHAWARENESSWEEK

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

My worst fear used to be that one day the whole world would wake up and see me the way I saw myself. 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Body Dysmorphia, and Disordered Eating consumed my mind and my life for far too long. I strongly believe that even 'post recovery' these things never truly leave you... but recovery isn't ridding your mind of the thoughts altogether, but having the strength not to act upon them.

On the 9th January 2015 I wrote the following passage in a blog post: 'I can't remember a time in my life where I haven't felt inferior to somebody else around me, be it in academic achievements, personality, talent, body shape. I am guilty of constantly comparing myself to other people, over analysing myself and my achievements in comparison to those of the people who surround me and time and time again the conclusion of this analysis was that I was not good enough. I went to an extremely academic school, and although I loved my time there, I constantly struggled with the fact that every subject I considered myself to excel in, there was someone else who was just that little bit better. It was not that I had a desire to be the best or to be better than anyone else, I just longed to not feel inferior.'

The feeling of worry and fear of acceptance hung on to me for a very long time. It is a feeling I can date back to being as young as five years old: I was young and innocent and believed magic was the most wonderful thing in the world. I believed with every fibre of my body that Fairy God Mothers and Happily Ever Afters (and singing mice) really did exist. I believed it so strongly that when Santa dropped off a Snow White dress at Christmas, I cried from the irrational fear that if I wore it the wicked witch would come and kill me. I was five years old, and I was already letting worries ruin me.

These anxieties and heightened awareness of my appearance continued to affect me; I vividly remember being sat on a swing with my friend Chloe, I must've been no older than nine at the time, when she told me her weight and I felt my self worth crumble at the thought that I weighed more than her. At twelve, I started to notice unwelcome changes in my body as I began to go through puberty; fat began to line my hips creating curves that I did not want and as I looked in the mirror my thighs were reflected as a map of cellulite and stretch marks. I always hoped that I'd grow out of this uncomfortable sense of not belonging in my body, assuming that soon it would stop changing around me and I would grow into a confident woman; these bodily changes just being a necessary part of the journey. Although now I know that to be true, that reality still didn't dawn on me until nearly ten years later. 

I could blame the media, but the reality is I was blissfully unaware of photoshop as a nine year old girl sat on that swing, and instagram filters had not yet been invented as that twelve year old girl struggling with her changing body. I believe my insecurities stemmed from my obsession with control; I don't drink because I hate feeling like something else could be influencing my decisions, I write to do lists for my to do lists, I stress unbelievable amounts, and when all these stresses used to pile up I believed that while the rest of my life was a chaotic mess, the one thing in all of that that I could control was myself. And by myself I meant my body. But how wrong I was. It's so sad that appearance can make us feel the way it does... The fact that something so far out of our control can do just that: control us and control our opinions of our self worth. While I thought I was controlling my body, my body was actually controlling me. Enter: the vicious circle of negative self image.

I thrived off feeling small and empty, it allowed me to place a physical symptom on the emotional opinion I had of myself. It is less scary to feel mentally empty and worthless if you physically make your body feel the same too. 'I'm not mad, I'm ill' became a justification for a string of increasingly dangerous habits and for a very long time I pushed away nearly every person who had my best intentions at heart. Weight is a strange concept. Calories even stranger. In reality, neither really exist, yet I allowed both to take such a strong control over my life. 

And then I realised that I had two options: 1. To spend every single day of the rest of my life existing in the way I was currently existing. 2. To live.

And I chose to live. I realised that life was hard and life was unfair, but being cruel and horrible to myself was not going to make it any easier. I was a bully. I spent ten years of my life treating myself in a way that I would never dream of treating another person, yet I never regarded myself as being worthy of the same treatment as anyone else. In my head I was worthless, I didn't deserve success or happiness because I was weak and guilty. I tried to redeem myself through working, becoming a straight A student, but it wasn't enough, I tried to make myself as small as possible, hoping that I would eventually fade away so maybe people would begin to see past me and ignore me, but it didn't work. So eventually I stopped doing anything at all, and would lie in a dark room for days with no other human contact. I deserved to be ill. The countless blood tests and doctors visits were punishment to myself. But deep down, I no longer wanted to be punished. So I tried really really hard to stop. The two years and five months since I made that decision have been the hardest of my life. It is physically exhausting battling with yourself from the moment you wake up at 6am to the moment you go to sleep at 10pm, but here I am, stronger and healthier than I ever dreamed I could be.

'One day it just clicks... You realise what's important and what isn't. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realise how far you've come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that they'd never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you've fought to become'...

MagnaPass Guest Blog: Balancing Stress and a Healthy Lifestyle

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

This is a guest post written for Magna Pass - read the original over on their site HERE!

We’ve all been there- life gets stressful and sadly, health is the first thing to be taken for granted. I find it funny that health is something that always goes unappreciated until it’s gone, and only when we have a wake-up call or diagnosis do we begin to become concerned about it. Health is a luxury, and we should treat it as one, but unfortunately we live in a world where money and success are prioritised above health and happiness.

People are full to the brim with excuses for why health is not a priority to them, to why they ‘needed’ that chocolate bar, to why their life is just too stressful to worry about their diet and fitness too. But what people fail to understand is that all of this goes hand in hand… feel stressed? Exercise. Feel sluggish? Eat nutritious food. Making your body happy on the inside goes a very long way in helping you feel the same on the outside. Your priorities are not what you say they are; they are revealed by the way in which you choose to live your life.

I spent so many years of my life trying to achieve things for other people’s happiness; living, reacting and responding to other people’s opinions. It took me a long time to learn that to prioritise your own happiness is not selfish; it is essential for a mentally healthy and fulfilling life… Yet how many of us actually take time to make ourselves a priority? Sometimes you have to take a step back to realise what’s important to you in life… sometimes it takes an awful event to spark a realisation that change is necessary… however it may be that you decide on what matters most to you, the thing to remember is that you and you alone are responsible for your own actions, and if I can maintain a healthy lifestyle through periods of immense stress and workload, you can too. Below I have compiled a little list of tips to implement when trying to juggle stress and health:

001. Plan – I cannot emphasise this one enough. I literally timetable every single waking hour of my life. It sounds incredibly sad (and it probably is), but it is honestly the only way I could get through each week without a full blown breakdown. I have a huge excel document with every day of the month down the left hand side, and every hour of the day across the top. I then fill in exactly how I will spend all my hours. Not only does this help you reach mini goals with coursework deadlines and writing blog posts, but you also feel amazingly calm if you manage to get ahead of schedule and there is nothing more satisfying than crossing off activities as they are completed. The most important thing to remember when doing this – plan time EVERY day for YOURSELF. Block out two hours for a gym session one day, or an hour for meal prep another day, or time for a bath or a walk or ANYTHING. And once it’s in your plan – it stays there – there are enough hours in your day to plan the rest of your life around it.

002. Do things for yourself – be it fitness or work related, working towards someone else’s goal is never going to be as rewarding as working towards something that you want to achieve for yourself. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but try and separate yourself from what other people want you to achieve, and focus on what you would be happy with personally. Goals you set for yourself can be as big or small as you wish, but you will never feel pride or a sense of accomplishment if you haven’t set out to realise these ambitions for your own benefit.

003. Be realistic – Whatever it is you are working towards completing; be it revision, coursework deadlines, fitness goals etc., these are usually long processes, and the start of the journey will always be the hardest. When you are a long way from reaching your ultimate aim it can be hard to stay on track and motivate yourself to keep moving in the right direction, especially when you feel you are no closer to achieving anything than when you started. Don’t assume that you can wake up one day and cram all the information into your head, or go on a 10k run after years of never working out… setting yourself these unrealistic targets will only lead to negativity when you fail to complete them. Instead, set realistic goals to be completed in a comfortable and attainable time frame, giving yourself rewards if you manage to achieve them ahead of schedule.

004. “Stress is not what happens to us, it is a response to what happens to us”…
…and response is something we can control. It’s not your workload that’s breaking you down, it’s the way you’ve chosen to carry it. Learning to adjust that load is what makes all the difference. Worrying about workload or deadlines or exams will not make them go away, but it will stop you from appreciating the good things. Therefore, set aside time every day to complete the tasks you need to complete, but also schedule in down time, social time, relaxation time!

Remember: “there is no such thing as a perfect balance. But what balance is.. is constantly making little tweaks to stay in a healthy place”.

Magnapass Launch Party*

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

Firstly, an apology. My blog means the world to me and is something I am unbelievably proud of. It's a project, however, that I have always worked on alone. I built up my following from scratch, I am responsible for all my web design, template design, photography and writing... I think sometimes it is easy to look at bloggers, with their thousands of followers and enviable lifestyles and fail to understand the time and effort that they put into maintaining their brand. It isn't just about receiving free gifts and getting hundreds of likes; it's about writing genuine and relatable content, investing in high quality photography equipment, taking time to edit photographs, maintaining social media channels, responding to emails and comments and continually thinking up new and innovative post ideas. It is pretty much a full time job that I, and the majority of other bloggers, do on the side for very little income and often more stress than it's worth. Why? Because I truly love owning something that was solely created by me. Something that is 100% mine. It's been a few months since I've managed to post, partly because final year of university has been kicking my arse, but mainly because whilst I've been juggling the stress and commitments related to this really busy time, I didn't want to publish second-rate posts just to keep content flowing... so I took the time out and now I'm ready to come back at you with some great content! The next few posts you read are long overdue... but thank you for sticking with me through this time!

You will have seen a few posts on my blog before relating to events and fitness experiences I have attended in collaboration with Magna Pass, and in complete honesty they are one of my favourite companies to collaborate with. Not only are all the events fantastically fun and hard work, but I've met some amazing likeminded people, eaten some extremely yummy food, and always leave with aching muscles and a smile on my face. Back in February, myself and Ant attended their official launch party involving tasters of 4 different styles of classes, and we both loved every minute.

001. Spinning - The first class we attended was spinning, something both myself and Anthony have a lot of experience in, so I was quite excited to jump right in and get a sweat on! The atmosphere of the room was great, with the lighting and music really helping you push through!

002. Animal Movement - The second class was by far both of our favourites - a strength and conditioning animal movement workshop with a good friend of mine and Ant's: Skoti from Fera... The class was a perfect taster for anyone interested in movement, callisthenics, or more fluid yoga-type exercise, and provided a real chance to get your body moving in ways that you never usually utilise. My boyfriend being a firm believer in movement based training himself, along with teaching it to a large number of his clients, thoroughly enjoys the more challenging moves in the class, and the whole session was something throughly enjoyed by both of us (I highly recommend checking Fera's classes out if it's something you may be interested in!) 

003. HIIT - After a short lunch break came session number 3 - a quick and sweaty HIIT session to help us burn off all the yummy treats we'd been enjoying!

004. Yoga - Finally came yoga, a perfect way to unwind, relax and cool down after a sweaty and activity filled day. Yoga is something that I have increasingly been making time for in my training recently, and I am noticing a huge plethora of both mental and physical benefits of doing so. It was lovely to stretch out our tired muscles and enjoy a spot of meditation before leaving, and the perfect mix of classes helped me to feel like my body had been pushed and challenged in countless different ways.

...So incase you are still unaware, Magna Pass are a fab new company that provide an online platform you can sign up to, allowing you to access numerous fitness classes. From rock climbing, to yoga, to strength and conditioning, to swimming, the huge plethora of classes on their timetable in various Greater Manchester locations ensures that there will always be a class suited to your needs, at a time most convenient for you! So if you don't want to commit to a gym membership, but still want the option of participating in group exercise classes you can sign up by clicking HERE.

A Night at the Spa with Boohoo X Village Hotels | #WEARESS17*

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

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*This is a gifted/ commissioned based post - read my disclaimer here
*Some of the images in this post were taken by the beautiful Sarah

Basically: I'm a sucker for a spa day. If you follow me on instagram, or have me on facebook, then you will know that me and my boyfriend Anthony often like to treat each other to spa days or spa breaks. Both of us live incredibly busy and hectic lifestyles, and our increasingly different work schedules coupled with my blog requiring me to almost constantly be on social media, means we rarely manage to spend any real down time together, so it makes sense that on the rare occasion that we both have a full day off (and trust me, when I say rare this happens maybe once a month?!), we sometimes like to spend that time treating ourselves to some serious relaxation. When you are into fitness as much as we both are, your body can be in a constant achey and tired state, and spa facilities such as jacuzzis and saunas really do go a long way to relieving tired and aching muscles. So when I was invited down to the Village Hotel in Warrington last Thursday to enjoy some spa facilities in brand new Boohoo swimwear, eat some yummy food and partake in an ESPA skin care workshop, I didn't need much persuading!

It was so lovely to meet some other fantastic Manchester based bloggers, and see some old friendly faces that I've met at previous events... Sometimes, when attending an event like this alone I can feel quite anxious beforehand, but I can honestly say this whole group of girls were so lovely and welcoming... within about 5 minutes of our arrival we were gossiping, laughing and sipping on bucks fizz like old friends, before all 8 of us piled into the jacuzzi  (unintentionally scaring off the poor man who was trying to have a quiet relax) and spent some time enjoying the facilities, comparing our Boohoo swimwear choices and chatting all things 'blog'. Exactly one of the reasons I love events like this... sometimes it is so nice to be surrounded with people who share the same passion as you, people who understand exactly how much hard work goes into blogging day in day out! So be sure to check out all their blogs, I will leave links at the bottom of the post!

Next it was time for food, and as the other girls tucked into mini burgers, smoked salmon blinis and other canapés, the Village were quick to supply me with a gorgeous gluten free bowl of roasted veg, sweet potato and cashews which really was delicious! Shortly after, our ESPA skincare workshop began, the part of the event that I was really looking forward to the most. I like to pride myself on the fact that I have always taken good care of my skin. I don't wear make up everyday, as I think it's so important to let my skin breathe, and I always use cleanser and moisturiser before bed. However, the harsh Manchester wind coupled with my love of swimming has left my skin quite chapped and dry recently, so a little TLC was definitely needed.

The ESPA specialist and spa therapist talked us through the use of 5 skin care products, teaching us how to use each one to give ourselves a facial at home, before gifting us with miniature travel versions to take away. My skin felt absolutely divine afterwards, and I would definitely recommend booking in for an ESPA facial if, like me, your skin is taking a hit in the cold weather.

Finally, a blog event would not be complete without an amazing goodybag! This one was filled with ESPA products, a Jessica nails kit, our Boohoo swimwear, some St. Tropez tan and these amazing unicorn (!!!) make up brushes!

Click below for all links to other bloggers and Boohoo/ Village Hotel facilities, and don't forget you can use code BOOHOO10 for 10% off treatments / food and drink at Village Hotels, and BOOHOOXVILLAGESPA20 for 20% off everything at Boohoo!

BOOHOO SWIMWEAR | VILLAGE SPA | FOOD FROM THE VILLAGE | VILLAGE GYM AND POOL FACILITIES

Claire | Sarah | Sabina | Chelsea | Lily | Anna | Irena

Overcoming my Fears: Rock Over Climbing*

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

When was the last time you can truly say you tried something new fitness related? And I don't just mean a new class at the gym, or started following a new workout guide. I mean when did you actually go and do something that you've never done before. Something that you've never even thought of doing before, or something that you never regarded as 'fitness'? That's exactly what I did a few weeks ago when I tried Rock Climbing - and you better believe it was one of the best shoulder and core workouts I've ever had.

Let me start with a story: I have always been terrified of open heights. I don't really know why, it's a completely irrational fear as at no point in my life have I ever been in a life threatening situation as a result of being somewhere high and/or open. But there we go... maybe it's just one of those things. I remember, when I was 11 and had just started high school, we went on a 'bonding' weekend away to a place called Bewerly Park. It was essentially three days of team building activities intended to help us all settle into school and make friends. But for me and my anxiety it was a complete and utter nightmare. Firstly, I used to hate being away from home (even staying at a friends house for a night would cause me to feel so anxious that I often ended up being sick), and the activities involved in the trip didn't make the experience any better - three days of sports, rock climbing, bouldering, cave walking and other height-related activities that I was petrified to take part in. I remember shaking like a leaf in an attempt to climb a totem pole, and having to be guided back down a gorge walk when my fear of heights got too much. This fear was something that I just accepted I would have to live with: I could comfortably go through my life without ever needing to address it, so I shoved the feeling to the back of my mind and forgot about it. It wasn't until me, Ant and a group of bloggers were invited down to Rock Over Climbing in Manchester by Skoti from Wearefera that the thought of conquering this fear ever entered my mind again, and as I stood at the bottom of the first rock climbing wall I was going to attempt, all of those horrible irrational anxious feelings I had as an 11 year old girl on that school trip flooded back into my head. I was petrified. Physically shaking, and on the verge of tears, I turned to Ant and said 'I can't do this'. He looked straight at me and said 'Amy, you can'. And I did. And guess what? Once I'd done it once I loved it. I felt so empowered that I had finally defeated something that attempted to hold me back. 

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I rocked up to the venue the classic image of all the gear and no idea. Kitted out in my snazzy gymshark leggings and fly knit trainers (little did I know these would soon be substituted for the most toe-crushing uncomfortable shoes ever known to man), but hey, if you haven't got a clue what you're doing, you've got to at least look remotely like you do right?! But the team at Rock Over Climbing, and Skoti, were all immensely helpful and has us all feeling like pros in no time. During the two hour rock climbing session got to try numerous different activities from bouldering to climbing on an incline, and attempting to climb without using our hands at all!

After the climbing, we then enjoyed an hour long movement session with Skoti, (read more about his training here), a class that really does humble you and take you back to the basics of human and animal movement... One of the reasons I enjoy the Fera classes so much is that they promote something that very few gyms offer: function.

The whole day was finished off with vegan chilli and gluten free brownies (basically taking the event from a 10/10 to a clear 11/10, because as you know, anything involving gluten free, sugar free treats is a winner in my eyes!)... and as I drove myself and Anthony home, munching away on our brownies, we spent the whole 40 minute journey talking about what a fantastic day we had both had. I was unbelievably proud of myself for combatting something I never thought I would, and that is just one of the many reasons I absolutely love my blog, as without the invite, I would probably never have conquered that fear. I learnt many things that Saturday, but if there's one thing I want you all to take away from this post it's to try something new. Push yourself outside your comfort zone, and truly test both your mental and physical strength. You won't regret it, I promise.

The venue is located just outside of central Manchester, a short walk from Victoria Station, or is super easy to find by car, with a cheap car park available directly opposite. Prices start from £35 for a 6 week course, so it really is fantastic value for money if it's a skill you wish to learn,  and their 'Climb Fit' class with Skoti is just £7 a session!

Happy Third Birthday To Amy Elizabeth!

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

I think it's safe to say that I have had a pretty incredible three years of blogging, and I am so grateful to every person who has been a part of the journey. If someone would have told me three years ago that Amy Elizabeth would have grown to what it currently is I would have never believed it. Nearly 15,500 of you are now reading or following Amy Elizabeth in some way- but impressive as they are, those stats are not what's important to me. My blog is my passion. I have spent hours over these past three years writing, photographing and perfecting Amy Elizabeth- it really is a labour of love and has grown to become such an integral part of my daily routine that I can't imagine ever not doing it. I will continue to blog for as long as I can reach out and make a difference to even one single person.

Below, I have complied a short list of the biggest highlights and most important things I have learnt so far:

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1. Award shortlists - How could I even begin to compile a list of highlights without mentioning the FIVE national awards which my blog has been shortlisted for. To be shortlisted from 47,000 entries to one of nine in my category for 'Best New Beauty Blog' by Cosmopolitan magazine after only four months of blogging is still incomprehensible, and to win Highly Commended at the 2016 UK Blog Awards for 'Best Lifestyle Blog' is without a doubt my greatest achievement to date - a true reflection that hard work really does pay off. The award ceremony last year was one of the proudest moments of my life, and believe me it is not often I will admit I am proud of myself. To even make it onto one national shortlist means someone out there considered my words to be influential, and to be recognised for that FIVE TIMES OVER is so humbling. 

2. Acceptance - Anyone who has seen 'The Devil Wears Prada' will have a pretty strong opinion as to how they imagine the world of fashion, beauty and blogging to be. It's a scary thing publishing yourself so openly and honestly on the internet. You are opening yourself up to attack from potentially millions of people who have the opportunity to voice their opinions from the safety of hiding behind their laptop. For a few months I told no one about my blog, terrified of the backlash that I could potentially receive. It only takes a minute of scrolling through twitter to learn that the internet is not always a friendly place. However, my inital reservations could not have been more wrong. The community of the blogging world is incredible and the support between bloggers is so genuine. Hand on heart, the bloggers I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting and attending events with are some of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met and I am proud to say they are my friends. 

3. Blog like no one is reading - The turning point for Amy Elizabeth came when I stopped worrying about what every reader was thinking about my content. I stopped writing for the sake of publishing posts, and started writing for myself. The enjoyment I get now when I publish something personal, lifestyle or advice based and receive an overwhelming amount of positive responses is exponential. The idea that even one person is taking the time to not only read what I have to say, or comment on how it has helped or inspired them in some way is enough to make me want to continue blogging for as long as anyone is willing to read it.

4. Blog for yourself - Remember that we are all different, we are all confined to our own subjective mind and it is a physical impossibility to be liked by everyone. Blog because you want to, because writing is a form of therapy for you, because you absolutely love doing it and couldn't imagine not. Who cares if no one reads it, or people don't agree with what you have to say. You will never please everyone, but trying to please yourself is a pretty good place to start.

Thank you so much once again, I can't wait to see what the next twelve months have in store and I am so excited to take you along for the ride... I am more determined than ever to take this blog to the next level so keep your eyes peeled for my recipe e-book coming soon (the first in a series), and if you don't already, please give me a follow over on instagram (@amyelizabeth_blog) because I am planning the mother of all giveaways when I reach 10k!

Coeliac Disease: A Beginner's Guide

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

Before I delve straight in to this post I just want to make something clear: gluten is not a poison. The majority of people can consume gluten containing foods without any negative symptoms or health risks, so please do not fall into the trap of thinking that it is healthy to follow a gluten free diet if you are not intolerant or allergic - unnecessarily cutting out gluten could actually induce an intolerance, or result in you missing out on many important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that gluten containing foods can provide. I have spent time with nutritional experts to find ways to manage my diet safely and healthily whilst omitting the foods that cause my gut to react as shown above. This blog post is intended to inform people of the symptoms and help to provide steps in management, but ultimately, if you think you may be coeliac, gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat please arrange an allergy test or book a colonoscopy with your GP or a fully qualified nutrition specialist - I am neither of these, but I am someone who suffers and want to use this platform to help raise awareness and provide support.

Last week, I had an allergic reaction to wheat, something that now happens incredibly rarely to me as I am so careful in ensuring that I know exactly what I put into my body and avoid all foods that cause a negative reaction in my gut. However, I let something slip through, and the resultant effects can be seen above. The photo on the left is how I 'normally' look in the morning (i.e. if I've been following my gluten free diet), and the photo on the right shows me thirty minutes after consuming a minuscule amount of wheat. To put this into perspective, my 24 inch waist (left), measured 26.5 inches after eating one small chocolate containing wheat (right). This is the result of an inflammation in my gut, and is incredibly different to feeling bloated from overeating. I originally took the above picture to show my boyfriend the reaction I had incurred, but then I thought back to my previous blog post about how I promised to always be honest with you on social media, and decided to post it on instagram (something that was incredibly hard for me to do - I doubt any one would want to post a photo of their pregnant-looking inflamed gut to 6700 instagram users), but the response I got was amazing. Not only were people incredibly supportive, but I got so many comments from people who suffer from the same, requests for a blog post, and even encouraged other people to post their own photos of adverse reactions! So in swallowing my pride, I really achieved something great. So now nearly 7000 people have seen it on my instagram, I may as well share it with the rest of you in the hope of helping out a few more people.

So why does this happen?

Usually, an adverse reaction to gluten is from one of three reasons:
001. Coeliac disease
002. Gluten Intolerance
003. An allergy to the proteins found in wheat

In short, Coeliac is an autoimmune disease where your body's immune system attacks itself when gluten is consumed, causing damage to gut lining. Gluten intolerance presents similar symptoms to Coeliac disease, but there is no resultant lasting damage to the gut. Finally, wheat protein allergies tend to occur immediately after consuming the wheat, and cause similar affects, but suffers may be able to eat other gluten containing products as long as they are wheat free.

What are the symptoms?

It is actually incredibly common to be completely unaware of an allergy or intolerance to types of gluten such as wheat, and it is estimated that a shocking 76% of suffers go undiagnosed!  Symptoms vary for a variety of reasons, spanning from the amount of gluten consumed, the severity of your intolerance and the general health of the person. The most well known symptoms include painful IBS (resulting in diarrhoea and/or constipation), nausea, stomach cramps, bloating and tiredness, but Coeliac can also lead to anaemia, B12 deficiency, hair loss and liver abnormalities, so the disease is not something to be taken lightly.

Help - I think I may be Coeliac

If any of the symptoms described above sound familiar to you, then the first thing I would suggest is to seek advice of your doctor. The first step in diagnosis usually involves a diagnosis of IBS, and it is advisable to have a routine blood test to check your iron and vitamin levels. At this stage, I'd advise keeping a food diary, and noting down the exact points that you experience symptoms and what foods may have triggered this, and eliminate these foods from your diet one at a time. If this does not work, your doctor will be able to refer you for an allergy test, however, it is vital that you are still consuming gluten at this point otherwise the disease may not show up in the test! Alternatively, you can go directly to a dietician or registered gut specialist who will be able to carry out these tests for you for a fee.

What next?

Being New to Gluten Free living can be a huge and scary lifestyle change. I spent about five hours food shopping during the week following my diagnosis. I went everywhere that was in easy driving distance of my house: Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op, a Sainsbury's Local, an M&S food. I searched high and low for the 'Free From' products and spent a small fortune trying out a number of different brands and products. Although this was a huge pain at the beginning (and definitely wasn't student food shopping budget friendly), I very quickly got to grips with which brands I preferred and it wasn't long until I was able to complete my food shop just as easily as usual. My main tip for you: 'naturally gluten free' is always better... I quickly learnt that there really are so many healthy foods that are naturally gluten free, meaning you can avoid some of the questionable supermarket alternatives. I quickly replaced starchy gluten filled carbs with not only naturally gluten free alternatives, but much healthier alternatives too. I discovered sweet potato, quinoa and beans and realised that gluten free doesn't actually have to mean tasteless and boring food! 

Stay Positive

When I was diagnosed I went home and cried. All I could think about was everything that I used to enjoy and now could no longer ever taste again. I would sit in restaurants and wish that I could order anything off the menu instead of narrowing it down to things I could actually safely eat and then picking from a small and less than appetising selection. Food can become a chore, social situations become awkward as you don't want to be the one to cause a scene in a restaurant by rearranging the whole menu to find something suitable. But it really does help to try and ignore all these negatives and focus on the positives too. Remember how much healthier you now feel, remember that there are still so many nutritious and healthy foods available to you and most importantly remember not to feel awkward because your diagnosis isn't your fault!

An Honest Post About Recovery

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

I love my blog. I love the fact that I once published a really honest post on my experiences of anxiety, and it received over 80 comments of love, support or reassurance that my words had helped other people. I love that I can post a photograph on instagram that leads to comments and DM's from people telling me how I've inspired them in some way, and I love that I can say I am part of a community of people that really respect and care for each other... I am yet to meet a blogger who has been anything other than lovely, and some of my closest friends are people I've met through my blog. But despite how much I truly love this community, and am honestly so amazed and grateful for every single one of my followers, sometimes the "other side" of blogging plays on my mind. The side that shows everything to be so perfect, the side of sitting on an ever growing platform of 14,600 followers that makes you think you can't always say exactly how you feel for fear of letting these people down; people that continually tell you that your journey is an inspiration to them. When your primary aim is to present a healthy, balanced and happy lifestyle, you sometimes feel an overwhelming pressure to always ensure that this is what you portray, even on the days when it is not the case. Sometimes, sitting on this pedestal of positivity that I have created for myself really isn't all it's cracked up to be... everyone has bad days, but very few people would want to publicly admit to nearly fifteen thousand people that they're struggling... sometimes it's easier to stick the ludwig filter on a bowl of porridge and carry on with your day like nothing is wrong. But everything about that ultimately is what is wrong. Sticking a filter on life. Hiding from the truth, for fear that people may actually see that you too, are human, you too have bad days. 

I publish a lot of food posts on instagram, but what I don't publish are the times where I panic about this very food. I don't share the days where I don't track my food, binge on Nakd bars and eat peanut butter straight out the jar, and I don't share the days where I eat less than 1000 calories to counteract the previous. Why? Because I don't want all of these lovely people who say I am an inspiration to know that I am not perfect and that sometimes, I still find food a challenge. My problem is, and always has been my irrational fear of being seen as a failure. It sounds unbelievably cliche but for as long as I can remember, there has never been a time where I have not been completely terrified of letting people, teachers, my parents, friends or myself down. I am incredibly lucky to come from a family who have always supported every decision I have made, they have never pressured me to work harder or pushed me to pursue a particular career path (partially because they know I am probably putting enough pressure on myself already), yet there is some inherent part of me which works myself to the bone to achieve better things than the time before and never let people see the internal struggle that may be happening. 

But this is something that I am determined to change in 2017. I don't want my followers to read my blog or look at my instagram and see recovery as simply black and white, I want them to know that it is (and maybe always will be) an ongoing battle. I am happy to say that the majority of my days are what you see: me eating a healthy and balanced diet, nourishing my body and training hard in the gym... but I also want you to be aware that failures happen, relapses happen, days where you sit in bed feeling sorry for yourself happen... but that's ok.

One of the hardest things about recovery is learning what is a normal relationship with food. For a long time, I assumed everyone who didn't struggle with food ate the same amount everyday, didn't get cravings, only ate when they're hungry and stopped when they're full... but in reality it couldn't be further from the truth. Health and recovery aren't just about smoothie bowls and tracking macros and photographs of eggs and avocados, they're also about balance and mental happiness, and having another spoonful of peanut butter if that's what you want. You are allowed to have days where you eat too much, you're allowed to have days where you don't eat enough - that is normal and everyone does it.

And then I got thinking... if I truly was 100% happy with the way my body looked, would my lifestyle be any different? Would I indulge a bit more and relax my diet, or would I eat more healthily to nourish the body that I loved? Or is there even such thing as ever being 100% happy? I make no secret of the fact that I want to be strong, fit and athletic, but in 2017 I also want to focus on something that I let slip by the wayside in 2016: balance. Something I've recently realised is that it is far easier to reach your goals if you aren't stuck in a constant battle with yourself... how are you ever supposed to feel strong and athletic if you're still restricting your calorie intake some days?

And so, at the end of this post there is only one thing left to say: I'm sorry for not always being completely honest with you, but I promise from now my platforms will speak nothing but the truth: good day or bad day. 

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas, and have a fantastic New Years Eve... lots of love,