Meet Your New Favourite Workout–Pole Dancing.

Just a short ride away from Kingston’s Penrhyn Road campus is what could be the city’s newest fitness hotspot. Every week, dancers from all walks of life gather at The Pole Studio in Surbiton with the common goal of getting in shape, looking good and having a great time.

Located above a chip shop on Portsmouth Road, the dance studio is unassuming and cosy. Dancers leave their shoes by the door, hurry up the carpeted stairs, and are greeted with silver practice poles dotted around the small—yet comfortable—space.

While pole fitness used to be a taboo sport, in recent years it has gained popularity among both men and women. A combination of strength training, conditioning and acrobatics, this is a workout that encourages cardiovascular health while simultaneously working the arms, legs and core muscles.

The result is a full-body workout that anyone can do, either in a group setting or 1-on-1 with an instructor.

It was this all-in-one workout that helped draw 31-year-old Siobhan Parish to The Pole Studio. Lessons are held once a week and run for approximately one hour—long enough to work up a sweat, but not long enough to exhaust participants.

As a working mother, this 60-minute pole fitness model offers her both a convenient workout and an opportunity to de-stress from the workweek.

“You can see yourself develop, unlike at the gym, and you get better in a number of ways,” Parish said. “(Pole) makes me feel stronger—I like the way after, a few weeks, quite a few weeks, things start to get a bit tighter and it just makes me feel good.”

Jaime Rangeley, an instructor at the Surbiton location, has been practicing both dance and pole for years. An expat from California, she found pole fitness to be a helpful way to meet people when she moved to England, and has continued dancing ever since.

“Everybody’s super nice and welcoming, and (pole fitness is) just a really great way to make friends,” Rangeley said.

At The Pole Studio, Rangeley has taught dancers of all sizes, ages and genders, and feels that the environment that pole fitness creates is a more wholesome one than can be found at the average gym—a sentiment that Parish supports, having just finished her first set of beginner classes.

“Everyone I’ve ever had teach me or I’ve practiced with have been very lovely people,” Parish said.

For potential dancers who are afraid to take the leap into pole fitness, Rangeley encourages them to take a one-off class or sign up for a beginner’s course.

“You’ll see that as you get to know everybody, nobody cares when you start to wear the shorter shorts and stuff like that, you feel totally comfortable,” Rangeley said. “You’re never forced to wear anything you don’t want to or to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, and you’ll find that you’ll actually have a laugh, and the workout is like an added bonus.”

The Pole Studio has locations across London and Surrey, with lessons for all levels of fitness—they even offer yoga classes, for the less adventurous among us. Prices start at £10 a class, with the beginner courses running for six weeks.

To find the perfect class for you, check out their main website for times, locations and individual pricing.

5 Miracle Products That Will Save Your Skin on Accutane

If you’ve got severe cystic acne and have tried pretty much everything to get rid of it, chances are your dermatologist will recommend Accutane (or Roaccutane, as it’s called in various countries around Europe).

While this may seem a magic cure to get rid of all your large, and often painful breakouts, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. While it is definitely effective (and is currently the strongest medication available for acne treatments), Accutane is known for having quite severe side effects on your health, including dry mouth, nosebleeds, dry skin and, in rare cases, even serious medical conditions, such as depression and pancreatitis.

But, there’s no need to despair! There are ways to help with what can only be described as the “Sahara desert” side effect, and we’re here to help! Here are five of the best beauty products you can use to pamper your skin and get it back in business.

  1.   THE BODY SHOP CAMOMILE CLEANSING BUTTER – £10, THE BODY SHOP

Before getting to the skincare, it’s important to make sure your face is clean from any makeup or residue you might have. While it’s tempting to grab a foaming gel or a scrub and go to town, experts firmly advise against that—it’ll actually make your skin dryer and exacerbate acne by disturbing the skin’s natural pH.

Instead, it’s recommended you use a cleansing balm to make sure your face is clear and ready for a skincare party, and The Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Butter is the definitely a go-to for this! With a smooth consistency and a delicate and pleasant smell, it will turn your boring cleansing ritual into a lush experience, while leaving you with soft and fresh skin.

Recommended use: Use a pea-amount of cleanser all over the face, massage the product into the skin to remove makeup and dirt and then remove with a warm, damp washcloth with gentle, circular motions.

  1.     FRESH SUGAR LIP POLISH – £19.50, HARRODS

There’s nothing more tempting than to peel off the flaky skin on your lips when you’re on Accutane, even when you know full well you’ll end up with a bleeding lip. Luckily, there’s a better (and tastier) alternative to this: the Fresh Sugar Lip Polish. This jar of sugar goodness will get rid of all the dead skin off your lips, leaving them soft and supple and ready to be kissed!

Recommended use: Use the Lip Polish once every two-three days to avoid over-scrubbing your lips and making them raw.

  1.     NUXE REVE DE MIEL LIP BALM – £10, M&S

Lip balm is your saviour when taking acne medication, and Nuxe Reve De Miel is the one to rule them all. This award-willing best-seller brings the power of Acacia honey and Shea butter in your hands, and will rehydrate and soothe your lips to make them luscious once more.

Recommended use: Use generously when needed, especially after using a lip scrub.

  1.   INDEED LABS HYDRATION BOOSTER – £16.99, ASOS

When we think of dry skin, we immediately think of slathering on the thickest cream we can find. But, the trick to fighting off dry skin is to layer your moisture products, and the Hydration Booster from Indeed Labs is just the thing for this!

The light-weight serum does exactly what the name says: it absorbs immediately into the skin, giving you immediate relief and a well-deserved hydration shot. A total staple for dry and dehydrated skin, especially caused by the medicine.

Recommended use: Use on cleansed skin on its own or mix with your moisturiser (or both!) and apply generously.

  1.     LA ROCHE POSAY NUTRITIC INTENSE RICHE MOISTURIZER, £16.49, SUPERDRUG

There’s no denying that the French know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to skincare, and La Roche Posay’s Nutritic Intense Riche moisturizer surely proves that. Its paraben-free and hypoallergenic formula is designed to hydrate and soothe even the driest skin and you’ll instantly feel relief and comfort. Bonus perk: it’s non-comedogenic, so there’s no need to worry about making your acne worse!

Recommended use: Use generously on cleansed skin whenever necessary; don’t be afraid to go to town with it!

What’s are some of your “miracle” beauty products? Let us know in the comments below!

7 Things Never to Say to Someone With an Eating Disorder

Battling an eating disorder is exhausting–and it isn’t made any easier when friends, family or peers are constantly asking hurtful questions or offering misguided advice. If you’re approaching someone who has told you they have an eating disorder, read on to find out 7 important questions not to ask.

  1. “Are you sure? You don’t look like you have an eating disorder!”

Seriously, this should be common sense—but unfortunately, it’s not. Eating disorders do not discriminate when it comes to body shape, size, gender or identity. The media’s stereotypical image of a waif-thin blonde girl is not representative of all individuals with EDs.

Under the DSM-5—the guidelines which medical professionals reference when diagnosing mental illnesses—patients no longer have to be underweight to receive an eating disorder diagnosis (except for anorexia nervosa, in some cases). Additionally, not all eating disorders are restrictive-type. An eating disorder that is being diagnosed more often is binge-eating disorder, which shares traits with bulimia, where the primary trait is frantic over-eating.

  1. “So, it’s just a diet?”

No. Just… no. While some individuals with eating disorders do follow strict eating plans—such as Paleo or vegan—this is not just a “diet”. A 2016 US study from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) says that those who diet moderately are 5 times more likely to develop an ED—and 18 times more likely, if they practiced extreme restriction.

That’s why calling eating disorders “diets” is so dangerous. It minimalises the fact that eating disorders are mental illnesses that need professional intervention to overcome.

  1. “If you want to lose weight, just work out and eat better! Have you tried that?”

Individuals with eating disorders are already extremely self-conscious—the last thing they need is someone subtly saying, “Losing weight is more important than getting better.”

Health is not equated with weight. An individual with anorexia being underweight would be skinny, but not healthy. Likewise, an individual hitting the gym everyday to negate that day’s caloric intake is not a healthy person—mentally or physically.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses; as such, they aren’t going to just “go away” with a bit of positive motivation. The best thing that you can do, as a friend, is to support that person with an ED and not mention their body. Don’t tell them they should lose weight, or give them tips to do so—even if you think you’re giving them “healthy” advice. Praise their personality or their brain, and stay away from physical attributes.

  1. “Can’t you just call this a ‘cheat day’?”

The idea of food being “wrong” just feeds into an eating disorder. NEDA reported that 95% of those who lose weight on a diet gain it back within 1-5 years. Making food “off limits” except for these so-called cheat days just reinforces the idea that food is either good or bad, and can trigger binges in some folks with EDs.

It’s better to support your friend in whatever food option they pick, and don’t push them to choose any food they’re not comfortable with eating.

  1. “Why do you have an ED? I don’t see anything wrong with you.”

A majority of ED side effects are internal, or manifest in ways that an outsider would not pick up on. Individuals who aren’t consuming enough energy may be constantly cold, grow extra body hair to compensate for the cold, stop menstruating, have a heart arrhythmia, or an eroding oesophagus from stomach acid.

Additionally, NEDA says that self-harming behaviours may occur co-morbidly with eating disorders. This can range from self-injury to binge drinking to being sexually promiscuous.

Even if you do not see the side effects, do not assume they’re not there.

  1. “How can you have one? Only teen girls have eating disorders, and they grow out of them.”

This is extremely false—anyone, regardless of age, gender or identity, can have an eating disorder. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

NEDA reported that ED symptoms are starting earlier and earlier in all genders, and that at any given point, “0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia”—and 1%  of young women and 0.1% of young men will be bulimic. These statistics don’t even include binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or other specified feeding or eating disorder.

  1. “Is your ED really a bad thing? You could stand to lose weight.”

This isn’t an exaggeration—people genuinely think this way. Unfortunately, this weight-shaming does nothing to spur healthy dieting, and paves the way for disordered eating.

NEDA has reported that of overweight individuals, 40% of girls and 37% of boys are bullied because of their weight. This leads to less interest in physical activity and socialisation—and an increase in psychological turmoil, including negative body image and depression.

Ultimately, weight is just a number. What’s going on inside our bodies is important, and we should feed ourselves healthfully, but weight is not a direct indicator of health. Unless you are a doctor directly consulting with a patient who has asked for advice on losing weight, there’s no reason to tell someone to lose weight. You end up doing far more harm than good.

For more resources on eating disorders, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

The Bloody Truth Behind Menstruation

Menstruation – It’s painful, bloody, and downright annoying. The unpleasant yet necessary cycle of menstruation affects nearly 50% of the world’s population — yet the topic is incredibly hush-hush and deemed taboo to speak about.

Anyone with a vagina has been there: you need to ask a friend for a sanitary product, but you’re uncomfortable saying the words out loud. But why is this? What is it about periods that make women feel uncomfortable to speak outwardly about them?

Depictions of menstruation in media – including film, advertisements, video games, social media, etc. – have always been particularly problematic. The media’s representation generally does not convey what menstruation is actually like, but rather demonstrates a glorified version that seeks to make audience members more comfortable with a manipulated version of menstruation.

Ads are especially guilty of adopting this sugarcoated image of menstruation. These advertisements are usually selling sanitary products and, in order to boost sales, depict the women on screen as being happy and physically active, conveying the idea that if you buy these tampons, you will also be happy and active!

This image is particularly absurd to most period-having humans; when you’re on your period, all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is painful and uncomfortable and ugly–and no matter how effective a tampon is, women on their period typically don’t want to perform a ballet recital or go rock climbing.

Advertisements are also notorious for specifically not showing period blood, despite the fact that their products exist for the sake of combating menstrual bleeding. Rather than the standard colour of blood – red – advertisements use a mysterious blue liquid to represent period blood.

The use of this blue liquid isn’t only found in sanitary product commercials; indeed, it can be seen in advertisements for toothpaste, diapers, paper towels, and more. Why do advertisements do this?

This sterile blue colour is often used in advertisements to denote cleanliness. The blue liquid elicits images of pure, clean water, and directly opposes any unsavoury thoughts of blood or bodily fluids. 

The use of this blue liquid also stems from quite problematic origins, some of which are deeply rooted in cultural norms. This allusion to cleanliness perpetuates the notion that menstruation is unclean and impure, a belief shared by the texts of many cultures and religions. This idea is also often seen in mainstream media and films, such as Carrie (1976), in which Carrie’s mother believes that her period is a symbol of sin.

While menstrual product advertisements do not necessarily mean to imply that periods are impure, companies tend to portray menstruation in a veil of beauty and happiness.

This perpetuates the notion that menstruation should be a clean experience, as a means to combat the inherent impurities of menstrual bleeding. This depiction is particularly effective as advertisements are ubiquitous and accessible, and therefore viewed by larger audiences, which subconsciously perpetuates these ideals without audiences knowing it.

The depiction of menstruation extends past advertisements. Not only is it misrepresented in mainstream media, but it is often actively censored.

A photo that poet and activist Rupi Kaur posted to her Instagram account of her bleeding through her pants was flagged and removed from the Internet. Since the photo technically met the official Instagram guidelines, it was eventually reuploaded; however, Kaur did not go quietly into that good night.

rupikaur-period1-454x341 Photo credit: Rupi Kaur

In response, she wrote, “I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak.  When your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified.”

This, and sanitised media depictions, are just some of the many ways that menstruation is stigmatised and stereotyped and deemed gross or offensive, ultimately making it a taboo subject.

While this information can be disheartening, it is important to remember to celebrate companies that are attempting initiatives to end stigmas surrounding menstruation.

For example, Libresse is an international brand of feminine hygiene products that has recently initiated a campaign called “Blood Normal” that seeks to “banish the blue liquid that conventionally stands in for period blood in ads and instead shows real-life scenarios of young women dealing with their periods.”

The hope is that more mainstream companies will adopt similar ideals, ultimately working to collectively end stigmas surrounding menstruation. In the end, perhaps someday, women may not have to whisper about their periods and treat them like they’re secrets.

Watch the Blood Normal campaign video here.