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Metro.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Metro

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    (Picture: Charlotte Tibury)

    All eyes are on the Victoria Secret’s Angels right now.

    Last night, the stunners of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show strutted their stuff on the catwalk in playful ensembles and their legendary VS wings.

    And it was fun, empowering and downright fabulous. But of course, it wasn’t all about their extravagant wings.

    thumbnail for post ID 8124376Arsenal already targeting Danny Welbeck replacement following horror injury

    This year British makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury was the exclusive make-up sponsor of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018.

    (Picture: Charlotte Tibury)
    (Picture: Charlotte Tibury)

    The look Charlotte created was classic of VS. It was fresh, glowing, angelic and understated.

    Charlotte explained how iconic Angel Gisele Bündchen was the inspiration behind this year’s look, ‘One of my inspirations for the look was inspired by the healthy, happy, naturally flawless beauty look of Gisele – she embodies that signature fresh, glowing ANGEL gorgeousness’

    ‘I also wanted the makeup channel that Victoria’s Secret feeling! Victoria’s Secret is all about pure fun, joy and abandon! It is a world of confidence, glamour, sexiness, power and magic that we all sail off to for the night.’

    (Picture: Charlotte Tibury)

    Paired with classic bombshell waves, Charlotte incorporated her cult beauty products from her backstage secret Magic Cream and Magic Away Concealer, which is the equivalent of Spanx, but for your under-eyes.

    And if you want to re-create the glamorous look worn on the runway at the Victoria’s Secret Show 2018, we’ve been given the inside scoop on the exact products Charlotte used.

    Here’s the makeup look to add to your beauty arsenal:

    All Charlotte Tilbury products used in the official Victoria’s Secret 2018 Makeup Look are available on charlottetilbury.com.

    MORE: A Jaffa Cake Yard is no longer actually a yard and people are outraged

    MORE: Fancy vivid pink diamond expected to sell for up to $50,000,000


    Every single Charlotte Tilbury product worn by the Victoria's Secret Angels finished-3311Every single Charlotte Tilbury product worn by the Victoria's Secret Angels finished-3311emilyknott17(Picture: Charlotte Tibury)Every single Charlotte Tilbury product worn by the Victoria's Secret Angels finished-3311Every single Charlotte Tilbury product worn by the Victoria's Secret Angels finished-3311emilyknott17(Picture: Charlotte Tibury)

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    (Picture: Splash News/Getty)

    Last night was the annual Victoria’s Secret show, where some of the world’s most conventionally beautiful women put on lingerie and wings and dance around a catwalk while whoever is currently the hottest singer in the world performs.

    Yesterday also saw London play host to an alternative fashion show, featuring models of all sizes, shapes and builds. The show, hosted by Simply Be, was intended to send the message that all body types are beautiful and valid.

    Thing is, however noble the intent was doing an alternative Victoria’s Secret show pits women’s bodies against each other.

    Every year something similar happens. The show takes place and feminists speak out against the unrealistic body types that the homogeneous nature of the women Victoria’s Secret promotes.

    But is it really practical to level these accusations about Victoria’s Secret? Is there really a problem with this super beautiful, very thin, women strutting their stuff in knickers and angel wings?

    The feminist defense for the Victoria Secret show METRO GRAB taken from: https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/Simply-Plus-Size-Lingerie-Show-November-2018-45458860 Credit: SimplyBe
    (Picture: SimplyBe) Is this better than the VS show?

    Critics claim that having women like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid walking the catwalk in their underwear is objectification. It would be interesting to hear how those people suggest underwear should be modeled. Perhaps animatronic mannequins.

    If you think that the VS show is objectification, surely you should feel the same way about any other shows, plus or straight size. Plus-size women are just as capable of being objectified as straight-sized models.

    Another criticism of the show is that the slim models should be mixed in with women who have more realistic bodies, as if that would magically turn a silly night of fun into something worthy and pure.

    But here’s the thing: that’s not who Victoria’s Secret make lingerie for.

    The biggest bra you can buy at Victoria’s Secret is a 40DDD.  Knickers go up to a size 16. Given that the average UK bra size is a 36D – right at the top of the VS size range – it’s not a brand that aims at every woman. To put it in context, M&S goes up to an H cup. Victoria’s Secret is not a brand that wants to make comfortable, pretty bras for plus size women. Nor is it a brand which tries to be diverse and cater for everyone. And maybe that’s okay?

    By using slender models of varying ethnicity, the Victoria’s Secret’s show is accurately representing their target market. Slim, small to medium boob-ed young women.

    (Picture: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

    A couple of years ago Ashley Graham shared an illustration of herself, drawn by a fan as the first ever plus size angel. Which is a lovely idea, but completely unrealistic. There isn’t a bra in that shop which would contain Ashley’s incredible boobs.

    In order for Victoria’s Secret to start using plus models they’d have to make an entirely new line.

    The day Victoria’s Secret start to cater for plus-size women will be the day I stamp my feet and demand a plus angel. But at the moment using more diverse body types would be a totally disingenuous attempt to please people.

    Making bras which fit DD+ busts and knickers which flatter bigger women is a completely different skill set. Big bras are feats of engineering. If VS were going to get into the plus pants game then that’s great, but it’s going to mean hiring a whole new set of designers and getting to grips with a very different skill set.

    So often brands use plus-size models (AKA average sized women) as a lip service to diversity, while doing very little to actually try and promote body positivity.

    H&M recently came under fire for featuring a plus-size model in their campaign for the H&M x Moschino collection, but failing to offer any items in sizes above a ‘large’.

    Putting a beautiful, light skinned size 16 woman on an ad campaign and expecting a gold star is not diversity.

    The Victoria’s Secret show is not an example of body diversity. It doesn’t pretend to be. It uses models which represent what the brand makes and who they want to dress.

    Victoria’s Secret are not a beacon of diversity. But they’re honest. And in an age where so many brands seem willing to be faux woke, while keeping their principles exclusively to the adverts, that honesty feels pretty refreshing.

    MORE: The Victoria’s Secret models getting ready backstage is basically every girl’s dream

    MORE: Charlotte Tilbury reveals how to get a look of an angel ahead of tonight’s Victoria’s Secret Show


    FASHION-US-VICTORIA SECRET-SHOWFASHION-US-VICTORIA SECRET-SHOWrebeccacnreidThe feminist defense for the Victoria Secret show METRO GRAB taken from: https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/Simply-Plus-Size-Lingerie-Show-November-2018-45458860 Credit: SimplyBeFASHION-US-VICTORIA SECRET-SHOWFASHION-US-VICTORIA SECRET-SHOWrebeccacnreidThe feminist defense for the Victoria Secret show METRO GRAB taken from: https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/Simply-Plus-Size-Lingerie-Show-November-2018-45458860 Credit: SimplyBe

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    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk) metro illustrations dating, couple, boyfriend, girlfriend, How to talk to a woman you don't know
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Chatting about your salary is awkward.

    There’s always the fear before you pipe up that you might be earning more or drastically less than the person you’re speaking to.

    Then there’s the idea, drummed into us since we were toddling around talking nonsense to adults, that asking someone how much they earn is deeply rude.

    There’s a danger lurking in that politeness.

    When we refuse to talk openly about salaries, gender pay gaps can widen, people can be vastly underpaid for their work and have no clue that’s the case, and those in different industries applying for new jobs will struggle to know how much they should ask for.

    Our politeness isn’t helping us. Instead it’s serving anyone upholding unfair pay. Shrouding salaries in cultural secrecy means that companies can get away with paying people less than they deserve, in the knowledge that we’ll be too uncomfortable to talk.

    In some cases, it’s more than just social etiquette that keeps us quiet.

    You’ve probably worked in a place where someone you work with has been scolded for referring to someone else’s salary in negotiations. Some people will report that their office explicitly bans discussions of salary, with a mysterious threat of sharing what you earn being against company policy and thus punishable by… something.

    But are bosses actually allowed to stop you talking about how much you earn? Can they legally prevent you from asking your deskmate about their salary and comparing it to your own?

    The short answer is no, they can’t.

    Employees have the legal right to discuss pay if they choose to, and it’s illegal for employers to ban those discussions.

    Thanks to the Equality Act of 2010, employees have the right to discuss salary for the purposes of collective bargaining or protection – so that if everyone’s being underpaid, people can come together and ask for more.

    metro graphics
    (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Shutterstock)

    This law means employers cannot legally discipline anyone for discussing their work pay, and employers cannot legally have any clauses in company contracts that stop workers from talking about their salaries.

    So in strict legal terms, no, your employers can’t say you’re not allowed to chat about what you earn.

    What employers can do, however is suggest that you don’t. They can also stop you from using work time to chat about what you earn.

    Jane Crosby, Partner at Hart Brown Solicitors, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Employers may say that pay rates are confidential but it is not unlawful to talk about salaries with each other.

    ‘An employer could stop these discussions from taking place during working hours.’

    It’s often the fear of getting in trouble or doing something wrong that keeps us quiet, rather than explicit policy.

    It’s important to note that an employer cannot fire you for discussing pay, and if they were found to have any verbal or written policy prohibiting talking about salaries, they could get in a bit of legal trouble.

    Of course, if you like your job, you aren’t bothered by the legal stuff. You’d just like to be able to chat about your salary, find out if you’re being paid fairly, and bring up the issues with your manager without them wanting to get you out.

    To do that without ruffling feathers, proceed carefully.

    (Picture: Erin Aniker)

    Yes, you’re legally allowed to ask a coworker how much they earn, but do it gently – if they don’t want to share, they have no obligation to. Back down.

    Don’t expect other people to be open if you’re a closed book, though. It’s not fair to ask someone to tell you what they earn if you’re unwilling to share your salary in return.

    But while it’s great to be open about your salary, be cautious about shouting it out across the office to anyone who asks. You could end up breeding resentment.

    And on that resentful note, make sure that when you’re making comparisons between your salary and someone else’s, you’re comparing like for like. It might seem deeply unfair that someone’s earning more than you, but make sure you rule out all the reasons they might be paid more – more experience, more responsibilities, or an entirely different role.

    Be warned that discussing pay can bring up some emotions. You might find out that you’re not being paid as much as someone else, and it’s wise to be prepared for that possibility. Take time to process any discrepancies rather than lashing out in anger or upset.

    If you believe you’re being paid unfairly, talk to your employer.

    As part of those discussions you’re allowed to mention other people’s pay, but your boss might respond that they can’t share what other people earn, or aren’t able to comment as other people’s salaries are confidential.

    It’s true that employers don’t have an obligation to tell you what other people are earning, but if you already have that information and got hold of it in a legal way (meaning you spoke to your coworker rather than rifling through documents), you have a right to use it as part of your negotiations.

    As we said, talking about money is bloody awkward and uncomfortable. But it’s a key part of making things fairer for everyone.

    No employer can stop you from chatting about salary, so all you have to overcome is the weight of our cultural discomfort with honesty around earnings. You can do it.

    MORE: Today, turn to your colleagues and ask them how much they earn

    MORE: When does stress become burnout?

    MORE: My odd job: After the body is removed from a trauma scene, people call me to clean up


    how-to-talk-to-a-woman-you-dont-know-v2how-to-talk-to-a-woman-you-dont-know-v2ellencscottmetro graphicshow-to-talk-to-a-woman-you-dont-know-v2how-to-talk-to-a-woman-you-dont-know-v2ellencscottmetro graphics

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    Lunch is served at Kym’s (Picture: Kym’s)

    Where to eat in London this week?

    Kym’s

    Venturing into the City on a Saturday definitely has its drawbacks. Eerily quiet streets, teams of seemingly lost tourists on the look out for St Paul’s… As far as food options go, it seems like a culinary wasteland too – closed branches of office worker-friendly sandwich chains.

    But then you find the ultra-modern new foodie hub, Bloomsbury Arcade, now home to Andrew Wong’s new launch, Kym’s.

    Kym’s is the second site from this highly acclaimed Chinese chef, opened since winning a Michelin star earlier this year for A.Wong in Victoria.

    Sip on a yuzu Negroni to start (Picture: Kym’s)

    Beautifully designed, Kym’s is a sumptuous two-floor restaurant complete with a pink cherry blossom tree overlooking the copper bar, velvet sofas, stylish wooden seating and Insta-friendly marble tables.

    We ordered a giant pebble-like rice cracker and crispy seaweed while perusing the menu, which is divided into small plates, classics and sharing dishes.

    We chose the silken tofu, Sichuanese spiced aubergine, tiger prawn skewers, pork skewers and French bean fritters to start.

    The prawns arrived coated in a rice crispy-like, bubbled batter which crackled when dipped into the sweet chilli sauce, fun and satisfyingly crunchy with tender prawns beneath.

    Tofu was the weakest link, pretty much just a vehicle for the rich umami sauce accompaniment. The aubergine was delicious but near impossible to eat with just chopsticks (no cutlery was supplied) sliver by sliver.

    Frittering green beans is a revelation, a definite must order to start, and the pork skewers were a sticky, charred baton of mouth-watering joy.

    French Bean Fritters (Picture: Kym’s)

    It’s worth mentioning the drinks at this point, the short but enticing cocktail list of classics with a twist included the ubiquitous lychee martini (no Asian restaurant seems to miss off this crowd pleaser), sichuan sours, plum bellinis and the Kym’s spritz – sake, Riesling vermouth, lemongrass, Prosecco and pomegranate (£9). It being Saturday lunchtime, we wanted to have a glass of wine but not a whole bottle and spotted the Assyrtiko Lyarakis from Crete, served in a carafe (£26). The wine, which according to our charming and laid-back waiter was the number one selling wine on the list, was a sensation. In hindsight, we probably should have ordered a bottle!

    Bao Bao – asian style Shakshuka and utterly delicious (Picture: BarFox)

    Mains arrived in the form of the pork and shrimp ‘Bao Bao’ in a sizzling skillet (£12), the Three Treasures meat trio (£20) and Gai Lan on the side (£8), a pleasant stack of Chinese broccoli heaped with goji berries and soy. The Bao Bao needed a swirl with a chopstick to break the eggs and was an incredibly satisfying dish, like a Chinese Shakshuka with dumplings…essentially ticking all the boxes for a weekend lunch, having had one too many Margaritas the night before. The much talked about Three Treasures was delicious but could have been more generous with the Crispy Pork Belly, Soy Chicken and Iberico Pork Char Sui slices, each arriving with their individual sauces, which quickly became ‘one’ after a couple of dips. A side of steamed rice was needed to soak up all the juices from the Bao Bao. We had to bat off the keen waiter several times to ensure every last drop was devoured.

    The Three Treasures: Crispy Pork Belly, Soy Chicken & Iberico Pork Char Sui (Picture BarFox)

    Pudding was vetoed but looked good – Hong Kong pineapple bun (£6) and Sichuan pepper and star anis-soaked poached blackberries with sorbet (£5).

    On the coffees we learnt of the new Sunday Roast offer, £25 per person for a set feast that can be upped for an extra £15 per person for free flowing beer, wine or bellinis. There are many worse ways to spend a Sunday in the City!

    Kym’s is great for a mid-week date, family celebration or stylish Sunday roast with minimal plans afterwards if the ‘free-flowing’ libations are chosen.

    Blossoming interiors (Picture: Kym’s)

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    Mum Kemi Olowe says the black community need to be more open about fertility (Picture: Supplied)

    Mum Kemi Olowe has admitted that being from a black African background made it difficult to talk about her struggle with fertility.

    Kemi, who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome as a teenager, had three full NHS IVF cycles after being granted funding, and was successful on her third and final cycle. Her son will turn two next month.

    However as she was trying to fall pregnant, the 33-year-old felt she couldn’t turn to her family, as she felt too ‘ashamed’, and says that the issue of fertility is seen as ‘taboo’ in the black African community.

    Kemi, who hails from a Nigerian background, told Metro.co.uk for Fertility Month: ‘Getting a degree, getting a good job, getting married is seen in the black community as what’s “supposed to” happen.

    ‘One of the challenges is, you don’t really hear about, “so and so’s going through this challenge”, or if you did, oftentimes they get labelled as, you know, “the person that’s going through this”.

    ‘A lot of the general impression is that people want to get married, have children and have a great family. There’s an unspoken rule.

    ‘And you obviously get people who ask you questions like, “Okay great, in nine months time we’ll see you again” and they say they are going to come and name the baby, so that makes it tough from the get go.’

    But luckily Kemi had a support circle she could turn to when things were tough.

    Kemi said: ‘I felt I had a group of good friends that I did speak to about it, and one of them was going through the same thing, so we sort of said, “We’re in this together” and we would cry on each other’s shoulders.

    ‘But at first I didn’t really speak to anybody else outside of my really close circle of friends. I couldn’t really express how I was feeling to my mum even, because I had that fear that I was going to let her down.

    Kemi, 33, feared she was letting her mum down by not being able to fall pregnant (Picture: Supplied)

    ‘One of the people who has really been there for me were my pastors from church, they were very very supportive and really encouraging. They were a support system and really helped me feel unashamed.

    ‘My husband was also a great source of support which he still is, just really encouraging. He didn’t marry me for children, he married me for who I am and children are a bonus. And just to hear him say that really encouraged me.

    Asked about her lowest point during the process, Kemi recalled her first round of IVF, which can take up to six weeks, left her in serious pain made worse by the fact it was unsuccessful.

    She said: ‘The most difficult part was definitely after we had our first round of IVF and it failed. I was in the hospital for about five days or so, and just the adrenaline of, “This needs to work”.’

    ‘That was a horrible five days because you’re in so much pain, just under morphine control and fluids. So you push through all that pain and you tell yourself, “I can make it. If I can get through this I can make it”.

    ‘Then when it failed, that was one of the hardest moments because I was pretty ignorant going in to IVF. I thought that the IVF first cycle would work.

    ‘I just thought it worked for everyone, even when they gave me the stats I didn’t think that I would be one of the stats that didn’t work.

    ‘That was really heartbreaking. I felt like I’d lost a baby and it was just the strength to go through the second round again knowing that I was likely to have a similar experience.’

    But it was her desire to be a mum and her faith that she says encouraged her to keep trying.

    ‘For me I knew I was going to be a mum. There was no doubt in my mind.

    ‘Once I got over the fact that infertility is a disease and I hadn’t chosen it, I had no more shame and realised that this was actually bigger than me.

    ‘I said, “I know I’m gonna be a mum, I’m gonna get there, I have to keep going” and my faith played a huge part in that. Knowing that I can pray about it.

    ‘I was asked, “Have you considered when you would like to stop?” and I just thought, “Why? I don’t feel like I’m going to have that many rounds.” But in my head it was, “I’m gonna keep going until I’m holding my baby”.

    ‘That vision of me holding my baby is what kept me going.’

    IVF

    What is IVF?

    During IVF (In vitro fetilisation) an egg is removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.

    The fertilised egg, called an embryo, is then returned to the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

    It can be carried out using your eggs and your partner’s sperm, or eggs and sperm from donors.

    The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman undergoing treatment, as well as the cause of the infertility (if it’s known).

    Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy. IVF isn’t usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.

    IVF doesn’t always result in pregnancy, and it can be both physically and emotionally demanding. You should be offered counselling to help you through the process.

    Who is IVF available to?

    IVF is only offered on the NHS if certain criteria are met. If you don’t meet these criteria, you may need to pay for private treatment.

    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) say women under 40 should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS if

    • they’ve been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for 2 years
    • they’ve not been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination

    The NICE guidelines also say women aged 40 to 42 should be offered 1 cycle of IVF on the NHS if all of the following criteria are met:

    • they’ve been trying to get pregnant through regular unprotected sex for 2 years, or haven’t been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination
    • they’ve never had IVF treatment before
    • they show no evidence of low ovarian reserve (where eggs in your ovaries are low in number or quality)
    • they’ve been informed of the additional implications of IVF and pregnancy at this age

    Source: nhs.uk

    Fertility Month

    This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.

    For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.

    If you have a story to tell or a question to ask, please do get in touch at fertilitystories@metro.co.uk.

    Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far - and you can find all Fertility Month content here.

    MORE: Fertility Month: Why we are talking about fertility this month

    MORE: I found the perfect sperm donor - but I never got my happy ending

    MORE: Plastic could be affecting your fertility – here’s how and why

     

    Kemi previously appeared on Fertility: Fighting For a Family, a 5 News Tonight Special, which is available to watch here.

    MORE: Fertility rates are falling as half the world experiences a ‘baby bust’, researchers say

    MORE: Aston Merrygold put on a ‘bravado’ with male friends over fertility pressure to have kids


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    (Picture: Candy Kittens/ Drinks by the Dram/ Hotel Chocolat/ Heavenly Chocolate)

    If you’re considering opting for a vegan lifestyle but concerned you might miss out on the advent calendar fun, let us set your mind at ease.

    With one in eight Brits now vegan or vegetarian, many companies are responding by introducing vegan alternatives to munch on during the festive season.

    While most of these contain dark and bitter chocolate, there are some hidden gems too – such as gin, tea and whisky, as well as the odd beauty calendar.

    Here’s our pick of the best vegan advent calendars this Christmas.

    Candy Kittens

    Vegan / Free From advent calendar round-up Credit: Candy Kittens
    (Picture: Candy Kittens)

    Price: £12

    Packaging: It’s big, red and the doors are very easy to open. Like the tagline says: ‘Less sprouts, more sweets’.

    What’s inside: Our favourite of the lot. Made from natural juices with no added colourings, the calendar contains four flavours of sweets including blueberry bliss, peach fizz, sour watermelon and wild strawberry. Warning, once you start eating these you might find yourself having eaten all of them within an hour (it’s worth getting a second one, just in case).

    Festive joy: On the back of each door the kittens have scribbled a cute little note.

    Best for: Anyone who is vegan but loathes dark chocolate, cat lovers and people who like Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing, the owner of the brand.

    When and where you can buy it: Exclusive to Waitrose in store, but you can also order it from Candy Kittens.

    Montezuma

    (Picture: The Vegan Kind Supermarket)

    Price: £9.99

    Packaging: Does what it says on the tin – your average chocolate advent calendar with 24 doors and a cute, albeit boring, snowman design.

    What’s inside: If you prefer to savour your treats, you’ll enjoy this one. The organic pieces are very, very thick and will last longer than most other calendar chocolates. Extra tip: pop it into your morning coffee to get a delicious mocha flavour. Downside, windows are a bit tricky to open.

    Festive joy: Extra large chocolates, and we’re always down for that.

    Best for: Yourself or greedy people who always nag that ‘the chocolate never lasts’.

    When and where you can buy it: Available now from the Vegan Kind supermarket.

    Heavenly Chocolate

    (Picture: Yumbles)

    Price: £9.95

    Packaging: Branded ‘Magical Snowfall’, the packaging resembles a dark winter’s night with a glittering tree on the front that’ll give you the festive feels.

    What’s inside: The tasty chocolate inside isn’t just plant-based and vegan, it’s also gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, and free of GMO ingredients and palm oil. But it could taste a little bitter for some palates, as it only contains 4% sugar.

    Festive joy: You’d be supporting a small family business, rather than the big retailers.

    Best for: Anyone who doesn’t need the layers of sugar to enjoy a nice piece of chocolate.

    When and where you can buy it: Buy it online from Yumbles.

    Drinks by the Dram Whiskey

    (Picture: Drinks by the Dram)

    Price: £149.95

    Packaging: Heavy and red, made from a sturdy cardboard material to neatly hold the treasures inside.

    What’s inside: It might seem a bit pricey, but not when you consider the contents – 24 whisky flavours from all over the world including France, England, Scotland, Japan, America and Ireland. Each wax-sealed bottle contains 30ml of whisky with distilleries such as Cotswold’s, That Boutique-y Whisky Company and The Blended Whisky Company (a very strong blend of 52.3% ABV) and more.

    Festive joy: Whisky instead of chocolate? Yes, please.

    Best for: Whisky connoisseurs or beginners who want to expand their knowledge of the spirit.

    When and where you can buy it: OcadoMaster of Malt and other premium whisky retailers. Available now.

    Cocoapod

    (Picture: Yumbles)

    Price: £15.75

    Packaging: Rather than open doors, you pop off the lid, and inside are handmade chocolates with dates painted on top.

    What’s inside: This one’s actually not vegan but vegetarian, and a good choice for those who with gluten allergies. It also doesn’t contain any eggs, yeast or artificial ingredients.

    Festive joy: The lid works as a 3D Santa, which is fairly festive.

    Best for: People who like ‘free from’ products and appreciate quirky sweets.

    When and where you can buy it: Order it from Yumbles, here.

    Divine

    (Picture: The Vegan Kind Supermarket)

    Price: £5.49

    Packaging: Very pretty, in a seasonal gold and red design, featuring a Bambi-style illustration.

    What’s inside: Hmm, we’re in two minds about this one. The 70% dark chocolate is nice, but having to peel away the foil after opening the door was a let-down.

    Festive joy: In support of the Woodland Trust, each chocolate is made in the shape of a woodland creature and a good deed is always festive.

    Best for: Possibly one for the kids (thanks to the animal shapes), if your little ones like dark, bitter chocolate. Otherwise, adults who enjoy a decent chocolate at a decent price.

    When and where you can buy it: Available now, order it from the Vegan Kind supermarket.

    Hotel Chocolat

    (Picture: Hotel Chocolat)

    Price: £12.50

    Packaging: Minimalistic design in the brand’s traditional style, opens like a book. But once again, the foil appears when you open the door (though we suspect that’s to maintain the quality of the treat).

    What’s inside: Oh, the bitterness. It’s 100% Ecuadorian dark chocolate, made with cocoa nibs and nothing else. If you know someone who is very particular about their chocolate, this is the one. Or if you want to play a prank on a sibling or colleague who keeps eating your daily treat, offer them one of these – and watch their expression.

    Festive joy: A special chocolate, for a special season.

    Best for: Not for the faint-hearted.

    When and where you can buy it: Buy it online or in a Hotel Chocolat store.

    Newby Tea

    (Picture: Newby Tea)

    Price: £59.00. You need to spend a minimum of £60 to order it, so you have £1 left over to spend on biscuits.

    Packaging: Beautiful and well-organised. No doors to rip off here; instead, you can pull out delicate drawers from your new tea closet. Shaped like a home and stands up on its own.

    What’s inside: This Christmas, treat yourself to more than your usual morning brew. Each of the 24 drawers contains four tea bags, so technically you get 96 days worth of goodies. Some of the flavours include green Sencha, peppermint, Darjeeling black tea, Rosehip and Hibiscus, and Masala Chai.

    Festive joy: 96 treats, remember.

    Best for: Tea lovers, your nan or your parents.

    When and where you can buy it: Sold at Ocado and swiftly delivered to your door.

    First 4 Hampers Gin

    Food & drink calendar round-up (I)first4hampers
    (Picture: First 4 Hampers)

    Price: £125

    Packaging: It’s a humongous Christmas cracker – we’re in love. However, it was rather fiddly getting the bottles out of the doors.

    What’s inside: Flavour, flavour, flavour. Gin flavour, that is. Indulge in Yorkshire Tea, Raspberry Jam, Strawberries & Cream and Mulled Winter Fruit, alongside Sloe gin, Rhubarb and Rosehip, Orange, Lavender and Cucumber gin. There’s more, but we don’t want to spoil the surprise.

    Festive joy: Like the creators of the cracker say: ‘Gin-gle all the way’.

    Best for: Yourself. Or get an extra one and share it at the dinner table on Christmas Day.

    When and where you can buy it: Sold at First 4 Hampers, Amazon and Master of Malt, among others.

    Tropic Skincare

    Beauty advent calendar round-up (I)
    (Picture: Tropic skincare)

    Price: £100

    Packaging: Each window reveals a little white pouch with a message like ‘some secrets are best kept concealed’.

    What’s inside: Vegan skin treats in a tropical theme; fruit peel, wild mint, lime and pineapple wash, a bamboo face cloth and a velvet coconut cream in a tantalising whipped texture.

    Festive joy: Red and gold, and you’re supporting animals everywhere, since it’s vegan.

    Best for: Vegans, animal-lovers and people who miss the summer sun.

    When and where you can buy it: It was released on 19 October, buy it here.

    MORE: The best beauty and makeup advent calendars for 2018 – where to get them, what’s inside, and how much they cost

    MORE: The best food and drink advent calendars for 2018 – where to get them, what’s inside, and how much they cost

    MORE: Tired of chocolate? Lovehoney’s adult advent calendar is full of sexy goodies


    Vegan / Free From advent calendar round-upVegan / Free From advent calendar round-upallieabgarianVegan / Free From advent calendar round-up Credit: Candy KittensFood & drink calendar round-up (I)first4hampersBeauty advent calendar round-up (I)Vegan / Free From advent calendar round-upVegan / Free From advent calendar round-upallieabgarianVegan / Free From advent calendar round-up Credit: Candy KittensFood & drink calendar round-up (I)first4hampersBeauty advent calendar round-up (I)

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    (Picture: Lynsey Parkins)

    After four failed attempts at Intrauterine insemination (IUI), I was emotionally and physically drained.

    I’m not used to failure and here I was, four months down the line with nothing to show for my efforts but a huge hole in the bank balance.

    My wife and I needed a break, and wanted a holiday and some quiet time to de-stress, weigh up our options and talk to each other about anything other than TTC (trying to conceive).

    As a lesbian couple, and with me in my early 40s, starting a family was always going to include some kind of fertility treatment. We had been ready for that, but neither of us had been prepared for it not to work.

    Giving ourselves some breathing space meant I had the opportunity to focus on myself, my happiness levels, my body and how I was nourishing it – which in turn actually saw me get pregnant months later.

    Lynsey and her wife Lisa (Picture: Lynsey Parkins)

    I was stressed so I was comfort eating.

    I was exercising but it was sporadic, half-arsed and unfocused.

    This is coming from a personal trainer; I was putting my client’s needs before my own, and it was affecting my fertility.

    Stress puts the body into a state of fight or flight, flooding it with the hormone cortisol. The cortisol acts as a regular and shuts down processes in the body, like the digestive and reproductive systems, so it was paramount I got my stress levels under control.

    Taking deep breaths, drinking plenty of water and staring at the horizon is all well and good, but I knew I needed to focus on exercise and nutrition.

    The main change I made to my diet was to stop eating refined carbohydrates – the junk food had to go. We all know the negative effect of fast food on our waistlines but I was shocked to discover how much it impacts fertility.

    Stick with me for the science bit, because it’s really important.

    Carbs can be separated into two groups: you’ve got slow release unrefined carbs and fast release refined carbs.

    Refined carbs, like processed food, are broken down by the body very quickly and turned into glucose.

    Meanwhile, unrefined carbs like vegetables, are broken down in the body much slower.

    To get the glucose transported from the blood into the muscle or fat cells you need insulin. The faster the carb is broken down, the more insulin you need.

    Why does this matter to your chances of having a baby?

    Insulin is a hormone and too much of it plays havoc with fertility.

    Elevated levels of insulin can increase testosterone production in the reproductive system, disrupt ovulation and lead to polycystic ovary syndrome, cause a decrease in egg quality and a reduction of embryo implantation – I could go on.

    Eating slower releasing carbs means less insulin floods the body, therefore junk food, white bread, pasta and pizza was vetoed from my diet.

    (Picture: Lynsey Parkins)
    (Picture: Lynsey Parkins)

    Instead, I ate foods from a minimally processed diet, which was rich in protein, unrefined carbs and unsaturated fat.

    It was obviously challenging not eating all that naughty awesome tasting junk food, but knowing why I wasn’t eating it helped massively.

    Coffee intake was limited and while I cut down on booze (another unrefined carb) I didn’t cut it out completely.

    It was the middle of a heatwave and I’m only human.

    As for the exercise, being a personal trainer, I’m all about the positive effects this can have on the body and brain.

    It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts your mood and aids sleep.

    But, some types of exercise could actually have a negative effect on your fertility.

    Excessive cardio can affect the hormonal balance of the reproductive system, so it’s recommended to keep it down to four hours or less per week.

    Since I’m not a triathlete or Paula Radcliffe, it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. Weekend jogs turned into weekend walks and I focused on my cycle commute to work instead, which was 20 mins each way.

    High impact exercise is not recommended either; anything that results in being thrown or jostled around could lead to injuring the reproductive system. I don’t ride a horse or have a black belt in karate so that was good news (I needed this small win, since I was already giving up crisps and chocolate).

    I focused on strength training.

    I wanted to feel strong and capable of conceiving, so I looked at my training regime as though I was preparing for battle.

    The benefits of strength training turned into a game of box ticking bingo for me, because it would provide:

    • Increased bone density – pregnancy decreases bone density.
    • Improvements in posture – pregnancy can have a negative effect on posture.
    • Reduced lower back, neck and shoulder pain – we’ve all heard about that pregnancy back pain.
    • Improved join, ligament and tendon function – the added weight of pregnancy will put stress in these areas.
    • Increased muscle function – I needed to be strong to get through the whole process.

    I focused on three full-body strength sessions per week. Each workout was different, but I made sure I added lower body, upper body and core exercises every time.

    In a desperate attempt to improve the quality of my 41-year-old eggs, I was also popping supplements like they were going out of fashion, including folic acid, fish oil, vitamin C, D and E, magnesium, zinc, alpha-lipoic acid and ubiquinol.

    The jury is out on whether any of this stuff can actually improve your egg quality – I’m not aware of any confirmed studies that prove their worth. The only supplements recommended by the doctor was vitamin C, D and folic acid.

    Nonetheless, I swallowed those bad boys every morning and I’m happy to say I was successful, so make of it what you will.

    In the interest of being totally transparent, it’s worth mentioning two other things that definitely played a part of in our success – acupuncture and our fertility protocol.

    Despite the fact I’m pain adverse, I went along every other week and had needles stuck in me by a lovely lady called Julia.

    The idea of acupuncture is to unclog the body and increase the blood flow to your organs, in this case my uterus.

    I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy it (don’t tell Julia) but despite the pain I found myself relaxed and at peace after every session. I also slept better and my happiness levels increased tenfold.

    Meanwhile at the clinic, our treatment was classed as mild IVF, meaning the amount of drugs I was taking was fairly easy-going.

    The idea of this is to focus on quality over quantity. We were never going to get 20+ eggs from our cycle, but that isn’t what we wanted. We got six eggs in the end, four fertilised, with three on ice and our baby is due this coming April.

    I can’t tell you what the deciding factor was, but I believe the success of our treatment was absolutely impacted by the changes I made to my diet and exercise.

    It put me in a fighting frame of mind where I felt strong and in control. Something I never felt during my IUIs.

    And thankfully, it all came together for us.

    Lynsey Parkins runs a YouTube channel on her fertility and pregnancy journey with her partner Lisa. You can view the videos here.

    Always consult with a medical professional before making drastic changes to your diet or exercise regime. You can also read about fertility on the NHS pregnancy and baby guide.

    Fertility Month

    This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.

    For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.

    If you have a story to tell or a question to ask, please do get in touch at fertilitystories@metro.co.uk.

    Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far - and you can find all Fertility Month content here.

    MORE: Fertility Month: Why we are talking about fertility this month

    MORE: I found the perfect sperm donor - but I never got my happy ending

    MORE: Plastic could be affecting your fertility – here’s how and why

     

    MORE: Can yoga help with fertility issues?

    MORE: How exercise can affect fertility and stop your periods

    MORE: I found the perfect sperm donor – but I never got my happy ending


    lynsey1-acf1lynsey1-acf1allieabgarianlynsey1-acf1lynsey1-acf1allieabgarian

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    (Picture: Metro.co.uk/Getty)

    Welcome to a new series where we ask the question: how do people from different religions have sex?

    We’ll be finding out about how Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and hopefully Zoroastrians (if we can find one who’ll talk to us) have sex. We’ll be asking the same questions about each religion in an attempt to better understand how your faith can shape your sex life.

    This week we’re looking at Orthodox Jews – who have different customs from Reform Jews.

    This series is based on the official teachings of the religion, not what individuals might choose to do.

    Can you have sex before marriage?

    Nope. In fact if you’re properly Orthodox and doing things by the book then you’re not supposed to touch before you get married. At all. As in, no hand-holding, no hugging, nothing.

    At an Orthodox wedding men and women are separated and do not dance together. Both the man and the woman are expected to have sex for the first time on their wedding day.

    What is sex like within marriage?

    Ulta-orthodox couples time sex exclusively around conception. Orthodox women visit a mikvah, a ritual bath on the 12th day of their cycle (the day that the average woman ovulates).

    Seven steps (to symbolise the seven days of creation) lead them into what is essentially the mikvah. They immerse themselves, recite a blessing, then immerse again. After this process, Jewish women are considered ‘taharah’ or clean.

    Can you use contraception?

    Mixed messages on that one. It’s suggested that couples speak to their Rabbi to ask for guidance, as is tradition when an Orthodox Jew is unclear about how to proceed.

    Some sources claim that female birth control like the pill or an IUD are fine as long as you’ve fulfilled your responsibility to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ by having at least two children.

    Abortion?

    In cases where the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life, Orthodox Judaism permits abortion. Within Judaism there are differing schools of thought on what is and is not permissible. Some Rabbis believe that abortion is acceptable if the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape, or if the pregnancy will endanger the woman physically or mentally.

    Anal sex?

    Some sources say that any pleasurable sex between married men and women including anal and oral is fine. Others say that spilling seed needlessly is sinful and anal sex is ‘needless’. Again, if in doubt, couples should talk to their Rabbi.

    We sort of wonder if having to ask your Rabbi about anal sex might put you off doing it.

    Period sex?

    Forbidden, considered a very bad plan. During a woman’s period or ‘niddah’ couples should refrain from affectionate or lustful touching.

    At the end of a woman’s period, Orthodox women may test if menstruation has finished in a ritual called hefsek taharah. The woman takes a bath or shower near sunset, wraps a white cloth and wipes the vaginal circumference. If the cloth shows only discharges that are white, yellow, or clear, then menstruation is considered to have ceased.

    Seven days after the cloth comes out without any blood stains, the woman can attend the mikvah, be cleansed and then she is able to have sex with her husband.

    Homosexuality?

    Not really. Non-Orthodox Jews are much, much more liberal about LGBT+ relationships. Orthodox Jews do not permit homosexual activity due to the passages in the bible where it is expressly forbidden for ‘man to lie with man.’

    Many Rabbis point out that it is only homosexual activity, not homosexual urges, which are frowned upon.

    Masturbation?

    Not a lot of information about female masturbation, and when there isn’t any information you’re supposed to chat to your Rabbi.

    For men however it’s quite a big no-no. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is forbidden to ‘spill seed needlessly’, calling it a sin more severe than any other in the Torah and tantamount to murder.

    How sex positive are Orthodox Jews?

    When done within marriage and according to the rules, very positive. But there are quite a lot of rules.

    Is the thing about sex through a sheet with a hole in it true?

    No. This myth is thought to originate from from the ‘tallit katan’ — a wide rectangular shawl with four pattern knotted strings (called tzitzit) hanging from each corner.

    Ultra-Orthodox Jews wear a small tallit under their shirts. To make the garment simple, they cut a hole in the sheet to put their heads through. Non-Jews in old eastern European villages would see large ‘sheets’ hanging from the clothes line to dry.

    The ‘sheet’ had a hole in the middle, and you can see how the rumour went from there.

    Next week we’ll be asking how Orthodox Jews have sex. 

    MORE: Can women take Viagra?

    MORE: These are the dirtiest places on a plane


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    Baby in the Womb
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Having a heart condition can significantly impact how your body copes with pregnancy.

    If you’ve had a heart attack, then trying for a baby can be extremely risky.

    Here’s what you need to know.

    Experts agree that for most women, having a heart condition or heart attack is not a barrier to having children.

    But they do suggest that women who do want to get pregnant seek specialist advice and speak to their GPs to ensure that they’re fully aware of the risks.

    This is particularly important if you get pregnant unexpectedly – it’s crucial to talk things over with a health professional straight away.

    Why is pregnancy hard on your heart?

    The heart needs to work harder in order to accommodate for the increase in blood volume, which occurs in order to make way for the exchange of nutrients and oxygen between you and your baby – this means the resting heart rate is increased.

    What’s more, your heart also becomes slightly bigger and changes position due to the increase in size of the uterus and the fact that it needs to upsize to handle the changes in blood flow and composition.

    Labour and delivery also increase the workload on the heart.

    Sudden changes in blood pressure and flow put a strain on the organ too, and it can take a few weeks before levels return to normal.

    Source: Abbas Kanani, pharmacist 

    Pregnancy poses a risk because it puts additional pressure on your heart.

    Also, if you’ve already had a heart attack, your heart will likely be weaker than normal and more vulnerable to additional pressure.

    Or if you have a heart condition, the extra pressure that comes with pregnancy could make it worse.

    Fertility Series
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘Heart attacks cause permanent damage to heart muscles and during pregnancy, the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, which can potentially cause a problem,’ Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist at Chemist Click, tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘Many heart attack sufferers are also put on certain medication such as ACE inhibitors or blood thinners, which would need changing or altering when pregnant.

    ‘The good news is that most of the time, this can be safely managed.

    ‘Before getting pregnant, you should visit your GP, who will refer you to a cardiologist. You will be under the specialist care of a multidisciplinary team, who will advise you on how best to manage your pregnancy in the safest way.

    ‘Always report any abnormal symptoms as soon as possible such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or blood in your sputum.’

    There are various measures a doctor can take to help out pregnant women with heart conditions – they will start by keeping a closer eye on them during both the pregnancy and birth.

    As well as close monitoring, pregnant women may also be advised to take medication to lower their blood pressure, and receive treatment for any other health conditions they might have.

    When to get help

    If you’re pregnant, have a history of heart problems and experience any of the following, then it’s time to call for help.

    Call your midwife, maternity unit, GP or 111 immediately if you have:
    Chest pain or breathlessness when you’re lying down. This could be a sign of heart disease and needs to be checked.

    Call 999 if you have:
    Chest pain that spreads to your left arm, neck or back. This could be a sign of a heart attack.

    Pregnancy can also cause heart problems to develop for the first time – but it’s rare.

    ‘In this country, pregnancy is low-risk,’ Dr. Sara Thorne told to the British Heart Foundation.

    ‘That said, heart disease is the biggest single cause of maternal deaths in the UK. There is a 50% increase in how much your heart has to do by the end of the first trimester; that has to be sustained for six months.’

    Pregnancy can cause these heart conditions

    Postpartum cardiomyopathy
    Also called peripartum cardiomyopathy, this rare form of heart failure occurs in the last month of pregnancy or up to five months after giving birth. The symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, swollen ankles, swollen neck veins and a feeling of missed heartbeats or palpitations.

    Pre-eclampsia
    This affects up to 6% of women during the second half of pregnancy or soon after giving birth. Early signs include high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Women are tested for these at antenatal appointments, as symptoms may not be obvious. Most cases are mild, but it can have serious complications for both mother and baby if not treated. It will usually go away after birth.

    Gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is fairly common during pregnancy, especially after 28 weeks. It affects up to 18 out of every 100 women who give birth in England and Wales.

    Symptoms include dry mouth, needing to urinate frequently, tiredness and infections such as thrush. It can be controlled with diet and exercise, but some women need medication.

    Untreated, it can cause premature birth or health issues for the baby, such as low blood sugar. It often goes away after birth, but you’re at increased risk in future pregnancies.

    Source: British Heart Foundation

    For women who have had a heart attack, the biggest fear is that they will have another one while they are pregnant. This is also the case for pregnant women who have coronary heart disease.

    But doctors suggest that there are ways to lower the risk of recurrence.

    Losing weight and stopping smoking both help.

    And don’t forget, if you’re a high-risk expectant mother, the doctors will be watching you like a hawk.

    Pregnancy is a stressful time, and there are often a million health concerns that a new mum-to-be has to deal with. When you add a history of serious heart complications to the mix, it can be a really scary time.

    The best way to limit this anxiety and give yourself the best chance of a healthy pregnancy is to stay one step ahead of the game.

    Visit your GP or heart specialist before you start trying to get pregnant. This will allow your doctor to answer any questions you might have, review your condition, and advise you when your condition is most stable for you to start trying for a baby.

    Fertility Month

    This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.

    For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.

    If you have a story to tell or a question to ask, please do get in touch at fertilitystories@metro.co.uk.

    Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far - and you can find all Fertility Month content here.

    MORE: Fertility Month: Why we are talking about fertility this month

    MORE: I found the perfect sperm donor - but I never got my happy ending

    MORE: Plastic could be affecting your fertility – here’s how and why

     

    MORE: After four failed inseminations, I changed my diet and exercise regime to get pregnant – and it worked

    MORE: Fertility rates are falling as half the world experiences a ‘baby bust’, researchers say

    MORE: What are the success rates for IVF and how much does it cost?


    Baby in the WombBaby in the Wombnataliemorris88Baby in the WombFertility SeriesBaby in the WombBaby in the Wombnataliemorris88Baby in the WombFertility Series

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    XX people reveal the embarrassing messages they've sent by mistake picture: MMUFFIN
    (Picture: MMUFFIN for Metro.co.uk)

    Dating can be all the fun, but it can also be a minefield of rejection, bruised pride and hurt feelings.

    Now there’s another cruel dating trend to contend with: curving.

    It’s probably happened to you and you might have even curved someone yourself.

    Ghosting is horrible, but at least it’s pretty simple – the person you’ve been texting, seeing or sleeping with suddenly vanishes off the face of the earth without a trace. It can even happen in long-term relationships.

    Curving, on the other hand, is more complex. It’s where someone responds to texts, but gives the impression that they would rather not be talking to you.

    Cue hours of fruitless analysis and desperate reading between the lines to work out what their brusque message really means.

    Grieving for someone we barely know
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Curvers, as we’ve so named them, are infuriating because they always keep the hope alive, despite never initiating any meaningful communication, which means the person on the other side is left in a confusing state of limbo.

    They may take days to respond to a text, but they will respond eventually, and it will usually be something wholly unsatisfying.

    Curvers will also never initiate a conversation or ask any follow-up questions, and so forcing the other person to be the one to keep the conversation going.

    When you’ve initiated the last five interactions, sending that first text yet again can be a huge blow to your pride.

    Relationship coach Ben Edwards says curving isn’t the same as bread-crumbing.

    ‘Unlike “bread crumbing” – where daters knowingly give little crumbs of hope that the relationship will work out with no real intention of following through – curvers aren’t being malicious in their avoidance,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘They don’t want to say anything leading or offensive, often making this behaviour difficult to spot.

    ‘You’ll know you’re being curved if the person you’re dating fails to answer questions, simply throwing them back to you. For example, “do you want to go for a coffee?”, “we could do, do you want to?”.

    ‘If you’re being curved, this is because they’re non-committal and simply not that interested, meaning you’re not at the top of their priority list.’

    ‘They won’t go out of their way to tell you that they don’t want to continue dating, nor will they try to schedule dates or engage fully in a conversation. If you feel that they’re distant in their responses, you may be getting curved.’

    Mobile phone dating apps in love with each other
    (Picture: Erin Aniker for Metro.co.uk)

    It’s harsh, but sometimes it’s better to recognise the signs that someone’s just not that into you.

    Ben thinks society is partly to blame for this rise in curving culture.

    He said: ‘We live in a society that’s become obsessed with a new-age swiping culture; as an abundance of dating apps have taken over our love lives, many singles are left worrying that if they commit to a relationship they’ll miss out on something better.

    ‘Sadly, this means that people are increasingly non-committal, paving the way for future curvers.

    ‘Meanwhile, it seems that daters are quickly villainised and made to feel guilty if they’re honest and simply say “I’m not interested in you romantically”.

    ‘This often means that daters feel it’s a kinder option to allow a dating relationship to fizzle out, with un-interesting responses and cancelled dates.

    ‘This isn’t the case and singles should be encouraged to be open and frank with their emotions. Honesty really is the best policy.’

    Curving is the perfect out for people who don’t want to date you, but also don’t want to feel like the bad guy.

    Rather than facing up to their feelings and breaking it off, curvers would rather keep you sweet by sending the odd, placating text.

    It also means they get the best of both worlds because if they suddenly decide they want you, they know you’re just a text away.

    The selfish tactic doesn’t take into account the feelings of the other person. In some ways it’s worse than ghosting, because the other person is never given the chance to break free and move on.

    It’s hard, but you’ve got to read the signals. If they never ask any questions, never suggest meeting up and never start a conversation – you’re probably being curved.

    Summon all of your strength and walk away, it’s better than enduring months of frustration.

    What to do if you're being curved

    If you’re being curved, it’s important to remember that this is all to do with the curver and their lack of interest shouldn’t be seen as a reflection of you or your worth.

    If you haven’t yet met the person you’re texting and they seem a little distant, don’t overthink the situation for they may simply want to hold back until they get to know the real you in person.

    However, if you’ve been talking to or dating someone for a while and you feel that they’re curving, it’s most likely time to call it a day.

    Always prioritise your own happiness and try not to let your insecurities run wild. If you’re being curved this simply means you haven’t found your perfect match yet, and that’s ok.

    Be honest with your feelings and focus on searching for something more fulfilling.

    Source: Ben Edwards, relationship coach 

    MORE: Divorce at 25: What’s it like when all your friends are just getting engaged but your marriage is over?

    MORE: New research raises concerns about the risk of body image disorders and depression in gym-obsessed men

    MORE: Staying fit could help you find love


    Metro IllustrationsMetro Illustrationsnataliemorris88XX people reveal the embarrassing messages they've sent by mistake picture: MMUFFINGrieving for someone we barely knowMobile phone dating apps in love with each otherMetro IllustrationsMetro Illustrationsnataliemorris88XX people reveal the embarrassing messages they've sent by mistake picture: MMUFFINGrieving for someone we barely knowMobile phone dating apps in love with each other

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    **Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)
    ‘I knew that if I wanted to have children, I would have to try before the condition got worse.’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    It took me a year to finally decide to have a partial hysterectomy.

    I was 36, and had been suffering with the symptoms of endometriosis since I was 12. I experienced terrible pain, nausea, striking sensations and feeling generally exhausted.

    Endometriosis means that tissue that is supposed to line the womb grows elsewhere. One of the ways to treat the condition in serious cases is by operating to remove these patches of tissue, but by the time I was diagnosed at 26, it had spread to so many organs that my initial doctor felt my case was too complicated to perform minor surgeries that would reduce my pain.

    Often, endometriosis impacts a woman’s fertility, and so receiving this diagnosis at a time in my life when I was starting to consider children was terrifying.

    Although, I had been told that my chances of conceiving were low, I never considered the possibility that I wouldn’t have biological children, and was determined to have a baby before seriously considering a hysterectomy.

    While the surgery would help ease the pain I was in, it would also leave me unable to carry children and once you have the surgery there is no guarantee the condition won’t re-appear.

    Luckily, I found a specialist who felt that they could manage my symptoms, and for the last 10 years I have had regular surgeries every few years to keep it under control.

    Yet, every six months after the surgery I would be in pain again, with tangled organs and added scar tissue due to all of my operations. My uterus was enlarged and caused bloating and pressure that was incredibly uncomfortable.

    When the surgeon saw the extent of the damage done to my organs by the endometriosis and years of surgeries, he referred to it as a ‘car crash’ and told me I needed to ‘urgently do something’.

    The pain could be excruciating, to the point where I couldn’t speak or move. I regularly took prescription opioids to try and continue to live my life.

    The process was a complicated calculation of when to take the medication to ensure I was alert enough to drive to work and home again without being blinded by pain or under the influence of the painkillers.

    I knew that if I wanted to have children, I would have to try before the condition got worse.

    I had an early miscarriage during my first pregnancy, but six months later I found out that despite one of my fallopian tubes being completely blocked due to scar tissue, I had conceived again, and would go on to have a successful pregnancy.

    My son was born via a caesarean due to placenta praevia, or low-lying placenta, a common condition in women who have had regular surgeries.

    When I was ready to try for a second child a few years later, I found out that both tubes were completely blocked and IVF was our only option – our daughter was born also via caesarean three years later.

    When the surgeon saw the extent of the damage done to my organs by the endometriosis and years of surgeries, he referred to it as a ‘car crash’ and told me I needed to ‘urgently do something’.

    It was then that I decided that a hysterectomy was the best option as I was regularly worried about damage to my organs from the spreading endometriosis.

    All the reservations I had revolved around the fear that I would feel less feminine, or that both ovaries would be taken and I would go into menopause.

    I planned for the worst and visited a natural hormone specialist and spent time talking to someone who had had a hysterectomy in her 30s. This gave me confidence in the idea that I would deal with each challenge if and when it occurred.

    Last January I had the womb removed, saving one ovary, and a removal of endometriosis and scar tissue to free up my bowel and bladder, which had been affected.

    The recovery was hard, mainly due to the pain from separating my organs and removing endometriosis from my organs.

    Nearly a year after the surgery I can say that I have never looked back. I don’t know if the endometriosis will flare up again but what I do know is that I feel better; I feel strong, and my mind isn’t consumed by constant pain and stress.

    I’m glad I waited until after I had children, but every situation is different. No woman should rush into such a decision – it’s crucial to speak to experts in the field and take time to carefully consider it, but for me having a hysterectomy was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family.

    Fertility Month

    This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.

    For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.

    If you have a story to tell or a question to ask, please do get in touch at fertilitystories@metro.co.uk.

    Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far - and you can find all Fertility Month content here.

    MORE: Fertility Month: Why we are talking about fertility this month

    MORE: I found the perfect sperm donor - but I never got my happy ending

    MORE: Plastic could be affecting your fertility – here’s how and why

     

    MORE: It’s time we were honest about our time of the month. We must end the stigma, period

    MORE: Lena Dunham gets graphic about post-op pain after having left ovary removed

    MORE: These are the 20 most painful illnesses, according to the NHS


    **Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)**Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)jessrubyaustin**Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)**Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)**Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)jessrubyaustin**Illustration request** Cervical health: This is what to expect if you're having a Lletz procedure (Rosy Edwards)

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    Jaime achieved a personal best while she pumped breast milk (Picture: Finisher Pix/Kennedy News and Media)

    Please bow down to the pure boss-ness of Jaime Sloan.

    Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth seven months ago. While most of us would consider the year after popping out a child as a time to try to relax and feel like a human again, Jaime chose a different path.

    She decided to do an Ironman 70.3. You know, that grueling triathlon made up of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile cycle, and a 13.1 mile run?

    Told you she’s a boss.

    Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, originally planned to stop between the 56 mile cycle and 13.1 mile run if she needed to pump milk. She knew she’d need to pump breast milk as she had been having some supply issues since giving birth to her son, Carter, back in March.

    The plan was to stop. But when she noticed how fast she had been going, and saw that she could beat her previous time, she decided to casually pump her breast as she ran that last half-marathon.

    Yep, this is a woman who – after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile cycle – refused to stop, and instead pumped her breast milk while running a half marathon.

    PIC FROM FinisherPix / Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: JAIME SLOAN BREAST PUMPS WHILE RUNNING THE ARIZONA IRONMAN SO THAT SHE CAN SMASH HER PERSONAL BEST) A military mum was caught on camera using a BREAST PUMP while running in a triathlon - refusing to stop so she could smash her personal best. Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth just seven months ago but hoped she would be to make it through the gruelling Ironman 70.3 event without having to pump until after. Originally Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, intended to stop between the 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run if necessary, but after noticing how quick her time was she decided to 'pump and run'. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY - 0161 697 4266
    The mum of three had planned to stop, but she kept going when she saw how fast her cycle had been (Picture: FinisherPix / Kennedy News and Media)

    ‘By the time I got off the bike I knew I needed to pump,’ said Jaime. ‘But I was also looking at a personal record because I had had a really awesome bike ride.

    ‘I just thought “I’m just going to do it on my run”.

    ‘To be honest it was a little bit awkward, just because I was so tired from the ride and the swim.

    ‘I was trying to get it going, and there were people everywhere and I was trying not to flash them.

    ‘I was nervous at first that I would get some weird looks or even get disqualified due to nudity, but I did my best to cover up and make it work.

    ‘I was concerned about possible nudity, as Ironman has a no-nudity policy, so I was super worried about getting disqualified for that – because it was really windy and the cloth I had over my top was kind of blowing around.

    ‘I was able to run for a while and then the milk started spilling out.

    ‘For the most part I don’t know if people even noticed, I did get some looks from women but they were just big smiles.

    ‘There were actually two men who ran up to me and asked me if I was okay.

    PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: JAIME SLOAN WITH CHILDREN HENLEY, TWO, AND SEVEN-MONTH-OLD CARTER AFTER RUNNING THE ARIZONA IRONMAN) A military mum was caught on camera using a BREAST PUMP while running in a triathlon - refusing to stop so she could smash her personal best. Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth just seven months ago but hoped she would be to make it through the gruelling Ironman 70.3 event without having to pump until after. Originally Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, intended to stop between the 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run if necessary, but after noticing how quick her time was she decided to 'pump and run'. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY - 0161 697 4266
    Jaime wants her story to inspire other new mums to get into sport (Picture: Kennedy News and Media)

    ‘I think it was because I had a cloth over myself and at first it might have looked like I was bleeding.

    ‘But once they looked down and saw my pump they were like ‘”oh, okay!”.’

    The pictures of Jaime pumping and running have been shared all over the internet and flooded with praise.

    Jaime says it was important for her to show that women who have recently given birth can get involved in sport and challenge themselves.

    She’d struggled with sciatica during her pregnancy, meaning she was unable to run.

    After giving birth Jaime experienced post-partum anxiety, and found that training gave her a way to feel good again.

    ‘I hope that it can encourage other women and mothers and really anyone who has a lot going on in their lives,’ says Jaime.

    ‘There’s always a way that you can make it happen, you might have to get a little creative from time to time.

    ‘No matter what, if someone believes they can do something they can make it happen because it is possible.’

    MORE: Air stewardess breastfeeds crying baby after mother runs out of formula milk

    MORE: Breastfeeding may reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in babies

    MORE: Mum fights back against accusations that she’s trying to ‘steal’ men when she breastfeeds in public


    Woman completes ironman while pumping breast milkWoman completes ironman while pumping breast milkellencscottPIC FROM FinisherPix / Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: JAIME SLOAN BREAST PUMPS WHILE RUNNING THE ARIZONA IRONMAN SO THAT SHE CAN SMASH HER PERSONAL BEST) A military mum was caught on camera using a BREAST PUMP while running in a triathlon - refusing to stop so she could smash her personal best. Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth just seven months ago but hoped she would be to make it through the gruelling Ironman 70.3 event without having to pump until after. Originally Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, intended to stop between the 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run if necessary, but after noticing how quick her time was she decided to 'pump and run'. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY - 0161 697 4266PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: JAIME SLOAN WITH CHILDREN HENLEY, TWO, AND SEVEN-MONTH-OLD CARTER AFTER RUNNING THE ARIZONA IRONMAN) A military mum was caught on camera using a BREAST PUMP while running in a triathlon - refusing to stop so she could smash her personal best. Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth just seven months ago but hoped she would be to make it through the gruelling Ironman 70.3 event without having to pump until after. Originally Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, intended to stop between the 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run if necessary, but after noticing how quick her time was she decided to 'pump and run'. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY - 0161 697 4266Woman completes ironman while pumping breast milkWoman completes ironman while pumping breast milkellencscottPIC FROM FinisherPix / Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: JAIME SLOAN BREAST PUMPS WHILE RUNNING THE ARIZONA IRONMAN SO THAT SHE CAN SMASH HER PERSONAL BEST) A military mum was caught on camera using a BREAST PUMP while running in a triathlon - refusing to stop so she could smash her personal best. Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth just seven months ago but hoped she would be to make it through the gruelling Ironman 70.3 event without having to pump until after. Originally Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, intended to stop between the 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run if necessary, but after noticing how quick her time was she decided to 'pump and run'. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY - 0161 697 4266PIC FROM Kennedy News and Media (PICTURED: JAIME SLOAN WITH CHILDREN HENLEY, TWO, AND SEVEN-MONTH-OLD CARTER AFTER RUNNING THE ARIZONA IRONMAN) A military mum was caught on camera using a BREAST PUMP while running in a triathlon - refusing to stop so she could smash her personal best. Jaime Sloan, 34, gave birth just seven months ago but hoped she would be to make it through the gruelling Ironman 70.3 event without having to pump until after. Originally Jaime, who serves in the US Air Force, intended to stop between the 56-mile cycle and 13.1-mile run if necessary, but after noticing how quick her time was she decided to 'pump and run'. SEE KENNEDY NEWS COPY - 0161 697 4266

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    Millennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houses or stable jobs (Picture: Virgin Miri/ Metro.co.uk) Metro Illustrations Illustration
    (Picture: Virgin Miri/ Metro.co.uk)

    If there’s one thing millennials love, aside from ruthlessly killing things and spunking their money on avocado toast (I don’t even like avocados, mate), it’s plants.

    Take a look at our Instagram feeds, our rented properties, our reasons for hating hot-desking.

    I’ve got a palm leaf tattooed on my middle finger. My lock screen is a cat in front of a plant from Ikea. I returned from a week away to find that my soft-spined cactus, Karen, had died, and I cried.

    There are nearly 21 million photos currently tagged #plants on Instagram. Every targeted ad I’ve seen for the past week has been for Patch or another company whose name I can’t remember that urges me to ‘thank plants’.

    Millennials are obsessed with plants, and there’s an obvious reason: We have literally nothing else.

    There’s a basic human need to care for something outside ourselves. It makes us feel good to nurture and love something and watch it develop.

    For our parents, that need was filled by buying a cute little two-bedroom and decorating it, then popping out some babies. They’d build up careers that’d give them enough fulfillment and money to delay a crisis until mid-life and buy a motorbike.

    We can’t do that.

    (Picture: Chris Rickett)

    The housing market is f***ed. Actually owning a property we can decorate beyond propping photos up on the wall beside our bedside table (no Blu-Tack, it’ll damage the paint) is such a distant dream that when people mention mortgages, we laugh.

    Having a baby feels like madness. The world is burning, we can’t bring more people into it. And even if it weren’t, we can’t find anyone who will stick around long enough to have one. And even if we could, where would we put the baby? We don’t have space in the three-bedroom flat we rent with a colleague and someone we met through a flatmating event.

    And even if we did, we can’t afford a baby. And if we could, would we even want them? We’re not ready to be parents. We never will be. Look at our lives, absent of any marker of adulthood thanks to the lack of money, and a house, and a job we stay in for longer than two years that doesn’t feel like just pissing about and hoping we’re doing decently.

    We can’t get a cat, our landlord won’t let us. Maybe one day we’ll find somewhere pet-friendly, but it’d be cruel to get a dog – we’re out of the house all day, up at 5am so we can get a seat on the bus, finishing work and heading to our side-hustle so we can afford an iPhone, we have to have an iPhone, you see, for work.

    No. It’s plants. It’s always been plants.

    We’ll get an easy one at first, a little succulent. We’ll watch it grow and we’ll feel something. Is that… pride? Responsibility for another living thing? The low-stakes power over whether it lives or dies?

    Plants, we can take care of. Plants are just the level of responsibility we can handle, getting that deep joy of raising something without the numbing fear that they’ll turn into adults that watch Infowars and hold a deep, burning hatred for everything you stand for.

    That first plant dies. We buy another. Then more. Then more.

    Instagram Photo

    Houseplants, of course, because there’s no chance of us affording a place with a garden, and we like the idea of ‘being around nature’ and ‘purifying the air’.

    This’ll make the rented flat, free of a living room or a surface upon which to rest our plates, less depressing. We’ll pop a parlour palm in the corner near the door. Add a calathea. Oh, yes.

    Maybe if we arrange enough leaves in the background of our poached eggs we’ll get a fifth of the Instagram likes of our cousin’s photo of her engagement ring. That’s what it has to be about, right? Millennials care about the internet, right? Getting enough likes will make up for unsatisfying work, the mould in the bathroom, every failed relationship, the dullness of Tinder, swiped through for the hope of connection but dumped when it comes to making conversation, the reassurance of getting instant matches still not enough to scratch that lingering itch.

    Sure, let’s mention dating, that’s a thing millennials do.

    We were ‘seeing’ someone for a year and a half, we’d cling on to how they ‘make us laugh’ even though they’re not actually that funny, really, as justification of your heart being clawed apart like pulled pork every time they disappear for days and you know, you know they’ve been f***ing someone else.

    We want grown-ups. A real person who’s worked through their shit and doesn’t need their partner to be an unpaid therapist.

    But no, not that grown-up. Not the one with a career, not a gig, who’s ready to settle down and actually give you security and comfort. Marriage, babies, too much.

    We retreat to #plantdaddies, the perfect object of thirst, hot, able to do the bare minimum, caring about nature but also deeply invested in tilting his craft beer at the perfect angle as he sips so you can see the half-torn label.

    Instagram Photo

    He’ll never post a photo of us on his ‘gram and he’ll never be there when we need him. He’ll stay at a safe distance so we can resist investment then blame Tinder and the horrors of modern dating for the eventual breakup.

    A man who loves nature and his body and who will never, ever put his phone down when we’re talking to him. That’s hot.

    We hashtag #interiors and #plantlady. We joke about being a #plantmum but we know, too, that we don’t really want to go out and meet people if that means disrupting our watering routine.

    Plants. Plants are safe. We can grow them and care for them and feel like we’re doing something, and we won’t get hit with disappointment when all that time and investment erodes into nothing.

    They’re cheaper than a baby or a house. They’re easier than a pet stealthily hidden whenever the landlord does an inspection. They’re less work than a relationship.

    Let’s watch the plants grow and feel like we’re growing too. It’s a metaphor, you get it. It’s self-care. We have nothing else to care for and that’ll be there long-term – not a house, not a career we can commit to, not a person we want to keep around. We’re scared, we’re falling apart, we’re constantly anxious and eternally seeking approval. Let’s stick plants into every corner of our life that feels lacking.

    The plants don’t really change anything.

    Our rented flat is still shit. Our desk has a bit of nature on it, but that doesn’t stop us wondering if we should go back to uni and get a postgraduate in something, anything (don’t do it). We’re lonely, so lonely, but we have something to post on Instagram and a full feed is pretty much the same thing as not feeling like we’re the only one not having fun at the party.

    There’s still a dull ache in our brains and a gaping hole in our hearts. It doesn’t matter if we learn to make our own gnocchi or pay for therapy to work through our gifted child syndrome, we’re doomed to feel a little empty, a little unfulfilled.

    We love plants because we have nothing else. Our lives have been set up to be unstable, and if we seek out some security there’s the crawling anxiety that it’ll be tugged out from under our feet. We’ll be made redundant as our managers pivot to video or find someone younger and cheaper, our plant daddy will dump us for an amateur Instagram model with perfect lip fillers, the end of our lease will arrive and we’ll move because there has to be something better.

    Plants are a constant we can grasp at. They let us care about something unabashedly, no fear, no holding back. They let us try out responsibility with no challenge bigger than root rot.

    Yes, millennials are an easy target. We care about things that are frivolous. We spend £20 on a snake plant then complain we have no money.

    But surely we can’t be judged for clutching at plants. They’re the only thing our lifestyles will let us care about.

    It’s okay. Take a breath. Remember you’re not alone in this, this uniquely millennial despair. Buy another monstera.

    MORE: What I Rent: Lee, £825 per month for a room in a two-bedroom flat in Holloway

    MORE: Top 13 wedding cake trends for 2018

    MORE: Photographer shares her experience of overcoming unexplained infertility


    Millennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houseMillennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houseellencscottMillennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houses or stable jobs (Picture: Virgin Miri/ Metro.co.uk) Metro Illustrations IllustrationMillennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houseMillennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houseellencscottMillennials are obsessed with plants because we can't have houses or stable jobs (Picture: Virgin Miri/ Metro.co.uk) Metro Illustrations Illustration

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    (Picture: Saint Laurent)

    Penis jewellery (as in jewellery based on penises, rather than jewellery to be worn on your penis) is not a new trend by any means.

    Back in 2014 Tom Ford sold 18K gold penis necklaces, while in 2016 Vivienne Westwood hopped aboard the dick train by showing off chunky peens on the necks of her models.

    Now it’s the turn of Saint Laurent, whose latest release of jewellery includes a pair of penis earrings and a penis pendant necklace.

    They’re quite tasteful, considering they are penises, with clean, simple lines of simply the shaft and head, no balls.

    Naturally they are also expensive. The gold brass earrings cost £215, while the penis necklace is £520. We would recommend wearing all these at once, if you can afford such a thing.

    YSL launches penis jewellery METRO GRAB taken from: https://www.ysl.com Credit: YSL
    (Picture: Saint Laurent)

    The earrings make clear that they are designer with Saint Laurent engraved right on the shaft, while the necklace has a Saint Laurent charm on the clasp.

    Sadly, neither are available online, so you’ll need to hunt the items down in store if you’re keen on wearing dicks around your neck.

    While you seek out the jewellery of your desire, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of other genital themed items available for purchase.

    As Christmas is coming up, it’s the perfect time to invest in vulva baubles. As the temperature chills, throw on a penis scarf.

    Yep, all your fashion and interiors needs are covered. What a time to be alive.

    MORE: It’s not diverse but there’s nothing wrong with the Victoria’s Secret show – at least it’s honest

    MORE: Men are injecting fillers into their scrotums to get bigger balls

    MORE: Staying fit could help you find love


    YSL launches penis jewelleryYSL launches penis jewelleryellencscottYSL launches penis jewellery METRO GRAB taken from: https://www.ysl.com Credit: YSLYSL launches penis jewelleryYSL launches penis jewelleryellencscottYSL launches penis jewellery METRO GRAB taken from: https://www.ysl.com Credit: YSL

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    For years British women have been travelling to Denmark to get their hands on the finest sperm in hope of having healthy and beautiful viking babies.

    Just the thought of Danish men’s dreamy blue eyes, strong physique and height is enough to understand why Danish semen made up almost half of all non-British reproductive material imported to the UK last year.

    However, the success of Danish sperm clinics comes from the high standard of their donors’ sperm, and Nordic laws, which give them the choice to be anonymous or open.

    Most Danes choose to be open, which allows any potential offspring to contact them when they have turned 18 with questions about where they have come from.

    This, combined with the fact that the donors are often very tall, healthy and highly educated – with many having selfless reasons for donating – is how they got the prestigious viking sperm label.

    The European Sperm Bank, which recently opened its doors in London, has a long history of providing high quality Danish sperm to women in over 60 countries.

    Since it was founded in Copenhagen in 2004, their clinics have assisted in creating more than 25,000 viking babies worldwide – and now they want British men to donate.

    But not everyone has what it takes to become a sperm donor. Only 5 out of every 100 potential donors who come through the doors of the clinic will get through to the final stage – after quality, family history and health checks.

    Fertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty images
    Sperm can live in a woman’s body up to five days, it is created in the testicles, stored in the epididymis before finally being ejaculated from the penis (Picture: Getty Images)

    Sometimes there are medical reasons for sperm not making the grade – something that the clinic will highlight to donors, which in itself could be reason enough to start the process.

    Otherwise, it could be that making some simple lifestyle changes is enough to get sub-standard sperm up into the magic 5%.

    It takes work, but great improvements can be made in just 90 days.

    The European Sperm Bank and Metro.co.uk have some simple guidelines to optimise your sperm quality – and carrying them out almost sounds like a recipe for Hygge.

    Here is how you can get super sperm like the Danish vikings:

    1. Eat a balanced diet

    A balance diet consists of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and pasta, fish, lean meat, and pulses for protein.

    Keep foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar to a minimum. Drink lots of water.

    The breakdown of a Scandinavian balanced diet:

    Eat lots of fruit and vegetables – Scandis swear by at least five-a-day, but most aim for as many as seven.

    Eat more fish – it is filled with omega-3 fatty acids (also known as body lotion for the inside of your body), vitamins, such as D and B2, and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and help reduce risk of a heart attack or stroke.

    Choose wholegrain – not only does it provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories, it is rich in fibre which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

    Choose lean meat – because it simply has fewer calories than non-lean meats and is a good source of protein.

    Fertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty images
    No surprise, a balanced diet is not just good for your skin and body, it is also important for your sperm (Picture: Getty Images)

    Choose lean dairy products – choose low-fat yoghurts, vegetable oil based soft spread and skimmed milk, but remember dairy is an important source of calcium which strengthens your bones – so do not avoid it entirely.

    Eat less saturated fat – eating a diet high in saturated fat is bad for your cholesterol.

    Eat food containing less salt – too much salt can cause raised blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Eat less sugar – there is a reason why sugar tax entered your vocabulary recently, Brits eat too much sugar.

    Drink water – and then some, and then some more.

    2. Stay active

    A healthy lifestyle is essential for good sperm quality.

    The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 30 minutes five days a week.

    This may seem a lot, but making exercise a part of your everyday life is easy, start by using the stairs instead of the lift, walk the distance instead of jumping in the car or taking the bus.

    The European Sperm Bank also recommends strength exercises on two or more days a week to work the major muscles.

    3. Environmental Toxins

    Every day, we are exposed to many kinds of toxins and chemicals. They are found in our clothes, food, cosmetics, packaging, electronics, dust etc.

    Some of these toxins have shown to have a hormone-disrupting effect.

    Phthalates, for example, can have a negative effect on the sperm cells’ function. Even exposure to a small amount of lead is linked to reduced sperm quality.

    Fertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty images
    Danish semen made up almost half of all non-British male reproductive material imported to the UK last year (Picture: Getty Images)

    Do your part by leaving the car at home, use less plastic and don’t throw it in the sea, use better, and less, cleaning products, make your indoor air cleaner with air-filtering houseplants, regularly opening windows and use the fan when you are cooking.

    4. Drink in moderation

    Research shows a link between alcohol intake and sperm quality.

    Studies have shown that even as little as five units a week – around three pints, which for many is just the start of a Friday night – can reduce the quality of sperm.

    5. Caffeine is okay, but…

    The effect of caffeine on fertility has been greatly debated over the years. There is currently no evidence linking caffeine intake to poor sperm quality.

    However, excessive caffeine intake, as part of a collection of other unhealthy exposures, has been associated with adverse effect on sperm.

    6. Minimise stress

    Research points to excessive stress having a negative effect on sperm quality. Learning to relax and taking steps to reduce the level of stress in your life may help increase sperm quality.

    Fertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty images
    Don’t smoke, it can seriously affect your sperm quality (Picture: Getty Images)

    7. Don’t smoke and don’t do drugs

    Smoking reduces sperm quality. If you smoke, you may well have seen that on the warning picture on packages.

    Additionally, smoking marijuana and taking cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates, such as heroin and methadone, will have a considerable negative effect on your sperm quality.

    8. Stay away from steroids 

    Anabolic steroids interfere with the hormone signals that are needed to produce sperm, causing the testicles to shrink.

    It may take several years for the level of testosterone and sperm production to return to normal after stopping taking steroids.

    9. Avoid high temperatures

    Exposing the testicles to heat can negatively affect your sperm quality. You should therefore avoid baths, saunas, heated seats and sitting with your laptop on your lap.

    A temporary decrease in sperm quality may occur if you develop a fever. However, the level will return to normal after two to three months.

    10. Have frequent sex

    This may sound obvious if you are trying to have a baby, but studies have found that sperm health is at its best when sex occurred less than two days before.

    Fertility Month

    This story is part of Fertility Month, a month-long series covering all aspects of fertility.

    For the next four weeks, we will be speaking to people at all stages of the fertility journey as well as doctors, lawyers and fertility experts who can shed light on the most important issues.

    If you have a story to tell or a question to ask, please do get in touch at fertilitystories@metro.co.uk.

    Here is a selection of the stories from Fertility Month so far - and you can find all Fertility Month content here.

    MORE: Fertility Month: Why we are talking about fertility this month

    MORE: I found the perfect sperm donor - but I never got my happy ending

    MORE: Plastic could be affecting your fertility – here’s how and why

     


    Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes - 1 NovTop tips to get super sperm like the Danes - 1 NovmartinebergolsenFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesTop tips to get super sperm like the Danes - 1 NovTop tips to get super sperm like the Danes - 1 NovmartinebergolsenFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty imagesFertility month: Top tips to get super sperm like the Danes getty images

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    Leah poses in a bikini, proudly showing her plus size figure. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. Mayshack_photography / MDWfeatures
    Leah has been told to kill herself simply because of her weight (Picture: Mayshack_photography / MDWfeatures)

    Like most women on the internet who don’t conform to rigid definitions of beauty, Leah Stanley, 29, has received a lot of abusive comments about the way she looks.

    As a size 28, she’s been told to ‘stop eating’ and ‘kill herself’.

    But rather than hiding away and letting the bullies win, Leah has reacted to the hate with love. She’s learned to embrace her body, love herself, and be proudly visible online.

    Now she says that loads of men want to date plus-size women, and works as a lingerie model to promote acceptance of plus-size bodies.

    Leah grew up as the biggest of four sisters, and was often called ‘the fat one’ by other children.

    ‘I’ve received countless comments and messages regarding my health, lifestyle and life overall,’ she says.

    Leah regularly blogs about feeling sexy at her size and not wanting to diet. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures
    Now she blogs about sex and self-confidence (Picture: @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures)

    ‘I’ve been told I should kill myself off, that I should learn to stop eating or that I’m unhealthy and am only promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.

    ‘What I’m promoting is love and respect, because regardless of a person’s size they will always deserve love and respect, there is no weight limit on respect.

    ‘It’s important for more than just me and my body, but I want to break standards. I want to live happily and to push standards that were created by media and society.’

    Leah wants to show that men find plus size women sexy too. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures
    Leah wants to be a role model for plus-size women (Picture: @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures)

    Leah hopes that she can be the role model she needed when she was younger, giving women someone bigger to look up to.

    “Bodies like mine need to be seen and accepted so that everyone can feel at home in their one and only body,’ she explains. ‘So, they can feel confident enough to dress and live as they see fit.’

    She still struggles with confidence. Self-love is an ongoing journey.

    But Leah plans to keep on working to show everyone that there’s nothing wrong with being a size 28.

    Leah feels so confident when she is wearing sexy lingerie. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures
    The lingerie model champions feeling sexy and confident at any size (Picture: @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures)

    ‘I’ve woken up and changed my outfit four times because it didn’t look right. The next day I’ll wake up and put on one of the outfits I tossed aside the day before and walk right out the door,’ she says.

    ‘I always struggled with my arms and thighs, so it wasn’t until recent years that I started to ditch cardigans and wear shorts at the beach.

    ‘Sometimes it’s just a matter of a poor attitude and needing to have a pep talk with myself and remind myself that it doesn’t matter if others think my arms are fat. I can still go out in a cute vest top.

    ‘I’m not even sure what my current weight is. People often compromise their mental health to obsess over a number and I’m not doing that. I know when I’m eating poorly and when I’m not exercising. I don’t need a scale to tell me that. I know when to make changes without constantly knowing my weight.

    Leah wears a UK size 28 in clothes. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures
    (Picture: @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures

    ‘My attitude and personality make me feel sexiest. Sexy isn’t always on the outside. My attitude always keeps me confident, but of course, cute little lingerie numbers also help with this.

    ‘During school I never really had a high school boyfriend and boys never looked at me growing up. Then I remember being in university and having them notice me, but I wondered whether that was a joke.

    ‘Nowadays it’s the opposite. A lot of guys want a plus-size babe – and if they say they don’t, they probably secretly do.’

    Leah now has more than 90,000 followers on Instagram, who flood every photo of her modelling with praise and thanks.

    ‘My overall message is to always spread love, happiness and positivity,’ she says. ‘I want to inspire and encourage people to discover who they are, to be their best and true self. Live life because we only get one.’

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    Model embraces her bodyModel embraces her bodyellencscottLeah poses in a bikini, proudly showing her plus size figure. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. Mayshack_photography / MDWfeaturesLeah regularly blogs about feeling sexy at her size and not wanting to diet. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesLeah wants to show that men find plus size women sexy too. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesLeah feels so confident when she is wearing sexy lingerie. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesLeah wears a UK size 28 in clothes. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesModel embraces her bodyModel embraces her bodyellencscottLeah poses in a bikini, proudly showing her plus size figure. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. Mayshack_photography / MDWfeaturesLeah regularly blogs about feeling sexy at her size and not wanting to diet. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesLeah wants to show that men find plus size women sexy too. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesLeah feels so confident when she is wearing sexy lingerie. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeaturesLeah wears a UK size 28 in clothes. THIS SIZE TWENTY-EIGHT lingerie model was told to STOP EATING and to KILL HERSELF by bullies but is embracing her fuller figure, claiming most guys secretly want a plus-sized babe. Social media consultant and content creator Leah Stanley (29) from New York, USA, wants to enable other women to embrace their curvy figures after she grew up without a strong plus-sized influence. Leah grew up the youngest of four sisters and was the only plus-size one of the four. Throughout her childhood Leah was always bigger but the idea of being ???plus-size??? wasn???t a widely held notion and Leah was merely labelled as fat by other children. Leah has faced a lot of criticism for her UK size 28 figure, with many people telling her that she needs to learn to stop eating and she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Although Leah notes that she has negative days and does criticise her figure occasionally, she says that is just a negative attitude and that her weight does not define her. She hopes to spread positivity to other plus-size women and to not be ashamed of their weight. @voluptuousleah / MDWfeatures

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    Dermae Pen treatment in Harley Street for Lisa
    Yes. that is my blood (Picture: Alexander Crawley)

    After having pretty great skin my entire teens, I developed acne at 21 and had it for a decade. An entire bloody decade.

    My 20s were ruled by however many cystic lumps I had on my face and it wasn’t a happy time.

    I didn’t realise just how much my acne was affecting my mental health until it mysteriously disappeared at 31, leaving me with an uneven skin tone and a face full of red marks and pitted scars (plus the odd spot for old time’s sake).

    Although I was pleased to no longer be contending with full-blown acne, I did notice that my skin was pretty uneven and makeup would just sit in the craters, no matter how much primer I applied.

    So, when an email popped in my inbox from Sk:n clinics offering a consultation for acne scars, I thought I may as pop along.

    However, I was absolutely clueless as to what they could do for me, least of all having any idea what the hell microneedling was. *shrugs*

    What is microneedling?

    The treatment involves running a microneedling pen (or Dermapen) over your face, which contains tiny needles which puncture miniscule holes in your skin.

    The action makes your skin think it’s being attacked, forcing it to produce new collagen and skin tissue, which then plumps out pitted scars and fades discolouration.

    It’s suitable for those with acne scarring, pigmentation, large pores, lines and wrinkles, loss of volume, and dull skin, however it’s not suitable for those with active acne.

    Unlike peels or lasers, microneedling is perfect for darker skin tones, as it won’t leave you with pigmentation. Hurrah!

    Faff involved

    I had a consultation with Alex at Sk:n clinic on Harley Street, who studied my skin under a big light, explaining all the different types of scars to me, and how they’re formed, which was mind-boggling.

    She then advised that microneedling was the best treatment for me.

    Microneedling prices start from £155 – the consultation with a practitioner/nurse is free or it’s £100 for a consultation with a doctor.

    Three to five treatments are recommended for the best results, spaced around four to six weeks apart.

    Alex warned me that my skin would look angry and red right after treatment, and for a couple of days or so after, and advised I probably wouldn’t want to leave the house because of it.

    ‘How red…?’ I asked, tentatively.

    ‘I always like to show people this image,’ Alex said, laughing as she got out her phone and showed me a picture of Samantha from Sex and the City post-chemical peel. ‘Like that. But not quite as bad.’

    Eyes wide, I booked in my first treatment for the following Friday afternoon, when I was going back to my parents’ for the weekend – so I could hide.

    When the day came, I nervously rocked up to Sk:n wearing gym kit (Alice’s tip for tricking people into thinking your post-treatment red face is from running).

    I was met by Kim, who was doing my treatment, and she led me into a room to pop a hair net on me and apply a layer of numbing cream to my face.

    dermae pen lisa bowman
    One for Tinder (Picture: Lisa Bowman)

    You’re then left to kick about in the room for an hour while the cream does its job, so bring a book. Or just take loads of selfies to scare your pals, like I did.

    An hour later, the cream was taken off and a serum containing hyaluronic acid, minerals, vitamins and peptides was applied – this helps stimulate cell reproduction, and improves elasticity.

    Kim then got to work with the microneedling pen.

    ‘It’ll just feel like I’m running the base of an electric toothbrush over your face,’ she said, and she was right – it felt like a strong vibration.

    Dermae Pen treatment in Harley Street for Lisa
    Sayonara, dull skin and discolouration (Picture: Alexander Crawley)

    ‘Has it gone red yet?’ I asked, as both Kim and Metro.co.uk’s photographer’s eyes widened.

    Unbeknownst to me, my face was covered in my own blood.

    ‘You look hideous,’ the photographer said, helpfully.

    Dermae Pen treatment in Harley Street for Lisa
    Having a great time, lads, nothing to see here (Picture: Alexander Crawley)

    If you’re squeamish, don’t worry – you won’t see the blood unless you want to.

    Plus, you’re chatted to throughout, so you’ll be distracted anyway.

    I was pretty excited to see my bloody face though, and Kim let me look in the mirror and inspect the gore before she removed it all at the end.

    Thanks Kim. Legend.

    Redness right after treatment:

    Dermae Pen treatment in Harley Street for Lisa
    Looking awkward, with good reason (Picture: Alexander Crawley)

    Immediately after, my face felt pretty sore and tender, and I was advised not to wash it that night, and to use a gentle cleanser for the next few days – I took home a bottle of Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser (£10.50 for 200ml), which you don’t need to wash off.

    However, as I was cycling through central London right after the treatment, I was told I could cleanse my face when I got home, to get the dirt and pollution off.

    Your face is super receptive to whatever you put on it in the days after treatment, so I got a bottle of Dermaquest B5 Moisture Matte (£64 for 29.6ml), which is a lovely oil-free gel serum – I’ve been using it since to put on before SPF in the summer months, as it’s lightweight and not greasy.

    There are obviously cheaper options out there, so have a chat with your practitioner about what’s best for your particular skin type.

    You also have to be strict about wearing a high SPF for the next few weeks, as your new skin is super sensitive to the sun. But you wear SPF every day anyway, right? Right?

    Redness the morning after treatment:

    dermae pen lisa bowman
    Not loving my new face, TBH (Picture: Lisa Bowman)

    I was prepared for how red my skin would be right after treatment (it wasn’t as bad as expected) but I was pretty horrified to still be really red and sore the morning after.

    ‘Am I going to look like this forever?’ I asked my mum, terrified, as I wondered if I was a rare case and had actually been burned.

    I went for a run, which made my face hurt even more thanks to the sweat and blood rushing to my skin, but I’d already been told this would happen, so I wasn’t worried. It was pretty uncomfortable though, and I did get a few heckles (I assume they thought my face was red from running…).

    Two days after treatment, I was still noticably red, but it had gone down considerably, and my sister-in-law just assumed I was a bit sunburnt from the heatwave.

    Redness two days after treatment:

    dermae pen lisa bowman
    Still not loving my face – help? (Picture: Lisa Bowman)

    Three days after treatment, most redness was gone.

    You’re allowed to start wearing makeup again on the second day, but I found trying to cover up the redness actually looked worse than the red itself, as my skin was flaking off (this is normal) and my foundation clung to it, so I left it bare.

    After each treatment, I noticed I got a few spots around my jawline, but these were tiny and disappeared after a couple of days.

    The results:

    My skin before my first treatment:

    Skin before first mincroneedling session
    Taken at the clinic on my first visit – heavily cropped as I looked a lot like a rodent in the full version (Picture: Sk:n)

     

    My skin five weeks after my third treatment:

    Skin following microneedling
    My skin isn’t perfect but it’s a lot smoother than it was – pictured five weeks after my third and final treatment (Picture: Lisa Bowman)

    Four days after treatment, I had baby soft skin, and could already see that the pitted scars weren’t as noticeable.

    I genuinely wasn’t expecting to see much of a difference, so was incredibly surprised to notice a change after just one treatment.

    I only had time to have three treatments as I was moving overseas, but I’ve seen a massive difference in my skin – and so have other people, which was the biggest surprise.

    When I had a face full of angry, raging spots, people would (unhelpfully) insist, ‘You don’t even have acne, you can’t even see it!’ *eye roll* so I honestly didn’t expect anyone to even notice that my scarring had lessened but lo and behold, they did.

    The pitted scars are much shallower now, discoloured scars are so much lighter, and I’m happy to leave the house makeup-free. When I do wear foundation, it’s so much easier to apply and looks a lot smoother.

    Before, my skin was patchy and red, which I’d just assumed was something I would have to live with – but my skin tone is much more even now.

    People have even noticed that my skin is more radiant – it was so dull before.

    The biggest surprise though, was that after three treatments, I noticed that the first signs of aging, like my smile lines, had lessened.

    Is microneedling worth the faff?

    Yes. Absolutely yes.

    I won’t lie to you – the redness issue is a bit of a faff, but I used it as a bit of a confidence exercise. If I can go shopping on Oxford Street with a dark red face, I can do anything, amirite? A few people did double takes, but no-one made me feel uncomfortable, except one incredibly rude man at Euston station who kept turning around to stare at me, smirking. Not cool.

    I got this treatment for free for the purpose of this article, but despite it being pretty expensive, I’ll definitely save up and have more when I come back to the UK. It’s even inspired me to look into more invasive lasers/peels, as it’s comforting to know that I can potentially reduce my scarring even more, should I so wish.

    Acne scars might seem superficial to some but they were really getting me down, so if there’s a treatment you can afford that improves your self esteem, then why the hell not go for it? Life’s too short.

    I got microneedling right before moving to a tropical climate where it’s too hot to wear makeup day-to-day, and now that my skin texture is so much smoother than it was six months ago, I feel a lot more confident strolling around bare-faced.

    As lame as it sounds, I sometimes get teary when I look in the mirror and don’t hate what I see.

    As much as I now gush to anyone who will listen about microneedling, it’s important to note that it’s not a miracle cure. Don’t go into it thinking that you’ll finish with the skin you had at 20, scar and wrinkle-free.

    While it won’t magically give you the perfect complexion (spoiler alert: very few people actually have flawless skin, despite what filtered Instagram selfies would have you believe) it does have the potential to smooth your skin and dramatically reduce your scars.

    Thanks to microneedling, I’m now so much happier in my own skin – remaining scars, lines and all.

    Find out more about microneedling at sk:n, who have clinics all over the country.

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    Long have we put up with restaurants doing maddening gimmicks as an attempt to rake in customers.

    There’s the one that serves food on iPads. Celeste Ng’s shocking experience of a ‘Caesar salad’. And, of course, every nightmare shared by We Want Plates.

    Today’s monstrosity is an unknown restaurant that has tables covered in grass.

    No, not a few errant blades of grass.

    A full on sheet of grass and mud resting atop each dining table.

    Why? We truly have no idea. Maybe it’s supposed to reflect the food’s ‘earthy’ tones. Maybe it’s marketing the spot as a farm to table dining experience.

    Redditor SkyUnderMyFeet shared a photo of the tables with the simple plea: ‘We want… tables.’

    Grass table at restaurant
    (Picture: Reddit)

    Sadly, they have not stated which restaurant these tables belong to, but they have clarified that the table toppers are not astroturf, writing: ‘By the way, this isn’t even fake turf. It’s real grass, dirt and all.’

    The thread has been flooded with questions and general confusion, naturally.

    One person asked: ‘Does someone water the tables? Like halfway through the meal, they bring out a sprinkler?’

    ‘Dirt is dirty,’ wrote another. ‘It belongs on the ground, not the dinner table. It’s disgusting.’

    Those sentiments are shared on over on Instagram, where browncardigan captioned their photo of the grassy tables with: ‘Melbourne. What the f*** is wrong with you? We get it. You are the brains-trust capital of Australia for self-gratifying, capitalist ethics.

    Instagram Photo

    ‘Can you please stop trying to one up yourselves? When does it become the sustainability olympics? Will Melbourne get the bronze, silver and gold for useless burger shop fit-outs?

    ‘We get it! Organic is good, buy local. F*** the big supermarkets. Plastic bags = bad. But what the f*** does turf on tables somehow prove? How is that hygienic? GTFO. I am triggered so hard by this shit. Ok i’m done.’

    It seems like the grass tables might not be a permanent fixture, but some kind of stunt to promote a restaurant’s dedication to the environment or whatnot.

    But that still doesn’t justify propping plates on grass.

    Please, think of the hayfever sufferers. Let us eat our chips in peace.

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    *illustration request* 2. What is hypoactive sexual desire disorder?
    (Picture: Ella Byworth)

    No, sex addiction is not just a way for your ex to justify cheating.

    For those genuinely addicted to sex, it’s a compulsive cycle characterised by shame and regret.

    New research says that cycle may be more common than you think.

    A new study conducted by the University of Minnesota Medical School found that large numbers of people experience signs of sex addiction, struggling to control their sexual urges to a point that they cause them distress.

    Researchers looked at 2,325 adults between the ages of 18 and 50 from around the U.S., rating their approach to sex using a scale called the Compulsive Sexual Behaviour Inventory.

    This assessment looked at not just the difficulty to control sexual feelings and urges, but also the level of distress or life impairment linked to sexual feelings.

    They found that 10.3% of the men surveyed and 7% of the women – so 8.6% of the total participants – met the clinical definition of sex addiction.

    That’s interesting on two counts. Firstly, that overall percentage is likely higher than you’d expect, and secondly, there’s not a massive difference between genders.

    Previous research suggests that 4% of people in the UK are addicted to sex.

    The counselling service Relate says that the symptoms of sex addiction include:

    • Engaging in sexual behaviour that you feel is out of control.
    • Fearing that there may be serious consequences to your behaviour but carrying on with it anyway.
    • Regularly engaging in destructive or high-risk sexual activities.
    • Wanting to stop but not feeling able to.
    • Needing more sexual activity to achieve the same ‘high’.
    • Experiencing feelings of shame, regret or depression after sexual experiences, or intense mood swings around repeated sexual activity.
    • Spending more and more time planning, engaging in or recovering from sexual activities.
    • Prioritising sex over your social life, family life or work.

    ‘The fact that 8.6% of our nationally representative sample met the clinical threshold of our screening tool suggests that a substantial number of people are feeling significantly distressed and/or are impaired by their difficulty controlling their sexual behavior,” lead researcher Janna Dickenson told Newsweek. ‘CSBD [compulsive sexual behaviour or disorder] is clearly an important sexual health concern that needs greater attention.

    ‘Although men made up the majority of people who show clinically relevant levels of distress controlling sexual feelings, urges, and behaviors, 40% of them are women.

    ‘These results prompt us to thoughtfully consider our assumptions and biases about gender and sexuality and how they can contribute to sexual health concerns.’

    The authors of the study want their findings to spark more research into sexual addiction, looking more deeply at risk factors, differences between gender, and treatment options. They’re also keen to include more gender non-conforming people in future studies on the subject.

    But for now, the findings are a reminder that feelings of distress linked to sex addiction are real, and more common than you might think.

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    *illustration request* 2. What is hypoactive sexual desire disorder?*illustration request* 2. What is hypoactive sexual desire disorder?ellencscott*illustration request* 2. What is hypoactive sexual desire disorder?*illustration request* 2. What is hypoactive sexual desire disorder?ellencscott

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    How is the cleaning craze wrecking the environment?
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    If you’ve spent time in certain corners of the internet, you’ll know about the phenomenon of Hinching.

    Created by Mrs Hinch, an Instagram account dedicated to some very grey, very clean interiors, Hinching means cleaning.

    Fans of #Hinching love the thrill of scrubbing their homes clean of any lingering dust and dirt. They love showing off their hard work on social media. And they absolutely adore buying a heap of cleaning products and showing them off as part of their #hinchhaul.

    There’s a craze right now for cleaning, and thus a craze for cleaning products.

    Obsessed hinchers have bought out store stocks of Zoflora and washing up pads. They share Instagram pics of cupboards packed with rows of bleach and kitchen cleaning sprays.

    There’s something a little concerning about this – and we’re not talking about hinching’s implications for feminism.

    All those cleaning products tend to use some harsh chemicals to get their sparkling results. They also tend to be sold in plastic bottles, which are chucked the week after they’re emptied out.

    In our newly plastic-conscious world, where restaurants and bars are encouraged to ditch the straws (at the expense of those with disabilities, on a side note) and forgetting your reusable cup and shopping bag is a shameful offence, the sudden drive to clean more than before – and, as a result, buy more of those plastic-contained cleaning products – feels wrong.

    Instagram Photo

    Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner, wants to encourage those who want a clean home to think about the cleanliness of the planet, too.

    ‘Unfortunately too many cleaning products are packaged in single-use plastic – much of which won’t be recycled, and end up polluting our planet and harming our wildlife,’ Julian tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘Cleaning products can also contain things like bleach or phosphates that can be harmful to the environment.’

    Phosphates, often found in detergents, have a fertilising effect for algae, which takes up oxygen in the water and kills off other sealife. Bleach products can react with other minerals in water to create dangerous substances that take years to wash away. Those substances can be toxic for sealife but can also come back to bite us humans, aggravating sensitive skin and those with allergies.

    In spray cleaners and air fresheners you’re likely to find hydrocarbons and compressed gases, which contribute to global warming and pollute our air.

    Every cleaning product you use on your toilet, sink, on your dishes, and every other surface you scrub to perfection, will eventually be rinsed down your drain, where it’ll head to water treatment facilities, where it’s then pushed into rivers, lakes, and oceans. Not every chemical in those products will be removed at treatment centres, and will instead end up in our water sources.

    A small amount wouldn’t be a massive problem, but if we’re all significantly upping our use of these products and the frequency with which we clean, that’ll increase the contaminants ending up in our water, affecting ocean life.

    Instagram Photo

    Then there are the wipes cleaning fans use to swipe away grime on their toilet seats and kitchen counters. Again, they’re covered with all those harsh chemicals, but also typically contain plastics which take decades to break down. Whether you flush ’em or chuck them in the bin, they’re an environmental disaster, causing fatbergs, ending up on our beaches, and polluting the sea.

    And, of course, the packaging.

    The majority of cleaning products come in plastic containers that are chucked after use. They’re often difficult to recycle and have a high proportion of packaging to contents.

    If the packaging of a cleaning product is thrown in the recycling bin without being properly washed (so it’s clean of those harsh chemicals we mentioned), it could end up diverting an entire load of recycling to the landfill thanks to the risk of contamination.

    Obviously the more often you clean, the more of these products you use. That means more chemicals and more packaging.

    With the cleaning craze encouraging us to have stacks of bleach and squeaky clean sprays, all neatly packaged in colourful containers that look snazzy enough for the ‘gram, it’s taking us down a pretty damaging environmental path. The trend creates higher standards of cleanliness, suggesting that our homes must be perfectly sparkling, and encourages more frequent cleaning (and thus more product use) by setting it up as a cool activity you can share as an online bonding experience.

    In short: The cleaning craze is not good for the environment. Sorry.

    But does that mean you have to let the dishes stack up and let a film of grime settle on your otherwise stunning home? Absolutely not.

    It’s very, very difficult to be perfect when it comes to your environmental impact, and there are definitely benefits to cleaning regularly. Leaving rotting food and outside dirt hanging about on your surfaces for weeks on end wouldn’t be pleasant.

    Instagram Photo

    You can’t really quit all cleaning. What you can do, however, is consider the impact of your cleaning choices and make some adjustments.

    Choose cleaning products made by environmentally-conscious brands, such as Method, Ecover, and Kinn. Take a look at the ingredients of the products you’re using, avoiding phosphates, synthetic fragrances, dyes, and chlorine. Look for words like ‘biodegradable’, ‘ECO-certified’, and ‘plant-based’.

    Look at the packaging of your products, too. Are they entirely recyclable or biodegradable? Is there a refill scheme you could use to reuse your packaging rather than chucking it away and buying a new bottle when you run out of washing up liquid?

    Choose concentrated products that mean you use less of them, and don’t feel as though you need to do a full clean every day. Reduce what you’re using and reuse where you can – those are easy rules to make your cleaning habits a little more earth-friendly.

    But remember, big companies and manufacturers that need to change what they’re doing, too.

    ‘Cleaning product manufacturers must do more to cut down on plastic packaging,’ says Julian. ‘And the government must do more to make them.’

    Spend your money wisely. If we stop buying heavily packaged, toxic products, brands will notice and give us what we’re asking for. Sign petitions asking for government action to reduce plastic use.

    While you’re at it, though, do your bit. Have a serious think about how trends like this one are trumping the urgent need to save the planet.

    When you’re sharing your #hinchhaul on Instagram or showing off your cleaning cupboards, mention that you’re using environmentally friendly products. If we’ve managed to make scrubbing the toilet cool, we have to be able to make caring about the world equally aspirational.

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    How is the cleaning craze wrecking the environment?How is the cleaning craze wrecking the environment?ellencscottHow is the cleaning craze wrecking the environment?How is the cleaning craze wrecking the environment?ellencscott

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