Hooray to Kimberley Henderson

 

Ok so first of all I have to point out that you may be offended by the post you’re about to read … Then again, as it’s aimed at the ‘normal’ people in this world (a’hem – most of the population) so it really shouldnt, but if it does – Hey, I did warn you right!?

So earlier this week Kimberley Henderson (article here) posted a pic of her ‘normal’ looking stomach and wanted to show that she was normal, with her stretch marks and slight flabby belly.

Now it really stuck a chord with me (in a good way) and it got me thinking about how we (women in particular) see ourselves. I was in two minds whether to actually post my response or not. My fear wasn’t because I could end up getting negative feedback, it was more that I didn’t want people to think I was jumping on the publicity bandwagon … Anyway after some debating I thought that what I felt I had to say was too important for me to just disregard, and I know that there are other people out there who will agree with me (once you see where I am coming from!)

I am a lover of Kimberley’s post, it was wonderful and warmed my heart to see a woman being proud of her body – so many people in this day and age are striving and killing themselves (ok not quite literally but they are killing their spirit) trying to look like the (airbrushed) photos of celebs in the magazines. I’m also thrilled to hear it’s had a huge positive impact on moms with normal bodies, jiggly bits and less toned parts – looking past those ‘flaws’ as they were once seen and celebrated for they are the result of babies.

However it struck me that there’s another angle to be considered by this topic and I would be very surprised if people were to disagree with me. It made me think what about the ‘others’. Surely you don’t have to be a ‘mom’ to be accepted ‘warts and all’ (as the saying goes)…?

When I say others, I mean the other people with normal bodies that don’t in fact have children but may have jiggly bits, are not toned or have stretch marks. Because they are out there and they should be Included. I myself am one of these ‘other people’ and I believe that’s why I have another perspective on this topic.

First of all meet the ‘too busy working people’ …

Over six years ago before I was diagnosed with ME I used to work full-time (Mon – Fri, 9-5) but it didn’t stop there, because being solo meant that I had to also work weekends (behind a bar in a rugby club!) and any other extra shifts I could get in order to pay my rent, council tax, utility bills and all those other costs that come with having a home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – I loved it. I loved my little flat, with my little cat and dog, working and having a routine but it meant that work came first. Because work = more money which meant if I was lucky, I would be able to afford something nice for myself other than it all going towards bills.

This rigorous routine meant that time was limited (as well as money) so my work out was walking to and from work, I joined a ramblers club with my friend (hello Lou-la-boo!) for the Sunday’s I had the energy to go and I did exercise DVDs in my own flat. Joining a gym was always too pricy to maintain and it would cost to get there and back both money wise and energy wise. I realise I was lucky because I managed to have those spare minutes to work out, but consider the people who don’t have those extra hours to fit in exercise or can’t walk to work because it’s not feasible…

I should point out that there will be moms and dads out there (yes – men are included in this topic) who are also included in this group ^^ who will be whooping because they too are juggling all of these things plus a child or two!

Then this begins me to the other ‘other group’… ‘the ‘sick’ people…

So after years of a crazy routine, working all the hours I could, trying to keep fit and spreading myself too thinly, I ended up ill. like seriously ill – sleeping over 18 hours a day, suffering terrible infections, colds, being run down … And so on and so on until I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME) … That’s when life changed for me.

One of the things with ME is that you don’t always look ill. Usually if I am out in public I look really well (and get told so) but that’s for two reasons, 1 I make an effort to look human because trips outside the house are rare so it’s like a big thing for me! Secondly I usually ONLY go out when I am feeling a 7 or 8 (my hubby has a scale that measures how I feel) so I probably will look well…. (Anyway i digress)… There are other people out there who will be dealing with a health condition – whatever it might be (mental, emotional, physical) – exercise might be anything from off-limits (like it is for me) to not yet possible (and maybe even never possible) so it can be pretty tough for these people (believe me – I’ve been there).

I hated that I couldn’t exercise and feel good about my body, and when people would post their ‘workout’ session info on Facebook or social networks it made me feel a failure, angry, frustrated and just so many other negative things! I know it’s not their fault but there does seem to be an obsession this day and age with people wanting to look perfect (I blame the airbrushed photos and all that ‘photoshopping’ that goes on!) and that can really hit you hard when you cannot do those things.

There may well be some other groups that I haven’t considered but I’m hoping you’ll get my point. Basically I don’t think it should just be ‘moms’ celebrating their normal bodies, it should be each and every one of us for we are all fighting some kind of battle and trying to do our best.

I know it might sound like it’s an easy thing for me to say (as I am at peace with myself) but I have been at the point where I hated everything about myself and my life so its taken me time to get here.

Just before I met my (now) husband I was in a pretty dark place – health, work, life all felt frustrating because it all felt so Bleugh! But I had what you could sort of call an epiphany (I got my mojo back) because I realised that I had so much going for myself and that actually things were changing for the better. Since then I have become (without sounding airy fairy) at peace with myself. It’s taken a lot of soul-searching, support and love from a wonderful husband and changing my perceptions towards battling my health. I have had wobbles where I lose my mojo for an hour or so but it doesn’t last long and it’s usually a frustration about my health.

So rather than focus on the fact that you may not be toned, skinny, slim, curvy or whatever it is you are wanting to be, take a minute. Focus on all the things you DO have, all the things you ARE able to do, the small simple things in life and concentrate on those. Because focusing on the positive can help you to learn to love yourself.

So, on a final note, here’s to being ‘normal’ tall, small, fat, thin, toned, wobbly and everything in between – love your body because you only have one one, and one life for that matter – so live it!

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Are Your Beauty Products Causing You Harm?

For those of you who are regular visitors to my blog, you’ll know that I’m following a Paleo diet to help improve my health. In short, I’ve been removing harmful foods, preservatives and chemicals from my diet and also my lifestyle. I’ve written many pieces about the reasons to avoid certain things from the diet but never really touched on the beauty side of things. Mostly that’s because I have been focused on the food element of recovery and I’ve only recently got round to really scrutinising my beauty products. I’ve been using natural soaps, hair care and face cream for some time now but have only recently started to swap my usual beauty products to more natural, chemical free items. As my health’s been at its worst, I haven’t really needed to use many beauty products, but as I am stating to feel a little better and wanting to put a little more effort into my appearance, I have been slowly swapping my old products (such as body lotion, make-up, face-care and deodorant) for those that are less chemical – paraben free, natural and organic.

Why go to such lengths – might you ask? Well because everything you use in your daily life, from face creams, body washes, hair care to hand wash and even cleaning products, the chemicals in them pass through your skin and into your body! You most certainly wouldn’t use bleach or kitchen spray to have a shower in but the fact is, many beauty products are filled with chemicals just as harmful!

Rather than regurgitate what I have learnt myself about the chemicals in beauty products, I have listed a number of useful articles from other sites that will tell you everything you need to know. The general points are that if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth and eat it – then don’t put it on your skin! If you are suffering from ANY kind of health issue (especially hormone, gut or immunological related) you NEED to look at eliminating chemicals from your beauty regime. To give you an idea of why – some chemicals in beauty products can mimic the action of estradiol (one of the most important forms of oestrogen), creating an imbalance in your sex hormones; They can also have an impact on reproduction and fertility and for men can cause problems with sperm count – pretty scary huh?

If you want to find out more and get a real understanding, read through these two articles which give a much greater insight:-

Paleo Leap: Paleo and Environmental Toxins
This article tells it all, from the chemicals in beauty products to those in the environment around you. We are talking household chemicals to non-stick pans and plastic food containers! Trust me on this – chuck ‘em out!!!!!

Marks Daily Apple : 5 Chemicals in Cosmetics That You Should Avoid
This is a much shorter piece but good place to reference the chemicals to avoid. It gives you an idea of which products are likely to contain which nasties as well as other names they might be known by.

So in short what should you be avoiding?
To give you a short guide, I have listed a number of chemicals below and why they can be harmful:-

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or Sodium Laureth; (SLS or SLES) this chemical was once used as an industrial degreaser – but is now common in bottles of shampoos and shower gels, because it acts as a lathering agent (makes things foamy). If used in large quantities it can be absorbed into the body, causing inflammation and irritation. It’s more harming the higher the concentration and the longer it’s left on the skin.

Parabens; This includes Butyl-, Erthyl- or Methyl paraben (just look for the words with ‘paraben’ as the suffix). It’s in pretty much everything – sun creams, shaving gel, moisturizers and toothpaste! These are the little blighters that contain estrogen mimicking properties and are linked to increased risk of breast cancer. The chemical can be absorbed through the skin and research has shown they can be found in biopsy samples and breast tumours!
Phthalate; (Pronounced THA-lates) these are plasticizers meaning they are mostly found in plastic products but are also commonly found in cosmetics! Found in nail polish and synthetic fragrances as a preservative, they can disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to ADHD, breast cancer and even obesity in children! (What?? … crazy huh?)

Petrolatum; the most common form of this is product by brand ‘Vaseline’. Petrolatum comes from crude oil and in itself is classed as non-toxic, but it can be contaminated with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which may cause cancer. It’s also used in lipsticks, lip balms, moisturizer and hair products.

Formaldehyde – releasing preservatives; Look for DMDM hydantion, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine , quaternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethyglycinate. Used in cosmetics it is said to slowly release cancer causing formaldehyde in small amounts.

Triclosan – found in hand sanitizer gels and anti-bacterial hand washes, this controversial antibacterial agent may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacterial strains.

Good chemicals that just sound a bit iffy!
I came across an article in natural health magazine and it pointed out these three compounds that can be found in your beauty products and although they sound like they might be bad – they aren’t!

Methlysulfonylmethane; ‘MSM’ for short Is a special biological sulphur found in plants, soils, fruit, veggies, meats, milk and eggs. It can help to clear the skin and help with joint pain (yay!)

Hyaluronic Acid; A type of carbohydrate made up of simple sugars, it occurs naturally in our bodies. It binds to water, helping to lubricate our skin, muscles and eyes.

P-Anisic Acid; Also known as draconic acid its derived from the anise plant and has antiseptic properties.

Now you have an idea of what these nasty little blighters can do to your body, all you need to do is look for products without them. The best way to do this is to start by finding a shop or brand that makes products using more natural ingredients. Below I have listed a few websites / products to help you on your way…

Love Lula
This is an online shop that selects the world’s finest natural and organic beauty products, and they put everything through a rigorous selection process. This includes hand picking and testing products, ensuring ingredients are ethically sourced, are natural and organic and are using the highest possible grade of ingredients. All of their brands contain NO Parabens, NO SLS’s and NO animal testing. They have a vast range of products and brands an also have a blog that you can view/sign up to find out more about their work. I have recently sourced a number of beauty products from this site and have just signed up to their monthly beauty. (For more on beauty box companies, take a look Beauty Boxes)

Read the Label
Always check out what’s available to you locally because you may have a great brand / local company right on your door step! For example on a recent trip out, my husband came across a small stall on a London market selling natural soaps (where he bought me 5 soaps for £10 – Bargain!) They are a small local business and had all the literature/ information to show what ingredients they used in their products. Their mission is ‘to create a range of attractive and beneficial products’ that are ‘made naturally without any unnecessary or synthetic ingredients’. If you’re local you can find them on Camden Market, London otherwise check them out online at Read the Label. I still have soap left over and have been using them both as a body and face wash.

Black Chicken
Black chicken is an Australian company that use all natural ingredients in their products. They have some great information on their website including an ‘Ingredients to avoid’ list which you can see here. I have yet to try any of their products but have come across them through the Paleo community and have heard great things (especially about their deodorant). You can order their items by finding where they are sold locally to you. Check out ‘black chicken’ and select stockists (where you can specify what county you are in). Or for those in the UK you can order from Beauty Works West who stocks their products for home delivery.

‘Yes to’
‘Yes to’ is a range of products made with 95% natural ingredients with NO SLS, Phthalate or parabens. Their range consists of carrot, tomato, grapefruit, cucumber and blueberry – each group is aimed at targeting different skin types (e.g. ‘Yes to Carrots’ is good for normal to dry skin, whereas ‘Yes to Cucumber’ is hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive skin.) As well as promoting natural ingredients, they also have a scheme called the Seed Fund where they ‘give back’ to communities to inspire young children – you can find out more about it here. You can buy all of the ‘Yes to’ range by going to their website and searching for a local stockist, or you can find them on Beauty bay, Love Lula and in some local Boots stores. I have tried (and love) their ‘yes to carrots’ body wash and ‘yes to grapefruit’ CC cream.

FunkySoap
My all-time favourite is Funky soap – It’s a small London-based company that uses old-fashioned methods to hand make all their products. They use ALL (100%) natural ingredients, are SLS /SLES and paraben free and their palm oil is from a sustainable certified source. Many of their products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but some do contain buttermilk or cream (all products show ingredients lists). I started using their soaps about 15 months ago and have tried about different 8 varieties. I am especially a big fan of their shampoo bars and swear by them (super beautiful glossy hair). They have recently set up a new website where you can buy directly or you can find them on amazon and eBay. Their new website has a wider range of products including natural soap for dogs!.

Homemade
If you really wanted to take things one step further, you could always buy the natural ingredients yourself and make your own beauty products. If you were interested in doing this, I would suggest you take a look at the Wellness Mama website because she has a whole load of recipes.

I hope that this article has been helpful to you and if there is anything you would like to add, know of any brands that would be worth giving a mention or just want to give your opinion – please leave your comments below.

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Tips For Keeping Healthy

YogaSo, it’s finally February, the new year is settled in and chances are, you may have already given up on your new years resolution. If you haven’t, but are finding it difficult then here are some of my own personal tips and ideas for helping you to stay on track. If you’ve already given up, lost the will or even forgotten then hopefully this article will help give you the courage you need to try again.

I have to start by admitting that I don’t actually make any new years resolutions and the reason is mainly due to my health (I won’t bore you with the detail but if you want to know more, read About ME. Having ME means that I don’t always know how I’m feeling from one day to the next, so rather than set myself up to fail, I pace myself /take things slower). Now you don’t have to be ill to pace, it’s actually a really sensible way to approach things and taking this kind of view for goal setting can be key to keeping them. For example – setting huge goals at the beginning of the year can be quite overwhelming for anyone and the pressure can lead to failing. If you feel like you have failed, you’re more likely to give up and not bother trying again. Alternatively, you might be the type who begins each week trying again and ends by giving up on the weekend. If this is the case, then try pacing – breaking your goals down into smaller, more realistic and manageable chunks, effectively making it easier for you to achieve. As you reach each ‘mini’ goal you will feel better about it, boosting your self esteem, feeling more positive therefore giving you the confidence to continue and meet your next mini goal. Each mini goal adds up and completes your main target.

If you want more convincing then listen to this. Research suggests that it takes 30 days for the body to develop a habit, that’s why the campaign ‘Stoptober’ (in the UK which encourages people to give up smoking for the whole of October) is carried out over the month. This is because by completing one month, you are likely to carry on and stick with it. Each month soon adds up and before you knew it, it’s a year. By breaking the goal up into smaller chunks (such a as weeks or months) you give yourself time to adjust and develop something into ‘habit’, which means you’ll stop noticing it as much and do it automatically, turning a bad habit into a good one.

So, how can I help you keep to your goals?
By explaining what tools, apps and resources I have used to help keep me motivated, it can give you the inspiration you need to get together your own set of ‘tools’. Now, I need to point out that it’s likely your goals will be different to mine, but that doesn’t matter because the items Im going to discuss can be applied to a number of goals, such as weight loss, increasing exercise, dieting, eating healthier, making more time for yourself or even sticking to a new hobby. So, read on and I will explain…..

I made my goals in October after seeing a private specialist for my health condition. From the consultation I found out I was intolerant to, well, loads of stuff. I was recommended to follow a Paleo diet, but it was a little complicated because some of the ‘allowed’ foods on this diet I have to avoid due to another dietry complication. In addition to this I was given a large number of supplements to take throughout the day and told to pace and follow a night routine to help me with my sleep disturbances. From this I broke my goals down into two sections.

My goals

  1. Develop a sleep pattern
  2. Find recipes to cook

Now, you may think that two goals is pretty easy right? Well, maybe for someone who is healthy or for someone who adapts easily to change, but for me, with my health as it is, it’s been a struggle. That said, I’m now 3 months in to the changes and although I’m getting there, I’m still working on them. My approach began by reading through the paperwork my specialist sent me and I researched carefully into foods/ sleep habits etc.

As a result I’ve come across the following useful tools.

Keep a Diary – Dodo pad and Filofax

Sounds obvious, but keeping a diary is a great way of staying on track. It can help with forward planning as well as being able to look back and measure how far you have come. I personally record health symptoms such as really bad days, pains, reactions to foods, reactions to how much/ little I’ve paced and sleep patterns. I also keep notes of when my medications are due to run out (giving me a weeks notice so they can be re-ordered), lists of websites that I find are useful and lists of the foods that I can and cant have for times when I may need to double check. The result of doing this, is that I am slowly starting to notice (very) small changes that are occurring with my health/ sleep patterns and it gives me a great sense of hope that I will be able to one day return to better health. For example, I’ve worked out the key time for going to bed! If I go before or after this time, I tend to have a worse nights sleep.

So, if you don’t currently keep a diary/ log/ journal, I would suggest you try it. You may find it helps to keep you focused. My personal favourite, is a ‘Dodo‘ diary. I came across ‘Dodo’ in a magazine article (5 years ago) and its been my christmas present to myself every year since. They are available in a number of formats (academic, pocket size, A4 or A5 and so on). This year, however, I treated myself to a Filofax cover (from ebay) which now snuggly fits my dodo diary.

Sleep App
Sleep Cycle I first started using a sleep app on my iPhone over a year ago and its a great way of keeping track of what time you go to bed, get up, wake in the night and so on. Its not 100% guaranteed (unlike a sleep monitoring band), but it is accurate enough to build a picture of your sleeping habits. I have found that going to bed later than the advised time (by my speciailst) can cause me to stay awake for longer. Going to bed too early can also have this effect, but if I go at the right time (now worked out from my App), I can fall asleep and maintain being asleep through the night (waking up less).

The App that I am using is called Sleep Cycle. However there are other sleep apps and ways of recording your sleep. One method that I have personally tired (and LOVE) is the Jawbone Up. its an activity monitor so is Brilliant for those of you who are looking to increase your levels of fitness.

For further advice regarding sleeping habits, please keep an eye on my blog, where you can read my article on Sleeping Well, due to be published within the next week .

Diet
If one of your goals is to eat better, lose weight or change the way you cook then I think I will definitely be able to help you here. My diet has changed so radically that I had to go out and research about foods, intolerances and how to substitute ingredients. Now because my diet change was due to health reasons, I had no choice but to stick to it so in a way, it didn’t include will power. However, that didn’t make it any easier, if anything it made it harder as I had to be careful of the foods I ate, giving me less room for error. I can honestly say I was really overwhelmed by it all and took me a while to get to grips with things (and Im still learning) but I found that there are a number of things that you need to do if you’re planning a diet change.

1. Blogs
Finding blogs relating to the diet / food changes you want to make can make it easier for you to adapt. Seeing people who are already eating this way and have tried and tested recipes can give you inspiration and help you with any questions you may have.

I follow a Paleo diet and have found the following blogs the most useful:-

  1. Elanas Pantry
  2. Nom Nom Paleo
  3. Paleo Hacks

The advantage of a blog is that people can comment on the posts. If you have a cooking disaster or can’t find an ingredient, reading through the comments section can help answer any questions you may have or, if the answers are not there, you can ask the blogger yourself.

2. Cookbooks
Elanas Pantry CookbookCookbooks are another way to help you stay on track. They take the guess work out of creating meals and can help you from falling into a rut of eating the same foods over and over. After stumbling across Elenas blog (Elanas Pantry) I discovered that Elana had written a number of cook books. I’m now the proud owner of ‘Paleo Cooking from Elanas Pantry’ and have to say that there are so many dishes that I love, I have now ordered her other cookbooks.

Now if you’re trying a diet and don’t want to buy a pricey cook book, there are plenty of ways to get cheap cook books. You can look on Amazon, eBay and even in second hand/ charity shops. I’ve bought some great cook books over the years from charity shops and the money goes to a good cause. Alternately you can ask your friends and family what cook books they have and borrow them. I personally prefer to buy them because I love books!

3. Magazines
Healthy Food GuideThere are plenty of magazines about filled with stories, diets and recipes, but did you know that there are some magazines that are solely about cooking? Last year I came across three cooking magazines that have some great recipes in, but cost less than a cooking book. You can also find great recipes in the free mag from local supermarkets. Asda, Tescos and Morrisons all have a free magazine that are published monthly and will usually have recipes targeted at using foods in season for that month.

Recommend Magazines

  • Good Food Magazine
  • Healthy Food Guide
  • Eat Well

Tools for cooking
One of the draw backs I have discovered about searching the World Wide Web for recipes is that when I find something I like the look of, half the time, they are written in ‘cups’ which is not the chosen way of measuring here in the UK. However, I’m excited to say that I found a solution, and that is ‘measuring cups’ so that it takes out the guess work and faffing around with trying to convert weights and measurements. So, if your new eating regime requires you to cook in a certain way (e.g requires a lot of whisking, grinding, weighing, chopping or measuring in cups) then get the right tools for the job (a whisk, pestle and mortar, scales, knives, measuring cups), it will make your life so much easier!

Dodo Cookbook
The Dodo Book for CooksThe Dodo Book for Cooks - OpenAnother tip for cooking would be to get a note pad of some kind, especially if you like to tweak recipes and add your own twist on things. I’m forever forgetting the quantities of spices that Ive added to a dish or can’t remember what substitutes I’ve made. Because of this I bought myself a ‘dodo cooking pad’, another great dodo creation. The book is divided into meal sections (starters, soups, meats, salads, desserts, miscellaneous), has pockets for keeping recipe cards, a weight/ conversion charts, an elastic fastening and has lots of blank pages for me to fill with recipes. There are other brands of this type of cook book, or you can choose to keep a plain note book but I would recommend this kind of book as it keeps all your cooking info together. I find this handy for the days Im too lethargic to cook as my husband can see the measurements/ way I cook things and recipes are easy to find.

Websites
The World Wide Web is an amazing invention and can be a great way to get inspiration whatever your goal. When I was first diagnosed as intolerant I found it difficult to find ingredients such as stock cubes that were dairy, wheat, gluten and yeast free. However a short search on the internet came back with loads of useful websites for people with intolerances and allergies. As I continued to look, I came across the following websites that you may find useful too.

Health Unlocked
This website is great if you are managing a health condition such as gluten intolerance, IBS, following a FODMAP diet or just want to be conscious of the foods you are eating. The website is a sort of forum (divided up by different catagories) where people ask questions of the other members suffering with certain food issues. You will probably learn a heck of a lot about hidden nasties and the people on it are so kind, welcoming and helpful. When I asked a question, I had about 25 responses with people giving me the web addresses of online shops that sell health food supplies and stock gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar and yeast free items….. And yes, I managed to get some stock cubes!!

Healthy Supplies
This website is one of the addresses I was given when I was talking in the gluten intolerance category of the health unlocked website. It’s now become one of my main places for buying my baking supplies. They have a lot of natural products, raw ingredients and intolerant friendly items too. They are reasonably priced with decent postage and packaging costs and they always send you a free clip to tie up your food bags once opened! (Nice touch!)

Inspiral
This website is one of my ultimate favourites. Although it’s a little on the pricey side they have some unusual and delicious treats and they are super fast with delivery. They are perfect for when you want to treat yourself and many of the items show the ingredients list so you can check what each item contains.

Reminders
So, now you’ve got your books, done your research and are getting into your new routine, how do you make sure you stick to it? Well, there are a few ways, from the cheap as chips approach to the little more expensive. Let’s start with the expensive option…

Mobile Phone
I personally have an iPhone. I always resisted and swore I wouldn’t get one, but when my husband got one and I saw all the nifty things it did, that was it… Hook line and sinker, I wanted one! That was over a year and a half ago and I have to say it’s still fun for me. Now, if you don’t have an iphone, its not a problem, but if you do have an iphone or an android phone here are some top tips you can do with it (other than calls, obviously haha!)

Set Alarms
Set reminders
Keep notes
Text yourself (if you get free texts!)

I use all of these tools on my phone and it helps me to remember a lot. I have my medication times programmed in to alert me everyday, I have my alarm set for each day of the week on an automatic reset and I use the note pad section to write things like shopping lists, to do lists and if I am out and about and see something I want to be reminded of (eg, a gift I think would be good for someone’s birthday later in the year) I note it down. Now for the ‘self’ texting… Yes, I also do this… A lot!!!! I have a contract phone which I get unlimited texts so if I’m off to bed and really want to remember something without having to set an alarm, I text myself, don’t read it, then when I wake the next day, hey presto I have an unread text to remind me. It may sound crazy, but it’s just something that happens to work for me.

Another tip for Android/ iPhones is that you can download apps to suit your needs. There are literally thousands of apps for just about everything, from running/ walking Apps that track your distance to calorie counting ones that you record your meals on. One app that Ive downloaded and love is My recipe jar.

If you don’t have a mobile, here are some tips for remembering things….

Note Pad
It’s a simple yet effective idea and one that I also do, because there are times when I like to sit and write out ideas or reminders rather than using my iphone. It’s always a good idea to keep a note pad by the bed, because it’s very common for people, to remember things just as they are going to bed.

Post-It notes
You can get post it notes in all different sizes and colours these days and I find them a great way to highlight important things. Stick them to the fridge, on your phone/ computer/ car keys and remind yourself of tasks you need to do.

Chalkboard
Having a chalk board or whiteboard in the kitchen (or somewhere your likely to notice it) can also be a great way to prompt your brain into remember something. I have one in my kitchen and write down ingredients as they run out. At the end of the week you already have your shopping list noted so don’t need to go through all the cupboards trying to remember what’s missing.

So, there you have it, a list of different tools and tips I use to help me through each day. They may sound simple, but I find them effective and hopefully you will too. If you have any further suggestions, tips on other apps or tools that you find useful then please comment below and share your ideas, I find some of the best tips I’ve come across have been from other peoples feedback.

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Beauty Sample Boxes

 

Beauty Samples, samples, make up, cosmetics
BirchBox

We all like to smell fresh and look good but when someone asks you what beauty products you use, what is it that pops into your head? what items do you think of? Luxury body wash? Your favourite lipstick? Either of these would be right, because beauty products around today range from anything that we use to bath or shower with to the tools we use to apply our make up.

Many of us will have a collection of ‘favourites’ the items that we use that suit our skin/ hair / lifestyle and then there will be the other items that we tend to change now and again ( usually as fashion/ styles change). So when you decide to try a new product how do you choose which one to buy? With so many different brands on the market with a range of price tags, it can be difficult to decide on which items are best. Do you buy according to price, assuming that a cheaper item might not work as well or do you buy the most expensive because you think it’s guaranteed to work – justifying the price tag? Well there’s a new way to shop for beauty products that’s becoming more and more popular that helps you overlook the price tag and focus on how much you like the item.

Beauty Samples
What would you say if I told you that you could sample a wide range of quality beauty products at a fraction of the price? Too good to be true I hear you say?… Well, you can! The new trend for beauty products shopping, is through specialist websites where you can purchase beauty products for as little as £2.50 an item! It is true, but (and yes, there is a but) there is a bit of a catch. Now, don’t stop reading here, because the catch isn’t very big and the benefits heavily outweigh them.

So, what are these catches – if you’re anything like me you will want to know up front and right away what they are so that you can start to weigh up your options.

The ‘Catches’

  • You usually have to ‘subscribe’. This is where you create an account and agree to make a monthly payment and receive a ‘box’ each month. BUT do not fear – all of the sites that follow this process allow you to cancel the ‘subscription’ after you purchase your first box so you’re not tied into any kind of lengthy contract.
  • You don’t always get to choose the items you want. These beauty sites work by sending you out a goodie box each month filled with a range of beauty items. Once you’ve made your first payment you will receive a little box filled with approximately 5 items, some may be full sized and others may be a sample size. Each site has a slightly different way of selecting the items that get sent to you. Although it can feel a bit like a lucky dip, the sites do tend to show previous month selections so you get an idea of the types of products they stock.

Subscriptions are on average £10 plus P&P (don’t worry, I will give a full break down of costs below), meaning it works out on average that each item costs as little as £2.50.

Conclusion
When you consider that you don’t actually have to stick to a subscription the concept is a really good one. It allows you to try some of the more expensive brands without having to fork out for it. That way if you try an item and love it you know that it’s well worth the price tag. However if your try it and hate or don’t feel its worth it, you haven’t wasted your money. And the cost – most of the boxes cost the same price as a single foundation! They are also a great gift idea, you can send them to friends and family or even buy a subscription for them.

If you’ve decided you want to give it a try, how do you pick which site to use? well, it all depends on what you want to get out of your box. Each beauty site has a slightly different process. Below I have given an outline of three beauty boxes as these are the three that I have tried.

Latest in Beauty
It needs to be pointed out that this site doesn’t have a subscription process. It’s probably the best site to try first as you get an idea of the sample sizes and selection but won’t have to remember to cancel any subscription.

You have three options with this site
First you can order a little beauty box. This usually consists of 3 samples. The box is free however you are asked to pay towards the cost of postage and packing. The cost is £1.50 and is done via text message

The second option is to order one of their ‘luxury samples’. There is a two page list of beauty samples that you can order. This is the only site that you can buy sample items. The items are individually priced from £1-10. They will state if they are sample sized or full sized and samples will give you and idea of how many uses you will get out of them. You are limited to one of each item.

Finally they have their ‘Latest in Beauty’ collections (they currently only have 2 different options). These are ready made collections that their team have put together. Each box has a theme such as ‘Clean & Fresh’ (£14.95 inc P&P), or ‘Ultimate Discovery’ (£14.95 inc P&P). Each theme will list a selection of items and you will be sent all the items in the box, colours and tones will be based on the information you have provided in your beauty profile (when you sign up you will be asked to fill in some basic questions about your skin tone, beauty habits and hair colouring).

Postage and packaging for this site has just been increased to £3.95 and items can take up to 5 working days for delivery once your order has been processed.

Birchbox
Birchbox has a subscription process but give easy to follow details if you decide to suspend it. Please note that there is a cut off date for suspending your account each month as payments are processed and sent out on set dates (eg payment is usually taken on the 5th of the month and boxes sent out between 15th – 20th of the month). For first time orders or when re-activating subscriptions, order delivery will be confirmed by email and usually takes 3-5 working days but can sometimes take up to 10 working days.

Each month you will receive 4-5 items with a magazine. There is also the chance to purchase these (full sized) items in their shop. They have a rewards scheme where you receive points every time you spend with them. When you purchase a box you will get 1 point for each pound you spend. You can also earn points by filling in surveys to review the items you have received. You have to fill the survey in on the month that you receive the item in order to qualify for points (you can still fill in surveys at a later date for any of the products but won’t receive points if it’s after the month you received it). You will also receive points when you refer your friends. Points can be used to purchase items in their shop.

Birchbox costs £12.95 per month including postage and packaging. If you wanted to pay for a subscription up front or get it as a gift you can purchase a subscription for 3 months (£30 plus £2.95 P&P a month), 6 months (£60 plus £2.95 P&P a month) or 12 months (£90 plus £2.95 P&P a month).

Love Me Beauty
Love Me Beauty is also subscription run but again give simple instructions for cancelling. The difference with this site is that at the beginning of each month you will be sent an email telling you that the boutique is open. This will take you to their site where there are 3 menus for that month.

It’s up to you to select which menu you would like to receive, however they are only open for 28 days* (a countdown clock will be shown). If your subscription is active and you haven’t selected an option by the end date, one will be selected for you automatically. It is best to choose one at the beginning of the month, as once a menu has run out of stock you will be limited to the remaining menus.

Boxes are dispatched daily once you have selected your choice, delivery can take 3-5 working days. The advantage of this site is that you will receive exactly what is on the menu you have chosen. There are usually 4 a 5 products in each menu, 1 – 2 are guaranteed to be ‘star items’ (full size) and 3 travel sized. Love Me Beauty also have a a points collection in place as well as reward system. With rewards they offer 1 month free for 3 friends referred, 1 extra sample when 5 surveys are completed and one extra product for every 3 months subscribed (when your subscription is live). Their points system works where you get points for filling in surveys, when you have enough points you can use them to redeem a free box.

Summary
So there you have it, three great ways to get the latest beauty items for a fraction of the price. I have used all three of these sites and thoroughly enjoyed each experience. If I was to sum them up I would say that Lastest in beauty is best for ordering individual samples, Birchbox and Love Me Beauty are best for rewards if you aim to be a regular subscriber and Love Me Beauty are best if you want only exact items with no surprises.

Other Beauty Sample Boxes
I have come across a few other beauty sample boxes but as I haven’t tried them I am unable to give any personal opinion on them. I have listed them below with a brief summary, if you have come across any others and have tried them please let me know!

Be Box
Works on a subscription system but can be cancelled at anytime
You receive 4 – 5 items
1 month is £10 plus £2.95 P&P
This box is a great idea as it’s philosophy is that it’s for ‘women of colour’. However the site does say that you don’t have to be a woman of colour to subscribe

Glossy Box
Works on a subscription systems but can be cancelled at anytime
You receive 5 ‘surprise’ items
1 month is £10 plus £2.95 P&P

* I was unable to establish if Love Me Beauty’s boutique is open for 30/28 days. When I tried checking my own personal account it showed 28 days.

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