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

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    (Picture: M&S)

    We’re getting nearer and nearer to Christmas, which means we’re getting more and more excited about the copious pigs in blankets we’re going to put on our Christmas dinners.

    And we’re not talking miniature sausages wrapped in bacon, we’re talking foot-long ones.

    So far, Asda and Aldi have both launched foot-long pigs in blankets.

    Asda’s version weighs 650g while Aldi’s are 200g. And now, Marks & Spencer has launched its own version, and is the heaviest of the lot at 670g. Crazy.

    The pigs in blankets are made using outdoor-bred pork sausage and outdoor-bred streaky bacon, and they cost £5 for two. They’ll be available in stores from today, 12 December.

    M&S Is Selling The Biggest Supermarket Pigs In Blankets And We're Here For Them
    (Picture: M&S)

    Sarah Loxton, Marks & Spencer’s product developer, said: ‘Pigs in blankets have always been my favourite part of a Christmas dinner and I know I’m not alone.’

    ‘This year we’ve pulled out all the stops and have developed two, giant foot long pigs in blankets. Why not try as a festive hot dog with lashings of cranberry sauce.’

    MORE: A chart comparing working mums vs stay-at-home mums has annoyed a lot of people

    MORE: Uber Eats could be about to get even cheaper


    m&s pigs in blanketm&s pigs in blankethattiegladwellmetroM&S Is Selling The Biggest Supermarket Pigs In Blankets And We're Here For Themm&s pigs in blanketm&s pigs in blankethattiegladwellmetroM&S Is Selling The Biggest Supermarket Pigs In Blankets And We're Here For Them

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    Friends celebrating Christmas or New Year eve party, cheering with wine, christmas lights decoration background, christmas atmosphere.; Shutterstock ID 742006378; Purchase Order: -
    (Picture: Shutterstock)

    A new study has found that people who enjoy a glass of wine a day are less likely to be admitted to hospital than those who don’t drink.

    While they don’t want to encourage teetotallers to take up drinking, researchers say that ‘moderate consumption’ of alcohol is actually linked to fewer hospitalisations.

    The study, published in the journal Addiction, involved following more than 21,000 people who lived in the Molise region of Italy over six years.

    The Italian and American research team found that people who drank alcohol ‘moderately’ – classed as one glass of wine a day – have a lower risk of being hospitalised compared to not only heavier drinkers, but also to teetotallers.

    Celebration. Hands holding the glasses of champagne and wine making a toast.; Shutterstock ID 147590936; Purchase Order: -
    (Picture: Shutterstock)

    Study first author Doctor Simona Costanzo, of the Mediterranean Neurological Institute, said: ‘We observed that a heavy consumption of alcohol is associated with a higher probability of hospitalisation, especially for cancer and alcohol-related diseases.

    ‘This confirms the harmful effect of excessive alcohol drinking on the health.

    ‘On the other hand, those who drink in moderation present a lower risk of hospitalisation for all causes and for cardiovascular diseases compared to lifetime abstainers and former drinkers.’

    Professor Licia Iacoviello, of the University of Insubria in Italy, said: ‘The data on hospitalisations is very important in relation to the impact of alcohol on public health.

    ‘Hospital admissions, in fact, represent not only a serious problem for people, but they have also a strong impact on national health systems.

    ‘Our study confirms how much excess alcohol can weigh on healthcare facilities, underlining the urgent need of managing the problem, but it also confirms and extends our previous observations according to which moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduction in mortality risk, regardless of the type of disease’.

    Dr Ken Mukamal, Associate Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the US, added: ‘We are absolutely not saying that any teetotaler should start drinking to improve his or her health.

    ‘However, this research reaffirms that the effects of alcohol consumption cannot be reduced to a single catchphrase or punchline.

    ‘This very comprehensive study clearly shows that we need to consider its health effects based upon both dose and disease.’

    MORE: Uber Eats could be about to get even cheaper

    MORE: Why is the world becoming more allergic to food?


    SEI_44098039-45d7SEI_44098039-45d7hattiegladwellmetroFriends celebrating Christmas or New Year eve party, cheering with wine, christmas lights decoration background, christmas atmosphere.; Shutterstock ID 742006378; Purchase Order: -Celebration. Hands holding the glasses of champagne and wine making a toast.; Shutterstock ID 147590936; Purchase Order: -SEI_44098039-45d7SEI_44098039-45d7hattiegladwellmetroFriends celebrating Christmas or New Year eve party, cheering with wine, christmas lights decoration background, christmas atmosphere.; Shutterstock ID 742006378; Purchase Order: -Celebration. Hands holding the glasses of champagne and wine making a toast.; Shutterstock ID 147590936; Purchase Order: -

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    Muse Meditation Headband
    (Picture: Muse)

    From a coffee cup that syncs to keep your morning joe at your ideal temp, a bluetooth pillow that plays soothing sounds to send you to sleep, the world’s first meditation headband and a machine that guarantees a white Christmas – here’s what to buy the person in your life who already has it all.

    I’m Dreaming Of…

    Snow Machine
    (Picture: Argos)

    They may think they everything already – but now you can give them a white Christmas on top.

    This indoor snow machine can guarantee some of the fluffy stuff to bring a touch of magic to the festive season.

    Ideal for both home party use and seasonal events, the Snow Storm II uses a high volume fan assisted “snow sock” to produce realistic snowflakes.

    Includes a remote control, carry handle, hanging bracket and 250ml of fluid. Mains operated.

    FXLab Snow Storm II Artificial Snow Machine with Fluid £59.99, argos.co.uk

    The Gift of Sleep

    Soundasleep Pillow with Bluetooth speaker
    (Picture: Soundasleep)

    Soundasleep is a new Bluetooth speaker pillow that is the best of sleep-tech. Mindfulness tracks, your favourite soothing music or sounds like a ocean waves, a crackling fireplace or falling raindrops can be played through the pillow.

    It safely wakes you up if you hit a certain level of snoring and you can monitor how your intake of alcohol and caffeine or how exercise and stress affect your sleep.

    The pillow is also compatible with apps Calm and Headspace.

    Soundasleep Pillow,  £50 , soundasleeppillow.co.uk

    You can also try a personalised pillow from Nanu.  Answering tailored questions about height, weight and preferences, recipients can create their ideal firmness and style, helping even insomniacs to get some sleep.

    Nanu personalised pillow, £30, or two for £50, nanusleep.co.uk

    The Gift of Calm

    A Meditation Headband

    Muse Meditation Headband
    (PIcture: Muse)

    A brain-sensing headband that makes meditation easy – and it’s pretty much a given that they don’t have this already.

    Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and increase focus, but it can be hard to know if you’re doing it right. Muse provides you with real-time audio feedback on what’s happening in your brain when you meditate, letting you know when your mind wanders and teaching you to regain focus.

    Calm mind? You’ll hear calm weather. Busy mind? Stormy weather.

    Muse Meditation Headband, £199, choosemuse.com

    For the Go Getter

    The GPS Trackable – Smart Cabin Bag

     

    Horizn Smart Carry On bag in Blue Vega
    (Picture: Horizn)

    Want to know where your bag is at all time? GPS trackable smart bags from Horizn are the way forward.  In addition these beauties come with a battery that will charge your phones and tablets.

    Important note – their batteries are completely removable, in compliance with airline regulations – so you can remove before flying. It also means that you don’t have to plug the whole case in when charging.

    New this year is a nifty top case, a fantastic add-on that slides on top of the handle and allows you to keep passports, liquids and paperwork handy without having to get into the suitcase.

    Comes with a 1 year complimentary subscription to Horizn Go  – a personal travel concierge service that offers perks and upgrades galore.

    Horizn Studios Carry On, £329.00 and Horizn Studios Top Case £59, horizn-studios.co.uk

     

    Fast cars and fun

    Lego Bugatti (Picture; Lego)
    Lego Bugatti (Picture; Lego)

    The Lego Bugatti Chiron is the ultimate Lego set for petrolhead Lego fans. There are so many Lego sets to choose from to gift to adults who love Lego – the Harry Potter Hogwarts castle, £349.99, or London skyline Architecture sets being just two more examples – but this Bugatti really has the wow factor.

    In French racing blue, it has 3,599 pieces, a W16 engine and gear box and slick features that are replicas of the real things.

    Get inspiration from the Lego website for your own photoshoot once you’ve built it.

    Lego Technic Bugatti Chiron, £329.99, shop.lego.com

    Battery-Powered Backpack

    RoySmart Pro Backpack with charger
    (Picture: RoySmart Pro)

    Billed as the ultimate travel backpack, the brand new RoySmart is designed around a powerful 15600mAh rechargeable PD battery module that can power phones, tablets, laptops, handheld games with an advanced fast-charging technology that can charge devices just in a few minutes.

    The power module has a massive 45W output, two USB ports and one Type-C port for input and output and the battery includes a totally unique, colour-changing indicator light that shows the remaining power at a glance.

    It also has 6 levels of anti-theft protection including TSA Lock, Side Wire Lock, Cut-Resistant Fabric, Secret Pockets and Hidden YKK zipper along with a built-in Bluetooth finder function that connects to a smartphone so users can always find it.

    RoySmart Pro,  £116, indiegogo.com

    Powder Power

    Jones Twin Sister Snowboard
    (Picture: Jones)

    Jones knows snowboards and this is the most versatile board in their entire range.Built around a versatile directional twin shape, it has all the balance and control of a freestyle board – but thanks to the innovative Blunt profile nose shape and high-end construction it delivers stunning performance both off and on the piste.
    It’s the perfect choice for riders who want to ride the whole mountain. Ideal for intermediate to expert boarders who know what they’re doing across lots of different terrain.
    It also has superb wax holding properties – so no matter how hard or how long they go,  they get a super-fast glide.
    Jones Women’s Twin Sister 2018 / 2019 Snowboard, £435, snowboard-asylum.com

    Pedal Power Plus

    Electra e-bike in blue (Picture: Electrabike.com)
    Electra e-bike in blue (Picture: Electrabike.com)

    E-bikes are better than ever – lighter, more attractive and with a more efficient and smaller battery – and Electra is nailing the e-bike world from both a style and performance perspective.

    Their retro-style urban e-bikes have an 8-speed internal gear hub and four levels of support to get you up hills with ease – while allowing you a natural-feeling ride when the battery is not in use.

    The battery is compact and mounted on the lower frame, leaving the rear rack free for you to hang your panniers – as well as an additional front one to mount a basket with ease.

    It has disc brakes for precise stopping, the tyres are robust enough to take on potholes and urban terrain and they are puncture-resistant too, making this the perfect commuter bike as well as a fun weekend companion.

    Loft Go! 8i, £2,400, electrabike.com

     

     

     

     

    For the Foodie

    Straight to the Point

    Blenheim Forge Santoku knife (Picture: Blenheim Forge)
    Blenheim Forge Santoku knife (Picture: Blenheim Forge)

    Made by artisan steel-workers in a railway arch in Peckham Rye, these stunning knives – which have to be seen in the flesh to be truly appreciated – are made with carbon steel using traditional Japanese methods but with up-to-date material enhancements. The blades have a unique black and grey finish that will develop its own patina with use.

    They have a smooth walnut handle and a copper ferrule and they are 100% desirable. Blenheim Forge also holds knife-sharpening classes using Japanese whetstones – see the website for more details.

    The sexiest gift for a foodie you will find this year.

    Santoku knife, £245, Blenheimforge.co.uk

     

    Never Get Board

    GROUP CHOPPING BOARDS-0361
    (Picture: TOG)

    Along with the a knife why not add one of these beautiful, sustainable chopping boards from TOG’s. Handmade in England from British cherry and American walnut, sourced from sustainably-managed forests, their stripe design is inspired by the copper layers in the blades of TOG knives.

    The boards are available in four different sizes for different food prep tasks.

    The TOG board collection is available from £50, togknives.com

     

    Temperature Controlled Coffee

    4_WHT TM FRANK-86f9
    (PIcture: Ember.com)

    The Ember travel mug is the world’s first temperature-controlled mug. It will keep hot beverages at the perfect temperature for approximately two hours on the go, or all day long when used with the included charging coaster.

    Drinkers can adjust the temperature by using the Ember app or via the rotating dial at the base of the mug.

    Ember Travel Mug,  £144.55, amazon.co.uk

    Artisan Hot Chocolate

    Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser Hot Chocolate
    (Picture: Hotel Chocolat)

    Hotel Chocolat’s new Velvetiser creates the perfect Hot Chocolat in two and a half minutes, using your choice of milk, dairy or plant based, and a variety of Chocolat single-serve flavours – Milky,  Classic (Vegan), 100% Mayan Red Honduras (Vegan), Salted caramel and Hazelnut Chocolate (Vegan).

    The chocolate specialists worked alongside Dualit to create a simple-to-use tool that heats milk to exactly 67-69° C, precisely the right temp to melt the cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

    The Velvetiser’s specially designed 17 looped cyclonic whisk folds the chocolate into the liquid until it’s velvet-smooth—not too thick or too thin—creating a beautiful silken froth.

    Top tip: add some Chocolat Cream Liqueur for an extra bit of yes.

    The Velvetiser in home hot chocolate system including 10 hot chocolate sachets,  £89.97, qvcuk.com

    Christmas Unicorn Rainbow Cake

    Hummingbird Bakery Christmas Unicorn Cake
    (Picture Hummingbird Bakery)

    Yeah ok, it’s whimsical – but who wouldn’t love a unicorn cake for Christmas?

    Hummingbird bakery (famous for being Madonna’s guilty pleasure) has launched a Christmas Unicorn Rainbow Cake – with layers of rainbow coloured vanilla sponge topped with vanilla buttercream frosting and decorated with a sugar fondant unicorn horn and a unicorn mane of piped frosting rosettes in festive colours.

    Christmas Unicorn Rainbow Cake, £65.45 hummingbirdbakery.com

     

    Bread of heaven

    The Baker's Dozen sourdough kit, from Crumb
    The Baker’s Dozen sourdough kit, from Crumb (Picture: lovecrumb.com)

    This beautiful kit will help even the least able bakers make utterly brilliant sourdough – and it’s simpler than you think.

    Crumb’s 13-piece kit has no-nonsense instructions and ingredients portioned out to simplify the process and demystify breadmaking.

    Founder Jeremy Calvert honed his own breadmaking skills at home – and he would take one of his loaves with him when visiting friends for dinner. Turns out he started getting invited to a lot of dinners.

    As he says, you don’t need training, baking experience or expensive equipment. You too could be the sort of dinner guest people invite back, just to get their hands on a loaf of your bread.

    Sourdough starter can be bought for £12 if you have your own kit but want to get started with sourdough.

    It all comes beautifully packaged too, with wicker baskets, traditional cloths and a granite baking stone (the secret to your loaf rising like a dream), so it’s a joy to receive and open.

    Sourdough making kit, £49.95, Lovecrumb.com

     

    Say It With Whisky

    Elements of Islay personalised whisky
    Elements of Islay personalised whisky

    IThey may have everything, but do they have a bottle of whisky with their name on it? This blended malt Scotch whisky can be ordered with your friend’s name on it, along with a personalised message. It makes a cute little add-on Christmas present or a very smart house guest gift if you’re staying with friends over the holiday season.

    It’s a good price, too.

    Personalised whisky, £29.95, The Whisky Exchange

    Culture Club

    British Library-bc73

    (Picture: British Library)

    This Christmas, support The British Library and treat someone to something they probably doesn’t know exists.

    The annual membership scheme at the British Library will let them experience everything from five-star exhibitions to high-profile talks and events that include brilliant literary, historical, scientific and artistic works from all over the globe.

    Sure to please the culture lover in your life, Europe’s largest library holds over 150 million items and boasts historical pieces dating back as far as 2000 BC.

    British Library membership, £80, bl.uk/membership

    Bespoke Book Club

     

    Bespoke Book Club Find Me a Gift
    (Picture: FIndmeagift.co.uk)

    Literary lovers will love a Bespoke Book Club Subscription – a surprise book tailored to their reading tastes, popped through their letterbox each month.

    Called The Willoughby Book Club, you can choose to gift a 3, 6 or a 12-month subscription based on their favourite authors or genres are from a list provided. (If you don’t know you can select “I have no idea!” and they will handle it.)

    Each month they will receive fabulous gift-wrapped book along with a gift message from you with their first book.

    3 months subscription starts at £39.99, 6 months, £64.99 a full year for £109.99.

    The Bespoke Gift Club Subscription, from £39.99, findmeagift.co.uk

    Do You Hear What I Hear?

    Heavenly Headphones

     

     

    Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 Wireless Headphones
    (Picture: ao.com)

    Possibly some of the best looking headphones out there, these cushioned ear cups are immediately recognisable.

    If you use them with an Android phone they seem like normal headphones but if you use them with an iPhone, they turn high tech – communicating directly with your phone. They instantly set up – just power on and hold them near your iPhone – to connect to your Apple Watch, iPad and Mac. They can take calls, control music and activate Siri through the headphones.

    And the battery length is epic. They last for up to 50 hours and charge fast (a full recharge takes an hour). Pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling (Pure ANC) actively blocks external noise.

    Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 Wireless Headphones – Shadow Grey, £289, ao.com

    Divine Docking

    Orbitsound Dock E30
    (Picture: Orbitsound)

    Orbitsound’s Dock E30 speaker gives studio-quality sound with the brand’s Airsound technology  – which offers spatial sound from a single speaker. It also has balanced sound playback, which means it gives quality audio from anywhere in the room, removing the need to be in a ‘sweet spot’ for the full listening experience.

    It has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and comes with nice add-ons like a  docking groove that lets it hold any smart device, and simple wireless charging of any Qi supporting phone (such as the iPhone X family), by placing it on the Orbitsound logo charge pad.

    Oh and Mark Knopfler, OBE, uses it on tour to enjoy his on-the-road tunes—-need we say more?

    Orbitsound Dock E30, £449 ,Harrods, Selfridges and orbitsound.com

    For the Player in Your Life

     

    Yamaha reface CS Mini Control Synthesizer
    (Picture: Yamaha)

    Portable and powerful it’s a keyboard that gives great sound.

    Vangelis, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson all made music history on their Yamaha Synthesizers   – and this latest model keeps the simple handling and creative sounds of the original with an added dynamic.

    The polyphonic tone generator with 8 voices and 5 oscillator types offers a rich bandwidth of sounds from analogue to digital – it allows them to create virtually any sound they can think of from natural-sounding brass to cutting-edge leads and pads.

    Yamaha reface CS Mini Control Synthesizer, £260, yamahamusiclondon.com

    Super Yule Tools

    Captain Cordless

    EGO Chain Saw
    (Picture: EGO)

     

    Give them cordless power beyond belief this year – with a cordless chainsaw smartly designed to deliver the performance of petrol without the noise, fuss and fumes.

    The EGO Power+ chainsaw is one of most powerful rechargeable products of its kind and sure to put a smile on the face of a keen gardener this Christmas. It packs a punch – its first-ever 56-Volt lithium-ion battery has 40 percent more power than the leading 40-Volt battery.

    The 14 in. bar and chain combined with a high efficiency brushless motor provides a smooth cut and the brushless motor extends the life of the tool and the run time.

    EGO CS1400E 35cm Power Chainsaw, £219, egopowerplus.co.uk

    The Christmas Chop

     

    Fiskars Axes
    (Picture: FIskars)

    Dubbed the “World’s Best Axes”, these bad boys are made of double hardened steel blades and famous for exceptional accuracy and sharpness.

    Perfectly balanced to offer top swing speed, they multiply the power at impact – so every strike is lumberjack worthy.

    They are also ultralight yet extremely durable – with Fibercomp shaft High-quality steel with anti-friction coating.

    Fiskars Axes, starting from £36.99 to £75.99, fiskars.co.uk

     

    Epic Pocket Knife

    image003 (2)-31fb

    Brand new – so unlikely that they already have – this multi-tool is an ideal gift for handy types.

    Based on the Suspension Multi-Tool, the Suspension NXT Pocket Clip is fitted with 15 tools, and is 25% lighter and thinner than the original, so it fits comfortably in a pocket or on a belt when it’s clipped.

    The multi-tool includes a 25% longer 2.25” fine and serrated combination blade, as well as small, medium and large flat drivers, and brand new features such as a wire stripper, file and ruler, but with the same high quality and clever design.

    Gerber Suspension NXT Multi Tool, £35, millets.co.uk

    Blown Away

    BGA 56.png
    (Picture: STIHL)

    The gift you don’t know you need ’til you’ve got it.

    A game changer for the gardener who watches with horror with leaves fall onto their flower beds, this makes it actually fun to clear them up – trust us.

    One of the quietest models on the market yet with some of the most control and power out there, this is a light saber of garden tools.

    Give them the gift of retiring their rake once and for all.

    STIHL BGA  Cordless blower with AK 20 battery and AL 101 charger, £199, stihl.co.uk

    Stylish Surprises

     

    Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pajamas

     

    EBERJEY-£142-PJ1141-DIIV-865b
    (Picture: Eberjey)
    Fancy pajamas are nothing new for Christmas but this celebrity favourite loungewear brand is definitely something special.
    This Northern Stars Pajama Set from Eberjey has an all-over celestial star print,  framed with a collar and piped trims, and are utterly, buttery soft.
    Gwyneth and Katie Holmes live in them when at home. Just gone in-store to Net a Porter, Harrods & Selfridges.
    Eberjey Northern Stars Pajama Set £142, harrods.com

    Ear Jackets

    23806-1_B Navis Ear Jackets.jpg

    Forget earrings – this season is all about the ear jacket.

    Great from desk to dancefloor, these stunning sparklers from CARAT are also versatile – designed to be worn either as stud earrings or drop earrings (jackets) with an easily detachable clasp.

    They have a total length of 2.2cm and are made of sterling silver with a white gold finish.

    CARAT* London earrings,  £99.00 caratlondon.com

    The Unisexy Trainer

    Baabuk Unisex Trainer Jeans
    (Picture: Baabuk)

    Baabuk’s Sky Wooler trainers are beyond cool – and sure to please both male and female gift recipients – as they’re unisexy.

    Made of a stylish high-top wool design and a merino lining to regulate your temperature – they are the perfect footwear for unpredictable weather in any season.

    Designed in Switzerland and crafted in Portugal, the Sky Wooler uses natural and durable materials, is water repellent and has easy slip-in elastic laces.

    No need to break them in either, these beauties are engineered to be comfortable from day one.

    Baabuk Sky Wooler Trainer in Jeans, £88, baabuk.com

     

    A Dream Candle

    Le Reve_Candle-31ff
    (Picture: Pam Weinstock)

     

    Photographer and artist Pam Weinstock has created a luxury lifestyle brand that includes silken eye masks, textiles and home candles that all exude a rich, luxurious feel.

    Her Le Rêve candle gives off great depth and warmth- based on English red rose and amber, with subtle hints of lemon and musk.

    Made from natural waxes with a scent derived from essential oils.

    Burn time: approx. 50 hours

    Le Rêve Candle, £30, pamweinstock.com

    Goodwill to Grooming

    The Gift of Good Hair

    Ed James.jpg
    (Picture: Edward James)

    Created by London-based super-stylist Edward James, this is a British take on the Brazilian Blow Dry.

    A smoothing system designed to fight dreaded hair frizz and add lustrous shine to the hair without losing body this two-step process adds shine to all of the hair strands from root to tip using a glossing treatment containing a sunflower, jojoba and castor oil complex before the de-frizzing stage takes place.

    A unique keratin complex is applied in a particular way to smooth the cuticle of the hair where needed and can be tailored to your specific hair texture and needs.

    Treatment lasts between 2 and 3 months.

    British Blow Dry at Edward James, £105, edwardjameslondon.com

    A Smarter Shave

     

    SmartsShaverPrestigejpg.jpg

    This is brand new from Philips and it’s their closest electric shave. It glides smoothly over contours and adapts to your facial hair effortlessly, shaving even a 7-day stubble.

    The BeardAdapt Sensor checks the hair density 15 times per second and automatically adapts the shaver to your hair. It also comes with a very cool Qi Charging Pad for wireless charging.

    Philips Series 9000 Prestige, £300, boots.com

    Let it Grow

    The Bluebeards Revenge Beard Oil
    (Picture: The Bluebeards Revenge)

     

    Billing itself as the “Ultimate Beard Oil for Real Men” this one will banish unruly facial fluff and achieve manly-bearded perfection – all with a unique fusion of oils inspired by aromas of the Caribbean.

    The Bluebeard’s Revenge Cuban Blend Beard Oil, £9.99, bluebeards-revenge

    A Wax-Free Year

    Philips Lumea Prestige IPL hair removal
    (Picture: Philips)

    Say goodbye to waxing forever with this smart little high tech wonder. Called the Lumea Prestige, it has 5 energy settings and a SmartSkin sensor that shows you the best setting for her skin tone. It can be used with or without a cord, and after as little as 3 to 4 bi-weekly treatments, skin is left soft, smooth and hair-free.

    Great for the bikini line, it has a range of curved attachments which help in tricky areas and there is a face attachment designed for upper lip, chin and jawline.

    To maintain results, touch up every 4 to 8 weeks. No refill cartridges or gels needed.

    Philips Lumea Prestige, £299, johnlewis.com

    A Spray-On Facial

     

    Collagen Synergie cutout-c532
    (Picture: Linda Meredith)

    Dubbed the “Spray-On Facial”, skincare guru Linda Meredith’s new Collagen Synergie combines the coverage of a hydrating mist, with the power of a skin-boosting serum.

    Packed with glow-giving ingredients, and scientifically proven to improve skin,  this supercharged spray is also teeming with antioxidants, Vitamins A, B, C, E as well as Iron Zinc and Calcium.

    How to Apply: Shake well before use. Close eyes and spray directly on to cleansed face and neck.

    Collagen Synergie by Linda Meredith, £105, lindameredith.com

    A Visit to the Ice Queen

    Dr-Galyna-800x800.jpg
    (Picture: Dr Galyna Selezneva)

    Known by London’s elite and top press as the ‘Ice Queen’,  Dr Galyna Selezneva specialises in the “non-gym workout”  – body contouring for the most stubborn of areas.

    Wielding her weapons of fat destruction, Dr Galyna is a true master of technique, and uses a unique combination of CoolSculpting devices designed to melt flat and tighten the skin, particularly in areas that the gym and diet don’t reach.

    Blasted fat cells are metabolised naturally before being excreted via your body’s own lymphatic system.

    Results can start to show in four weeks with optimum results from 8 weeks.

    Sessions start from £875. drritarakus.com


    Christmas unicorn cake front_rev0-8c94Christmas unicorn cake front_rev0-8c94ashleysinlondonMuse Meditation HeadbandSnow MachineSoundasleep Pillow with Bluetooth speakerMuse Meditation HeadbandHorizn Smart Carry On bag in Blue VegaLego Bugatti (Picture; Lego)RoySmart Pro Backpack with chargerJones Twin Sister SnowboardElectra e-bike in blue (Picture: Electrabike.com)Blenheim Forge Santoku knife (Picture: Blenheim Forge)GROUP CHOPPING BOARDS-03614_WHT TM FRANK-86f9Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser Hot Chocolate Hummingbird Bakery Christmas Unicorn CakeThe Baker's Dozen sourdough kit, from CrumbElements of Islay personalised whiskyBritish Library-bc73Bespoke Book Club Find Me a Gift Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 Wireless HeadphonesOrbitsound Dock E30Yamaha reface CS Mini Control SynthesizerEGO Chain SawFiskars Axes image003 (2)-31fbBGA 56.pngEBERJEY-£142-PJ1141-DIIV-865b23806-1_B Navis Ear Jackets.jpgBaabuk Unisex Trainer JeansLe Reve_Candle-31ffEd James.jpgSmartsShaverPrestigejpg.jpgThe Bluebeards Revenge Beard Oil Philips Lumea Prestige IPL hair removal Collagen Synergie cutout-c532Dr-Galyna-800x800.jpgChristmas unicorn cake front_rev0-8c94Christmas unicorn cake front_rev0-8c94ashleysinlondonMuse Meditation HeadbandSnow MachineSoundasleep Pillow with Bluetooth speakerMuse Meditation HeadbandHorizn Smart Carry On bag in Blue VegaLego Bugatti (Picture; Lego)RoySmart Pro Backpack with chargerJones Twin Sister SnowboardElectra e-bike in blue (Picture: Electrabike.com)Blenheim Forge Santoku knife (Picture: Blenheim Forge)GROUP CHOPPING BOARDS-03614_WHT TM FRANK-86f9Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser Hot Chocolate Hummingbird Bakery Christmas Unicorn CakeThe Baker's Dozen sourdough kit, from CrumbElements of Islay personalised whiskyBritish Library-bc73Bespoke Book Club Find Me a Gift Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 Wireless HeadphonesOrbitsound Dock E30Yamaha reface CS Mini Control SynthesizerEGO Chain SawFiskars Axes image003 (2)-31fbBGA 56.pngEBERJEY-£142-PJ1141-DIIV-865b23806-1_B Navis Ear Jackets.jpgBaabuk Unisex Trainer JeansLe Reve_Candle-31ffEd James.jpgSmartsShaverPrestigejpg.jpgThe Bluebeards Revenge Beard Oil Philips Lumea Prestige IPL hair removal Collagen Synergie cutout-c532Dr-Galyna-800x800.jpg

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    ‘Like Mary, the mother in Care, I was left with aphasia, a communication difficulty.’ (Photo: Dan Prince/LA Productions)

    It was hard to bring myself to watch Care, the BBC drama about a struggling single mother who finds herself having to care for her elderly mother after she has a stroke.

    It’s not because I’ve had to put my life on hold to support a frail parent, quite the opposite.

    Four years ago, I was undergoing IVF treatment and a few days after I got the longed-for positive pregnancy test, I had a devastating stroke. I was 33 years old.

    Like Mary, the mother in Care, I was left with aphasia, a communication difficulty, which affects my ability to speak, write and read.

    Aphasia is a common after-effect of stroke: around a third of survivors experience some level of aphasia.

    Though these communication problems tend to improve within the first three to six months, between 30-40 per cent of stroke survivors are severely affected long-term.

    Mary tries to speak but the sentences that come out are nonsense. In the programme they use subtitles to show what she is trying to say.

    I recognise her frustration and the desperation she feels when you want to speak but what you say doesn’t make sense.

    Before I had my stroke I was chatty. I spoke to people very easily and it was as effortless as breathing.

    When I lost that ability, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even my family. Now I can communicate well, not because I have got my speech back but because I have more confidence.

    It is still hard work and I need support. I don’t just rely on words – I also use hand gestures, apps, notes, everything I can to help me communicate.

    The idea that I would not speak again was never an option for me.

    I knew early on that if I wanted to feel like ‘me’ again I had to make myself understood so I practiced for hours, weeks, months.

    I went to communication support groups with the Stroke Association. It was difficult but the idea that I would not speak again was never an option for me.

    At a meeting to discharge Mary from hospital, the speech therapists suggest she is not engaging with them.

    For the character in the drama that may be true, but the reality for many stroke patients is that almost half the people who need speech therapy are able to access it.

    Another reservation that I had was that depicting an older person as the stroke survivor perpetuates the myth that it only happens when you are old.

    I’d really like to see more representation of younger stroke survivors because people do need to be more aware that stroke is something that can strike at any time, and figures show that the average age that people are having strokes is going down.

    It brought back a lot of difficult memories for my husband. For him the scenes portraying the many health and social care hoops you have to go through when someone you love suddenly has a disability were very real.

    When I had my stroke, the care I got in hospital was great. When I left to go home it was a very different situation – the care was terrible, and there isn’t enough support.

    Emma, centre, receiving an award at the Stroke Awards (Photo: Stroke Association)

    Whenever a stroke happens it can shatter your life and that of your family and Care powerfully demonstrates the impact that stroke and dementia can have on loved ones.

    I take my hat off to the wonderful carers all over the country who dedicate their lives to looking after vulnerable relatives.

    Carers deserve so much more recognition for all that they do, particularly for stroke survivors.

    One in three areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not provide support to the carers and families of stroke survivors.

    Stroke can snatch away a former way of life, but the human spirit is powerful and resilient.

    I am proof that with the right care, some stroke survivors can adjust and thrive.

    I lost my baby, my job and my ability to speak but I have come such a long way since my stroke and now it doesn’t define me.

    Without the support of my husband, my wonderful family and organisations, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

    Now, rather than dwell on what I can’t do, I’m determined to help others going through the same thing, by raising awareness and giving people hope.

    If you have a stroke, remember that you are more than the things in life that stroke has taken away from you because there is still more to you as a person.

    Or, if you are looking after someone who has had a stroke, remember that despite all the changes, they are still themselves – fathers, mothers, children, husbands, wives, friends, grandparents.

    That’s why I am supporting the Stroke Association’s Christmas appeal ‘I am more than my stroke’. To find out more and donate, visit stroke.org.uk

    MORE: Woman accuses Facebook of ‘sexist double standards’ for removing photo of mastectomy scars

    MORE: Groom with cystic fibrosis gets his dying wish to marry his bride with the same condition

    MORE: Until government better supports suicidal people, there will be blood on their hands


    Care - IconicCare - Iconicrmve86Care - IconicCare - Iconicrmve86

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  • 12/12/18--06:46: What is the pegan diet?
  • (Picture: Getty)

    2018 was the year of veganism.

    Whether you wanted to eat more healthily, or live more sustainably, more people than ever were shunning animal products for a plant-based diet.

    And with big brands jumping on the wagon, offering everything from bleeding vegan burgers to vegan pigs in blankets, it’s never been easier to turn to veganism.

    But that was 2018. Experts predict that 2019 will be the year of the pegan diet. But what exactly is it? And what can you eat when you’re on it?

    (Picture: Getty)

    The word ‘pegan’ is a mash-up of vegan and paleo – but practically, how does that work? And how hard is it to follow as a diet?

    Our first thoughts are that paleo and vegan are opposing schools of thought – so bringing them together cohesively might be tough.

    Paleo is basically about eating like a caveman, unprocessed foods and lots of meat and protein – whereas veganism means completely cutting out all animal products. So how can you do both?

    The pegan diet, created by Dr. Mark Hyman, advises that you avoid dairy, grains and legumes, have plenty of fruit and vegetables and get the majority of your fat from nuts and seeds.

    Meat-eaters will be pleased to know that, unlike veganism, eggs, oily fish and meat are allowed – but only if they are sustainably sourced. All meat should be grass-fed.

    What can you eat on the pegan diet?

    Vegetables; it’s recommended that 75% of your diet should be vegetables.
    Bamboo shoots
    Brussels sprouts
    Cauliflower
    Broccoli
    Tomatoes
    Peppers

    Fruits
    Apples
    Cherries
    Dark berries
    Citrus fruits

    Omega-3 fats
    Nuts
    Avocados
    Olive oil

    Sustainably-sourced proteins
    Beef
    Chicken
    Salmon
    Eggs

    Legumes
    Beans, but they should be limited.

    Natural sugars
    Maple syrup
    Coconut sugar
    Honey

    Creator Hyman, told Redbook that ‘designed correctly, both a paleo and vegan diet can provide health benefits like weight loss, lowered cholesterol, and reverse diabetes.’

    These are certainly attractive claims. It’s no wonder there has been a huge spike in interested in the new diet trend. Pinterest have reported a 337% increase in searches for pegan eating.

    But it is legit? Or is it nothing more than another fad diet?

    Dietician Chloe Hall, told the Huffing Post that there are certainly benefits to eating in this way. ‘Encouraging plenty of fruit and vegetables is not a bad thing as they can help to prevent certain cancers, are rich in fibre for a healthy gut and are low in calories which can help with maintaining a healthy weight,’ she explains.

    Christmas dinner ranked getty images
    (Picture: Getty)

    But Hall is wary of any diet that cuts out food groups in their entirety.

    ‘Dairy is a great source of calcium for healthy bones, whole grains can help reduce the risk of heart disease and legumes are a good source of fibre.

    ‘Cutting out any food groups can lead to deficiencies in nutrients if not well-planned.’

    Things you can't eat on the pegan diet

    Dairy

    Starchy vegetables
    Sweet potatoes
    Pumpkin

    Gluten; including whole grains and alternatives

    Soy

    Most vegetable oils
    Canola
    Sunflower
    Corn

    Glycemic index is also a big thing in the pegan diet. Hyman recommends that the vegetables you eat should have a low GI of between 55 and 69.

    This is because foods lower on the glycemic index scale tend to release glucose slowly and more steadily – this helps maintain good blood sugar levels and overall health.

    On his website, Dr. Hyman says that ‘this way of eating makes the most sense for our health and the health of our planet. It is sustainable and kinder to animals.’

    But he does stress that everyone is different and that people need to consider their individual health and needs before subscribing to a wholesale change of diet.

    MORE: Why is the world becoming more allergic to food?

    MORE: Should veganism be considered a philosophical belief?

    MORE: From Vegan Santa to a vegan parliament – a week in vegan news


    Raw fresh delicious salmon and vegetablesRaw fresh delicious salmon and vegetablesnataliemorris88Christmas dinner ranked getty imagesRaw fresh delicious salmon and vegetablesRaw fresh delicious salmon and vegetablesnataliemorris88Christmas dinner ranked getty images

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    (Picture: Emma Lea/YorkTest)

    Emma, 25, has suffered with eczema for 15 years.

    She says it finally cleared up after she stopped drinking coffee.

    Emma, a project coordinator from Walthamstow, experienced cracked and inflamed skin on her hands, arms, and legs, as well as open sores on her face.

    ‘I’ve had really bad eczema since early secondary school,’ says Emma. ‘I’ve always had it on my fingers and then I got it on my calves and elbows, and on the back of my hand and both ankles too. It was quite embarrassing.

    ‘With the sores on my chin people would come up to me and ask I was ok. It was horrendous.

    ‘I went to the doctors so many times. As a child I was given every cream, ointment and medicine under the sun as they had no idea what it was, nothing worked. I have been using a very strong steroid ointment for 10 years.

    Emma arm before changing her diet (left) and after (right) (Picture: Emma Lea/YorkTest)

    ‘The skin where I used the steroids is now paper thin. It rips so easily. You can really see the difference where I’ve used it.’

    It was her boyfriend, who has dermatitis, who suggested Emma should try getting a food intolerance test to see if what she was eating could be triggering her eczema.

    Emma went through a food and drink scan with YorkTest Laboratories, who analysed her blood to identify foods that could be making her eczema worse.

    ‘The test revealed I was intolerant to yeast, egg white, egg yolk, cow’s milk, sesame seeds, coffee, and gluten,’ says Emma.

    She quickly cut these foods and coffee out of her diet, and noticed an improvement in her skin right away.

    ‘I cut the foods out of my diet and it was quite a radical difference in about five to seven days.

    (Picture: Emma Lea/YorkTest)

    ‘My eczema, I’d had it for so many years. On my hands it was like I was given new fingers. It happened very, very quickly.’

    As well as seeing an improvement in her skin, Emma says she’s experiencing other benefits.

    ‘I had also suffered with stomach aches after eating bread, and felt ill after drinking alcohol,’ she explains. ‘One of my big things is trapped wind.

    ‘It impacts your mood as well. Sometimes I’m so bloated I look pregnant. It just doesn’t match the rest of my body. I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe because of bloating.

    ‘I was unable to socialise, unable to walk far or be active with my stomach aches and bloating. I would worry about social events after work as I didn’t know what state my stomach would be in.

    ‘Now that I’ve changed my diet to remove as many of the trigger foods as I can it has really helped. Things like drinking room temperature water instead of cold water helps, too.’

    (Picture: Emma Lea/YorkTest)

    It’s important to note that cutting out food types isn’t an answer for everyone, and it’s best to chat to a medical expert before making any drastic changes to your diet.

    But for Emma, cutting out coffee, milk, and gluten has made a huge difference.

    ‘If I’m vigilant with my diet it’s much better,’ she says. ‘You have to be 100% committed to it otherwise I find the symptoms come back, and for me they are worse.

    ‘It can be quite difficult at times but I find I’m fine when I can prepare the food myself.

    ‘Eating out can be a little tricky. YorkTest have helped with little things like telling me about low-yeast wine. The trick is probably just to cut out alcohol completely but I can’t do that.

    ‘I know my body and these problems have absolutely been down to food. I feel incredibly empowered and in control of my own body for the first time in my life.’

    MORE: Woman who had severe reaction to hair dye can never colour her hair again

    MORE: Silk gloves come off: NHS cuts pyjamas for eczema and dermatitis sufferers

    MORE: When does stress become burnout?


    Emma Lea 1-6fe7Emma Lea 1-6fe7ellencscottEmma Lea 1-6fe7Emma Lea 1-6fe7ellencscott

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    (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    We’ve all got those friends who spend their entire lives in gym leggings, are always a touch sweaty from spin class, and talk about things like DOMS and HIIT and BPM.

    They’re unlikely to appreciate a giant tub of Roses this Christmas.

    Give your gym-loving loved ones a gift that will really get their pulses racing this year.

    We’ve scoured the high street to look for the best presents for fitness-lovers. From runners to yogis, netballers to bodybuilders – there’s something for everyone.

    Fitbit Charge 3, £129.99

    Fitbit Charge 3 (Picture: Fitbit)
    (Picture: Fitbit)

    The classic fitness gift. A Fitbit will help you keep track of your fitness goals, monitoring everything from heart rate and step count, to sleep and hydration levels.

    The Charge 3 is the latest model, and it’s water resistant and even tracks your periods and ovulation.

    361, 361-Spire 3 Trainers, £143

    361-SPIRE 3 (Picture: 361)
    (Picture: 361)

    No fitness wardrobe is complete without a pair of really functional trainers. The 361-Spire 3 are perfect for running, with a Quickfoam sole for added cushioning and support.

    They aren’t cheap, but runners will know that they’re the real deal.

    Lululemon, Double Roller, £38

    Double Roller (Picture: Lululemon)
    (Picture: Lululemon)

    Foam rollers are an absolute god-send for people who spend a lot of time in the gym. We love the stylish, marble design of this one.

    It also features a hidden, second roller, which you can pull out and use to release tension in your lower back. Bliss. Painful bliss.

    Nike, Pro Warm Sparkle Tights, £42.95

    Women's Sparkle 7/8 Tights Nike Pro Warm (Picture: Nike)
    (Picture: Nike)

    Part of Nike’s new netball collection, these full-length leggings are perfect for training outside on frosty mornings.

    With ergonomic seams for comfortable movement and sweat-wicking to keep you dry, they’re a great staple for any fitness nut.

    Sweaty Betty, All Sport Backpack, £85

    All Sport Backpack (Picture: Sweaty Betty)
    (Picture: Sweaty Betty)

    This backpack is the must-have accessory for style-conscious gym-goers.

    It nails that elusive blend of fashion and function, with special sections for your trainers and damp kit, and even straps to attach a yoga mat.

    Tribe, Energy and Hydrate Bundle, £38

    (Picture: Tribe)

    Sporty people need fuel – this bundle provides energy and hydration boosts for weeks of workouts.

    The pack contains 18 energy bars, which dish out nutrient-rich energy, and 12 hydration packs, brimming with natural sodium and potassium.

    Adidas, Running Arm Band, £25

    adidas Running Arm Band (Picture: adidas)
    (Picture: adidas)

    This is more than an arm band. This is the gift of music. This is the gift of the perfect soundtrack to power those last few miles.

    Runners will know how important it is to have your music and personal fitness tracker right in your ear, this Adidas arm band makes it simple and secure.

    MORE: Christmas gifts for the guy or girl who already has everything

    MORE: This is why it’s so important to wear the right shoes for running

    MORE: What to buy the dog (or the dog lover) in your life this Christmas


    Fitness Christmas gift guideFitness Christmas gift guidenataliemorris88Fitbit Charge 3 (Picture: Fitbit)361-SPIRE 3 (Picture: 361)Double Roller (Picture: Lululemon)Women's Sparkle 7/8 Tights Nike Pro Warm (Picture: Nike)All Sport Backpack (Picture: Sweaty Betty)adidas Running Arm Band (Picture: adidas)Fitness Christmas gift guideFitness Christmas gift guidenataliemorris88Fitbit Charge 3 (Picture: Fitbit)361-SPIRE 3 (Picture: 361)Double Roller (Picture: Lululemon)Women's Sparkle 7/8 Tights Nike Pro Warm (Picture: Nike)All Sport Backpack (Picture: Sweaty Betty)adidas Running Arm Band (Picture: adidas)

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    (Picture: Getty)

    If there’s one thing we hope you’ve learned from the internet this year, it’s that most ‘cleanses’ and ‘detoxes’ are not a good idea.

    Just because someone on the internet recommends putting something in your body doesn’t mean you should do it.

    That goes for drinking soy sauce, too.

    Dr Bernard has shared a story on his YouTube channel of a woman who suffered brain damage after she drank a litre of soy sauce in an attempt to ‘cleanse’ her colon.

    The woman had apparently found a video online that suggested drinking soy sauce could cleanse the body. She took that advice and her heart began to race, her stomach cramped, and she felt a tingling sensation in her arms and legs.

    She resisted the urge to drink water, so became severely dehydrated. Dr Bernard says the woman was found collapsed in her home, and when she was taken to hospital she was diagnosed with hypernatremia; excessive levels of sodium in the blood.

    After four days she was apparently diagnosed with central pontine myelinolysis, a nuerological disorder that happens when nerve cells can’t transmit signals to each other. This can happen when there’s a rapid change in the body’s sodium levels.

    Dr Bernard claims that videos and articles promoting a soy sauce cleanse rely on ‘half-truths’. He states that the woman was advised that wherever sodium was in the body, water would flow towards it and toxins would be ‘washed away’ as a result.

    Instead, Dr Bernard says, the sodium in the woman’s stomach started drawing water away from her muscles and organs, leading to severe dehydration.

    This is the only reported case of someone consuming soy sauce so quickly that they caused serious damage. As the woman has been kept anonymous, we aren’t able to verify the story.

    A quick Google doesn’t show up any articles or videos promoting soy sauce as a cleansing method, but it’s possible it’s being discussed on forums or in the darker corners of the internet. Most ‘cleanses’ actually recommend avoiding soy sauce, not downing a litre of it.

    What is definitely readily available on the internet, however, are videos of people downing bottles of soy sauce as a ‘fun’ viral challenge.

    (Picture: Getty)

    And what we can say with confidence is that drinking large amounts of soy sauce – whether in an attempt to cleanse the body or for the lols – is not a good idea.

    Soy sauce is perfectly fine to consume in small amounts as a condiment.

    What’s not wise is drinking a litre of it, or pouring bucketloads on every meal.

    George Hamlyn-Williams, dietitian at The Hospital Group, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Soy sauce is very high in salt, containing 12.9g per 100ml. To put this in perspective, something is considered high in salt when it contains more than 1.5g per 100g/ml.

    ‘We need salt in our diet to help our cells function properly. However, too much salt can lead to problems such as increased blood pressure and water retention and ultimately a higher risk of stroke, kidney disease and heart attack.

    ‘It’s therefore important to keep within safe limits.

    ‘The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends no more than 6g per day for adults. Bearing this in mind, just 1 x 15ml tablespoon of soya sauce contains nearly 2g of salt.’

    So even three tablespoons of soy sauce in one day isn’t wise, let alone a whole bottle of the stuff.

    Ali Orr, a nutritional therapist at YorkTest Laboratories, repeats these warnings, but says this shouldn’t put us off soy sauce entirely.

    ‘While sodium (a part of salt) is sometimes demonised as being bad for health, it is actually essential for maintaining electrolyte (mineral) balance in the body,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘It is needed for healthy muscle function and water balance in the blood and body.’

    In the case of Dr Bernard’s story, says Ali, the issue was not soy sauce itself, but the sheer volume consumed.

    ‘Soy sauce does contain high levels of sodium but not as high as table salt,’ she explains. ‘It is the volume of soy sauce consumed which has caused the issue.

    ‘There would be very low risk of soy sauce affecting the body’s sodium levels when used in cooking as an ingredient.’

    So your noodles are safe, pals.

    But the lesson of the mysterious soy sauce cleanse or challenge is one we should all learn: Don’t trust diet advice from shady sources online, talk to a doctor before making any drastic changes to what you eat or drink, and remember that your body detoxes and cleanses all by itself.

    ‘The body is capable of detoxing and cleansing on a daily basis, so such extreme measures are not necessary,’ says Ali.

    ‘Following a balanced diet and avoiding refined processed foods, additives and excesses of sugars and alcohol will prevent the need for cleansing in such an extreme manner.

    ‘If a cleanse of some sort is needed then an experienced professional should guide it – not something you’ve found on the internet.’

    MORE: Is volcanic ash the key to clearer skin?

    MORE: It's not a good idea to use herbal yoni tea to detox your vagina

    MORE: Why is the world becoming more allergic to food?


    Why a 'soy sauce cleanse' is so dangerousWhy a 'soy sauce cleanse' is so dangerousellencscottWhy a 'soy sauce cleanse' is so dangerousWhy a 'soy sauce cleanse' is so dangerousellencscott

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    (Picture: Getty)

    Given that you’ve got about a week left until the last posting dates before Christmas, it’s time to get your cards written and sent.

    Other than giving people a rundown of your year, it’s a nice touch to send a message in the card to give people a reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

    It’s easier said than done remembering these, so we’ve got a whole selection to see you through to the New Year.

    Festive quotes

    Young mother decorating Christmas tree with her little boy,rear view,Christmas celebration concept

    1) Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values – Thomas S. Monson

    2) Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate the love of God and family and to create memories that will last forever. Jesus is God’s perfect, indescribable gift. The amazing thing is that not only are we able to receive this gift, but we are able to share it with others on Christmas and every other day of the year – Joel Osteen

    3) And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time – Jesus Christ

    4) Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection – Winston Churchill

    5) I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year – Charles Dickens

    6) Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas – Calvin Coolidge

    7) Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace – Pope Francis

    8) Christmas is the day that holds all time together – Alexander Smith

    9) Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart – Washington Irving

    Christmas poems

    Two children meeting Father Christmas at an English Heritage site
    (Picture: English Heritage)

    1) A Child’s Christmas In Wales by Dylan Thomas

    One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

    2) Christmas Eve by Anne Sexton

    Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
    I could not count the cost
    of all your faces, your moods-
    that present that I lost.
    Sweet girl, my deathbed,
    my jewel-fingered lady,
    your portrait flickered all night
    by the bulbs of the tree.

    3) A Christmas Ghost Story by Thomas Hardy

    South of the Line, inland from far Durban,
    A mouldering soldier lies–your countryman.
    Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,
    And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
    Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know
    By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
    Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
    Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?

    4) Christmas by John Clare 

    Christmas is come and every hearth
    Makes room to give him welcome now
    E’en want will dry its tears in mirth
    And crown him wi’ a holly bough
    Tho tramping ‘neath a winters sky
    O’er snow track paths and rhymey stiles
    The huswife sets her spining bye
    And bids him welcome wi’ her smiles
    Each house is swept the day before
    And windows stuck wi’ evergreens
    The snow is beesom’d from the door
    And comfort crowns the cottage scenes
    Gilt holly wi’ its thorny pricks
    And yew and box wi’ berrys small
    These deck the unus’d candlesticks
    And pictures hanging by the wall

    Messages, greetings and wishes to send this Christmas

    Family decorating the christmas tree

    1) A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm and we all go through it together. Lets buckle up and enjoy the ride.

    2) May this Christmas end the present year on a cheerful note and make way for a fresh and bright New Year. Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    3) You make the stars shine brighter and the winter days warmer just by being in my life. Merry Christmas to my favourite person in the world.

    4) May you feel all the love and joy I have for you throughout this festive season and all year round. Having you as my friend brings me great joy.

    5) Celebrate the Wonder and the Joy of the Festive Season. Merry Christmas

    6) To a joyful present and a well remembered past. Best wishes for Happy Holidays and a magnificent New Year.

    7) This festive season is so much more than Christmas parties and gift giving. May your Christmas be filled with the true miracles and meaning of this beautiful time

    MORE: What are the odds on a white Christmas for 2018?

    MORE: Christmas gifts for the guy or girl who already has everything


    Woman writing christmas cards.Woman writing christmas cards.jessicacvlTwo children meeting Father Christmas at an English Heritage siteWoman writing christmas cards.Woman writing christmas cards.jessicacvlTwo children meeting Father Christmas at an English Heritage site

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    Sadie lost a quarter of her starting weight (Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION)

    It’s the announcement we’ve waited all year for: which hardworking animal will win 2018’s Pet Slimmer of the Year award?

    This time around, there are two joint winners.

    The grand prize has gone to Borris, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and Sadie, a Labrador.

    Both dogs have lost a quarter of their starting body weight through diet, exercise, and determination.

    Borris started the year at 4st 6lb – four times as much as a healthy dog of his breed should weigh. He now weighs in at 3st 4lb.

    His owner Annmarie Formoy admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, and that his lovable nature meant even strangers would give him snacks.

    The hungry boy’s appetite has got him into some scrapes. He once raided a cupboard full of chocolate Easter eggs, and another time chewed up Annmarie’s dad’s false teeth.

    EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Borris, which initially weighed-in at a whopping 28kg (4st 6lb) - 85% over his ideal weight (12kg/2st 13lb). After losing 25% of his bodyweight he?s now a trimmer and healthier 20.9kg (3st 4lb) figure and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. Borris? owner Annmarie Formoy (46) admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, but said his loveable nature meant that even complete strangers would give him titbits. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
    Borris initially weighed in at 28kg (Picture: PA)

    His weight loss was supervised by Louisa Carey, head nurse at Margate PDSA Pet Clinic.

    ‘Borris’s weight loss has been amazing,’ said Annmarie. ‘In the past his belly used to be touching the ground and he would refuse to walk.

    ‘Now he loves his walks – even when it’s raining, which he used to hate.

    EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Borris, which initially weighed-in at a whopping 28kg (4st 6lb) - 85% over his ideal weight (12kg/2st 13lb). After losing 25% of his bodyweight he?s now a trimmer and healthier 20.9kg (3st 4lb) figure and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. Borris? owner Annmarie Formoy (46) admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, but said his loveable nature meant that even complete strangers would give him titbits. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
    He’s lost 25% of his starting weight (Picture: PA)

    ‘The best part was the first time that I saw Borris taking his first few running steps, it made me want to cry, I was so happy. He hadn’t run in years!

    ‘It has also helped show me just how bad his life must have been before with carrying around all that extra weight.’

    Labrador Sadie has a similar story. She started the year at 6st 9lb, but has now slimmed down to a trim 4st 13lb.

    She’d always had a massive appetite, and being given plenty of leftovers didn’t help with her size.

    EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). She?s lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. George Chaplin (75), from Grays, Basildon, said back in May that Sadie?s unrelenting appetite and lots for leftovers led to her sumo size. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
    Sadie started the year at 42.2kg (Picture: PA)

    With the help of Kerry Griffith from the PDSA Pet Hospital in Basildon, Sadie’s diet was gently adjusted as her exercise levels were upped.

    ‘She’s a totally different dog now and is so much happier,’ said Sadie’s owner, George Chaplin. ‘Before I would have to pull on her lead to get her on a walk but now she waits for me by the door, and she’s got so much more energy.

    ‘She loves playing with a ball and toys too, which she wasn’t interested in before.

    EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). She?s lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. George Chaplin (75), from Grays, Basildon, said back in May that Sadie?s unrelenting appetite and lots for leftovers led to her sumo size. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
    Sadie now weighs 31.5kg (Picture: PA)

    ‘We go on two walks a day with a group of dog walkers. At the beginning of her diet she would waddle at the back of the group but now she bounds ahead and that’s great to see.’

    Borris and Sadie each won the grand prize of a holiday to Sykes Cottages and a year’s free pet food.

    In joint third place were two cats; Chester and Pepsi Cola, who each lost 17% of their body weight.

    Well done to all the cats and dogs who’ve made healthy changes this year.

    PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan, who helped to judge the competition, said: ‘It has been hugely rewarding to see our Pet Fit Club pets’ weight decrease over the last six months thanks to their new diet and fitness regimes.

    ‘Their success is testament to the hard work of their owners and our PDSA veterinary teams across the UK.

    ‘Pet obesity is a growing issue that affects millions of UK pets. Around 40% of dogs and cats in the UK are estimated to be overweight or obese.’

    MORE: Chunky cat Doughnut finds loving home after landlord forces owner to give him away

    MORE: Thousands of fat pets are being fed to death by well-meaning owners


    EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). SheÕs lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018Õs PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATIONEMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). SheÕs lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018Õs PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATIONellencscottEMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Borris, which initially weighed-in at a whopping 28kg (4st 6lb) - 85% over his ideal weight (12kg/2st 13lb). After losing 25% of his bodyweight he?s now a trimmer and healthier 20.9kg (3st 4lb) figure and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. Borris? owner Annmarie Formoy (46) admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, but said his loveable nature meant that even complete strangers would give him titbits. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Borris, which initially weighed-in at a whopping 28kg (4st 6lb) - 85% over his ideal weight (12kg/2st 13lb). After losing 25% of his bodyweight he?s now a trimmer and healthier 20.9kg (3st 4lb) figure and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. Borris? owner Annmarie Formoy (46) admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, but said his loveable nature meant that even complete strangers would give him titbits. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). She?s lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. George Chaplin (75), from Grays, Basildon, said back in May that Sadie?s unrelenting appetite and lots for leftovers led to her sumo size. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). She?s lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. George Chaplin (75), from Grays, Basildon, said back in May that Sadie?s unrelenting appetite and lots for leftovers led to her sumo size. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). SheÕs lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018Õs PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATIONEMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). SheÕs lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018Õs PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATIONellencscottEMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Borris, which initially weighed-in at a whopping 28kg (4st 6lb) - 85% over his ideal weight (12kg/2st 13lb). After losing 25% of his bodyweight he?s now a trimmer and healthier 20.9kg (3st 4lb) figure and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. Borris? owner Annmarie Formoy (46) admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, but said his loveable nature meant that even complete strangers would give him titbits. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Borris, which initially weighed-in at a whopping 28kg (4st 6lb) - 85% over his ideal weight (12kg/2st 13lb). After losing 25% of his bodyweight he?s now a trimmer and healthier 20.9kg (3st 4lb) figure and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. Borris? owner Annmarie Formoy (46) admitted that the family had fed him too many treats in the past, but said his loveable nature meant that even complete strangers would give him titbits. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). She?s lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. George Chaplin (75), from Grays, Basildon, said back in May that Sadie?s unrelenting appetite and lots for leftovers led to her sumo size. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 Undated handout before and after photos issued by the PDSA of Labrador, Sadie, which weighed-in at a whopping 42.2kg (6st 9lb) - 41% over her ideal weight (30kg/4st 10lb). She?s lost a quarter of her bodyweight, 31.5kg (4st 13lb) and has been named as a joint pet slimmer of the year in 2018?s PDSA Pet Fit Club competition. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday December 13, 2018. George Chaplin (75), from Grays, Basildon, said back in May that Sadie?s unrelenting appetite and lots for leftovers led to her sumo size. See PA story ANIMALS FitClub. Photo credit should read: PDSA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

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    What it feels like to confront a traumatic memory if you have PTSD Picture: Ph?be Lou Morson Phebe
    (Picture: Phébe Lou Morson)

    There’s a common misconception that PTSD only affects war veterans.

    Post traumatic stress disorder can affect all types of people, as a result of all sorts of traumatic experiences.

    I have lived with PTSD for a year now, and am currently in therapy. My traumatic event happened nearly four years ago, with the PTSD only having been triggered in December 2017.

    What is PTSD?

    Post traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events.

    It often includes a person reliving the event through nightmares and flashbacks, or they may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.

    Insomnia is a common problem among people with PTSD.

    My PTSD was suppressed for years. Somehow I managed to block out all the pain that the event had caused.

    Four years ago I had been admitted to hospital after falling gravely ill, and after a week of misdiagnosis I heard my own bowel begin to explode, before I went down for major surgery to have my large intestine removed. I woke up with a stoma bag.

    This surgery, which was caused by inflammatory bowel disease, affects lots of people. But as mine was an emergency I had no time to prepare, and this affected me mentally.

    It’s important that we acknowledge that PTSD can come in many forms and can be triggered by all types of experiences.

    Megan, 26, from Northamptonshire, has lived with PTSD for around two and a half years, after being diagnosed when she was 24. Her PTSD developed a year after her abusive relationship ended.

    Ecoanxiety Electricity power save eco money anxiety disorder mental health body mind Ph?be Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk Phebe
    (Picture: Phébe Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk)

    Megan was in a mentally and physically abusive relationship for two years when her ex-partner eventually ended it – which Megan says was the ‘best thing’ he ever did for her.

    She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘My symptoms seemed to have gradually creeped up on me as I started experiencing repetitive nightmares, where I’d wake up dripping in sweat, trembling and in a panic.

    ‘They’d either be memories or scenarios that hadn’t happened but my dreams were somehow making them up each night. This resulted in suffering with insomnia – I was being woken up daily as well as feeling afraid to go to sleep.

    ‘Having no sleep meant that it was all affecting my mental health even more.

    ‘I started experiencing flashbacks of certain violent events, which were triggered by anything really – smells, objects, topics of conversation, the media.

    ‘It still happens to this day, as though I’m re-experiencing the trauma all over again.

    ‘It can often lead to a panic attack if I can’t calm myself down.’

    Megan says her PTSD has made her ’emotionally numb’ with other people, feeling nothing for others and becoming irritable easily.

    To this day, she avoids going anywhere her ex may be, because she is terrified of him.

    Sufferers of Body Integrity Identity Disorder Psychology therapy life body beauty mental health mind Ph?be Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk Phebe
    (Picture: Phébe Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk)

    Megan continued: ‘PTSD affects my daily life because I feel jumpy a lot and get triggered quite easily.

    ‘Something as simple as cooking with a knife can upset me. I have a different boyfriend now, however it took quite a long time for me to feel close to someone again and open up about anything because I was so emotionally numb.

    ‘It’s the same with friends, I’d only started getting closer to people again once I was diagnosed and learnt ways in which to cope.

    ‘I currently have a support worker that visits me once a week, she’s really helped me come to terms with things and given me new techniques in how to handle when I experience a flashback or nightmare, especially if they lead to a panic attack.’

    Megan says she didn’t know much about PTSD before she was diagnosed – and had this ‘stereotypical idea’ that it was a ‘horrific condition’ that only veterans suffered with.

    She said: ‘For a while I didn’t understand and I felt like a fraud because I didn’t feel like I was a brave person whereas they are.

    ‘I felt like I’d let this person mentally and physically hurt me therefore I was to blame.

    ‘I soon learnt that it wasn’t my fault, that I’m not weak and I am a brave person. It just took a lot of time, understanding and work.

    ‘I’m now very open about suffering with PTSD because I understand more, I know that I needed educating a little more.

    ‘Like any mental health condition, its debilitating and if someone feels like they can openly talk about it then they have every right to, as talking helps so much.’

    Sara, 26, lives in Paris. Back in 2015, she was trapped in a room and suffered an attempted rape. Two years later, she started suffering from symptoms of PTSD.

    She says leading up to it was like a ‘slow poison’.

    Sara said: ‘I went to the doctors in October 2017 and I was diagnosed with extreme depression and anxiety and put onto a course of Sertraline.

    ‘While the medication literally saved my life and allowed me to function, I regret that it wasn’t until the following summer when I was mugged in London that my symptoms went into overdrive and I came to terms with the fact that I had covertly been dealing with PTSD without ever receiving the support.

    ‘The doctors that treated me knew about my trauma but never steered me in the right direction. No one ever mentioned PTSD.

    ‘In my relationship, my now ex-boyfriend was very dismissive and lacked understanding or interest in my anxiety and difficulty in doing simple things like being able to get on the bus to go to uni.

    ‘Living in London with undiagnosed PTSD only two years after an attempted rape was hellish. I’m sad that the professionals involved never used their expertise.

    ‘I had no idea what was happening to me, I just thought I was either going insane or overreacting, so went into overdrive to try and cancel out the difficulties.’

    Sara feels PTSD is extremely stigmatised, and that many people suffer in silence.

    She added: ‘My PTSD came in all of the forms that no one writes about: immediately after my assault I can reflect on promiscuity after the rape attempt to cancel out the fear, complete ignorance and denial.

    (Picture: Phébe Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘It was only until a year later that I did go and see the doctor a few months ago who “medically confirmed” I was most likely suffering from PTSD, but because like all mental health the symptoms and experiences are so broad and varied, no one likes to carry such a brand, or indeed assume.’

    Sara says her PTSD left her fearful of leaving the house, and certain sounds, smells and figures in the street – especially tall people in the dark.

    She said: ‘I see PTSD as an explanation, but there is always a part of me that is very cruel and there is a voice that tells me I’m overreacting.

    ‘I think that is part and parcel of the PTSD experience, the doubting how I feel and what is real for me, because there is so little conversation about it.

    ‘PTSD instills a real hatred and disbelief of yourself.’

    Debra, 24, from Brazil, was diagnosed with PTSD last year after a psychotic episode due to bipolar disorder.

    She hallucinated a scene of sexual abuse.

    She then developed social phobia, which resulted in her quitting school four times until she eventually gave up and taught herself from home.

    She tells us: ‘The months that followed the event are actually non-existent holes in my mind, but from 2010 on physical sensations and visual re-experiencing happened often.

    ‘I stopped leaving the house and self-destructive behaviour worsened from that.

    ‘I have anorexia nervosa resulting from that as well. Nowadays, blaming myself, feeling guilt and shame and as if I have no “real reason” to have PTSD is constant.’

    People tell us what it?s like to work in mental health while suffering from a mental health issue (1,000 word) Picture: Ph?be Lou Morson Phebe
    (Picture: Phébe Lou Morson)

    Debra sees a therapist and has CBT. She also journals as a way of coping with her condition, which she feels helps her better process it.

    She says: ‘The event was resulting from a mixed bipolar episode, so medication is also important in preventing anything similar from happening again.

    ‘In all honesty, I didn’t think much of PTSD. I knew it wasn’t a “veterans only” thing, but I didn’t think about it much.

    ‘I thought I was overreacting or dreaming. I worried a lot more about other things – anorexia, bipolar. The diagnosis forced me to face the existence of the illness and learn.

    ‘Most of time, I feel as if I have no right to have PTSD, though. I have great difficulty accepting that I got it from something that wasn’t real.

    ‘Despite being constantly reminded that it was very real and painful to me and has affected my life for almost a decade, it still feels wrong and unfair to those who have faced “actual” traumatic events.’

    Debra says she still has a phobia of school, which means she can’t go to university. She also can’t leave the house on her own and has intense nightmares.

    ‘I constantly check my surroundings to make sure everything is physically real and I’m not hallucinating,’ she said.

    ‘If anything bad happens, it takes me a long time and much help to accept it as reality and not a repetition of what happened back then.’

    Rosalee, 24, is from the USA. She started therapy last September after suppressing a traumatic event for four years. She has had PTSD for six years, but was only officially diagnosed last winter.

    Rosalee was raped in her first year of college. Her symptoms of PTSD included alcoholism, night terrors, substance abuse, sleeping all day, avoiding going out in public, memory loss, being scared of the dark, dissociation, depression, panic attacks and agoraphobia.

    She says PTSD still affects her. She has constant night terrors and has developed a binge eating disorder.

    Rosalee said: ‘I didn’t know much about it and I did believe only war veterans were affected by this.

    woman lying down
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘I became more open about it when I finally told my family what was going on. I still forget sometimes that I have it and still forget this has happened to me.

    ‘It affects me on a daily basis with depression, anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks.

    ‘I almost always have a panic attack or chest pressure as I’m falling asleep.

    ‘I had a couple night terrors over the span of a couple weeks last month. I still need almost every light on at night in order to fall asleep.

    ‘I still have low self-esteem and feel disconnected from my body. I feel like my mind, body and soul will always feel numb.’

    If you think that you or a loved one could have PTSD, it’s important you see your GP or a psychologist for advice.

    Alternatively, if you are struggling and need somebody to talk to, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.

    Need support? Contact the Samaritans

    For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

    MORE: LGBTQ+ people make up a big part of our country’s homeless and can’t be ignored

    MORE: Woman’s illustrative book about periods is what every teenage girl needs


    Metro IllustrationsMetro IllustrationshattiegladwellmetroWhat it feels like to confront a traumatic memory if you have PTSD Picture: Ph?be Lou Morson PhebeEcoanxiety Electricity power save eco money anxiety disorder mental health body mind Ph?be Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk PhebeSufferers of Body Integrity Identity Disorder Psychology therapy life body beauty mental health mind Ph?be Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk PhebePeople tell us what it?s like to work in mental health while suffering from a mental health issue (1,000 word) Picture: Ph?be Lou Morson Phebewoman lying downMetro IllustrationsMetro IllustrationshattiegladwellmetroWhat it feels like to confront a traumatic memory if you have PTSD Picture: Ph?be Lou Morson PhebeEcoanxiety Electricity power save eco money anxiety disorder mental health body mind Ph?be Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk PhebeSufferers of Body Integrity Identity Disorder Psychology therapy life body beauty mental health mind Ph?be Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk PhebePeople tell us what it?s like to work in mental health while suffering from a mental health issue (1,000 word) Picture: Ph?be Lou Morson Phebewoman lying down

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    (Picture: SWNS)

    A mother who gave birth to a child with Down’s Syndrome has adopted five other kids with the condition.

    51-year-old Leah Spring took the five children into her family over the space of five years, and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her own biological daughter Angela, 22.

    The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but ‘always had a desire’ to have another baby.

    She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her friend adopted a child with special needs.

    Leah and her partner Dean Ellingson, 61, went on to become parents to Axel, 18, Abel, 15, Audrey, 14, Asher, 14 and Amos, 14, between 2010 and 2015.

    They are also legal guardians to Roman Garza, 15, who also lives with Down’s Syndrome and permanently moved in with the family in January.

    All the children bar one were adopted from Serbia, where Leah says they were ‘institutionalised’ and housed in poor living conditions.

    Collect of (from l-r) Roman,15, Axel,18, Abel,15, Audrey,14, Angela,22, Asher,14, and Amos,14..See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.
    (Picture: Leah Spring/SWNS.COM)

    Leah – who must adopt as a single mother because she and Dean are not married – adopted Amos, who was born in Ukraine, from another US state in 2015.

    All the children except Angela and Roman are non-verbal and some also have autism.

    Despite the obstacles, Leah, an ex-supply and armour specialist in the army, described raising them as ‘a joy’ and said she and Dean feel ‘blessed’ to be a part of their lives.

    Leah said: ‘Adoption isn’t about doing for yourself, it is about doing for someone else.

    ‘Adopting older, institutionalised kids is not something you should do because you want to do something that feels good.

    ‘You should do it because you see a need and you fill that need.

    ‘So that is what we did. We filled a need.

    ‘There are small rewards that come with that. Some of those present clearly, by making us laugh, smile, or feel pride in one of the kids’ accomplishments.

    Collect of (from l-r) Abel,15, Dean,61, Asher,14, Amos (f),14,Roman(b),15, Angela,22, Audrey,14, Axel,18, and Leah Spring,51.See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.
    (Picture: Leah Spring/SWNS.COM)

    ‘On the stressful days we may have to dig deep to find the rewards in the day.’

    Leah’s first experience of raising a child with special needs was when she gave birth to her daughter Angela with her second husband.

    She was born in 1996, and was delivered via emergency C-section following a difficult pregnancy.

    Leah, who is also mum to Noah Harazin, 31, and Tyler Harazin, 30, said: ‘When my husband came into the room I knew there was something wrong.

    ‘I asked him how she was and he said: “She’s doing great”. His parents were there and there were tears in their eyes.

    ‘That was when he told me that the doctors thought she had Down’s Syndrome.

    ‘When they brought her in she was tiny.

    ‘I looked at her tiny little palm, which had just one crease – a telltale sign – and I could see the image of an angel kissing her palm.

    ‘After Angela I had a hysterectomy because it was such a difficult pregnancy but I always felt a desire to have another child. I felt a little bit robbed.’

    Collect of Asher,14. He is one of five children with Down Syndrome adopted by Leah Spring,51, in five years.See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.
    (Picture: Leah Spring/SWNS.COM)

    Angela later separated from her husband and went on to meet Dean in 2003, who initially didn’t want children because he thought he was too old.

    But seven years later, in 2010, Leah was invited to Bulgaria by her friend, who was travelling to the Eastern European country to adopt a boy with special needs.

    There, she fell in love with a girl with Apert Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterised by the premature fusion of the skull.

    She and Dean, who has a son from a previous relationship, put plans in place to adopt the child, but they then learned she was legally unavailable.

    Leah, who writes a blog, Garden of Eagen, about her adoption journey, said: ‘It was devastating but it opened my eyes to the conditions these children are living in with little support.

    ‘We felt like we knew and understood Down Syndrome and could offer these children a home. We felt for them because they were very unlikely to be adopted.’

    The trip inspired Leah and Dean to expand their family, and in the five years that followed they adopted their five children.

    She said she has spent in excess of $60,000 adopting the children from Serbian institutions, $13,200 of which was raised through a GoFundMe campaign.

    Collect of Angela Spring,22, and Abel,15, at their weekly music session. Angela is Leah Spring's biological child while Abel is one of five children with Down Syndrome adopted by the Spring family over a five year period..See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.
    (Picture: Leah Spring/SWNS.COM)

    Although the parents say life can be busy, they have never felt overwhelmed by their growing family, despite their special needs.

    Leah said: ‘Life isn’t always easy.

    ‘Our life is all about routine.

    ‘Every morning it is my job to get everyone up and dressed and Dean’s job to get them out to the bus.

    ‘The biggest challenge is that they are attached and indiscriminate with their affections. They would go with everyone.

    ‘Audrey and Abel were so food deprived in the institutions that they are obsessed with food.

    ‘Audrey was only 28lbs when we brought her home and she was nine years old.’

    Leah says it has been amazing to watch her children grow, with Angela having graduated in May. She is also in a day training program, and works with a theatre organisation five days a week.

    She adds that it is very apparent that her daughter grew up in a ‘supportive and loving family’.

    Leah continued: ‘Axel is going to graduate high school in May which is such a big moment for him and we’re so proud.

    ‘He’s so caring and compassionate. He’s non-verbal and only has a handful of words but it’s amazing how far he’s come.

    ‘We’re watching developmental light bulbs turn on in our kids every day. They are such a joy.

    ‘Audrey has recently started communicating verbally. Just yesterday we were eating breakfast, when she brought her bowl to the kitchen and said: “More?”

    ‘That is a huge milestone.

    ‘When Asher first came home he had no communication and now he has recently started to non-verbally express himself.

    ‘Amos has recently started singing about Christmas, the Christmas tree, and that Santa is coming soon.

    ‘We feel very blessed.’

    MORE: Not to be a Grinch, but Christmas creates huge emotional labour for women

    MORE: What is the pegan diet?


    SPECIAL FAMILY - Kind-hearted couple adopt FIVE children with Down Syndrome after being inspired by their daughterSPECIAL FAMILY - Kind-hearted couple adopt FIVE children with Down Syndrome after being inspired by their daughterhattiegladwellmetroCollect of (from l-r) Roman,15, Axel,18, Abel,15, Audrey,14, Angela,22, Asher,14, and Amos,14..See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but SPECIAL FAMILY - Kind-hearted couple adopt FIVE children with Down Syndrome after being inspired by their daughterSPECIAL FAMILY - Kind-hearted couple adopt FIVE children with Down Syndrome after being inspired by their daughterhattiegladwellmetroCollect of (from l-r) Roman,15, Axel,18, Abel,15, Audrey,14, Angela,22, Asher,14, and Amos,14..See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.Collect of (from l-r) Abel,15, Dean,61, Asher,14, Amos (f),14,Roman(b),15, Angela,22, Audrey,14, Axel,18, and Leah Spring,51.See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.Collect of Asher,14. He is one of five children with Down Syndrome adopted by Leah Spring,51, in five years.See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.Collect of Angela Spring,22, and Abel,15, at their weekly music session. Angela is Leah Spring's biological child while Abel is one of five children with Down Syndrome adopted by the Spring family over a five year period..See SWNS story SWNYfamily.A kind-hearted mother who gave birth to a child with Down's Syndrome went on to adopt five other children with the condition.Inspirational Leah Spring, 51, took five youngsters into her family in five years and felt perfectly placed to care for them after raising her daughter Angela Spring, 22. The US Army veteran had a hysterectomy after giving birth to Angela, her third biological child, but "always had a desire" to have another baby. She was inspired to adopt after accompanying a friend on a trip to Serbia and Bulgaria in 2010, during which her pal adopted a child with special needs.

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    (Picture: H&M)

    Just yesterday we wrote about H&M’s new hooded skirt, which has confused the hell out of the internet.

    And, following in its footsteps is the high street shop’s new padded skirt, which looks like a skirt made out of a puffer jacket.

    The mini skirt is yellow and features a padded design, silver popper buttons and pockets.

    H&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jacket Credit: H&M
    (Picture: H&M)

    The product description reads: ‘Short, padded skirt in woven fabric with a zip and wind flap with large press-studs down the front. Patch front pockets with a large press-stud, and an elasticated drawstring at the hem. Jacquard-weave lining.’

    For what it is, the skirt is super expensive at £69.99, but two people who have bought it so far have left positive reviews, calling it a ‘stunning skirt’.

    However, apparently the sizing isn’t too great – but this isn’t a rare issue.

    We once went into H&M to try on various pairs of H&M jeans after a blogger took to Twitter to voice their disappointment over H&M’s sizes, and found that a size 12 person could also fit into sizes 14, 16 and 20 in store.

    One review says: ‘Stunning skirt. I absolutely loved it! But size 8 was more like a 10/12. Gutted to have had to return.’

    MORE: The ultimate gift guide for fitness lovers

    MORE: Christmas gifts for the guy or girl who already has everything


    H&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jacketH&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jackethattiegladwellmetroH&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jacket Credit: H&MH&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jacketH&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jackethattiegladwellmetroH&M padded skirt looks like a cut up puffa jacket Credit: H&M

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    (Picture: Chidera Eggerue)

    How did you wake up this morning?

    Are you the type that wakes up at the crack of dawn to have a smoothie and do a morning run?

    Or are you more like most of us, blearily hitting the snooze button a little more than you should.

    We’re nosy about other people’s morning routines – and not just the super glam ones we read about in magazines.

    That’s why our series, Morning Face, takes you inside a real person’s real life morning routine, to take an honest look at how people get ready for the day.

    We’ve previously spent the morning with YouTuber Estée Lalonde, disability blogger Sarah Alexander, and DJ Yinka Bokinni.

    This week we’re with Chidera Eggerue – who you might know better as The Slumflower – to check out her morning routine.

    Chidera is an author, a body positive advocate, the creator of #saggyboobsmatter, and is currently one of the faces of Dove’s new ‘No Digital Distortion’ mark campaign.

    Here’s how she wakes up.

    Morning Chidera! What time are you up?

    11am earliest.

    Chidera when she wakes up – no wig, no makeup, no moisturiser (Picture: Chidera Eggerue)

    How much sleep have you had?

    Six hours. I’m terrible at sleeping.

    Are you up on the first alarm?

    Never. I need at least 3 supporting alarms straight after the first alarm goes off!

    I’m definitely a snoozer who spends an hour just scrolling on my phone until I’m leaving the house in a panicked rush. I know I’m silly. Drag me!

    Okay, so you wake up and open your eyes. What’s first?

    I lament at the fact I have to spend yet another day participating in capitalism in order to remain alive.

    We feel you. How do you get ready to face the day?

    I always spray my face first with my Bodyshop Mandarin energising face mist because I tend to wake up very dry-faced, then I go straight in with my Disciple 1% CBD Miracle Drops which is made of hemp oil and 1% cannabidiol.

    If I’m going to wear makeup, I give myself an hour and a half. If I’m not wearing makeup, half an hour.

    Chidera in an uber, ready to go out (Picture: Chidera Eggerue)

    What are you listening to?

    I always have a Spotify discover weekly playlist rotating in the background.

    And how are you feeling?

    I hate being alive in the morning – in fact, if you arrange a meeting before 11am I assume you hate me. I despise mornings. It makes me feel attacked.

    I’d like to start a petition to erase morning meetings. Who’s with me?

    What’s the first thing you eat or drink?

    Water. And something fluffy and sugary – waffles are my favourite thing to eat.

    What do you do to make sure you have a good morning?

    Don’t engage in any conversations that could become an argument. If you aren’t a morning person, it’s best to avoid conversations that could end in a severed relationships. Honestly, it sounds dramatic but it’s THAT DEEP!

    Dove is launching the ‘No Digital Distortion Mark’ to show 100% real women and 100% real beauty. By January 2, 2019, the mark will be incorporated into all static imagery showcasing women, across print, outdoor, in-store, digital and social and will represent that the image is not distorted.

    MORE: Morning Face: Presenter and DJ Yinka Bokinni shares her morning routine

    MORE: Morning Face: Estée Lalonde shares her real morning routine

    MORE: Morning Face: Disability and lifestyle blogger Sarah Alexander shares her morning routine


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    If you were to chance upon my Instagram page, or one of my other social media accounts, you’d see a barrage of selfies, cats, friends, nights out.

    You might think that I’m like any other girl, and in many respects, I am – but I’d ask you to delve just a little bit deeper. You see, I’m actually registered blind.

    Now, I’m not saying I try and hide this fact, on the contrary, I’m very open about it. It’s just you wouldn’t necessarily notice by looking at me. I have what I guess is termed a ‘hidden disability’.

    Let me tell you a little more. At the age of 17, I was diagnosed with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). I like to think it sounds quite impressive.

    Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.
    ‘I decided to make my white can my own. It now has a pink handle and Swarovski crystals.’ (Picture: Alexander Crawley/Metro.couk)

    If I have to live with a degenerative eye condition, then I may as well have one that sounds cool! Reality, unfortunately, is rather more sinister.

    RP is a degenerative condition that leads to loss of vision and blindness, manifesting itself in a progressive reduction in peripheral vision and night blindness. It’s currently unpredictable and untreatable. A ticking time bomb, if you will.

    By October 2013, my sight had deteriorated to such an extent that my consultant at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital asked if I would like to be registered severely sight impaired (blind).

    Wait? What? Me? Blind? Despite living with this condition for the previous 15 years, I’d tried to live my life to the fullest, almost in a state of disillusionment.

    I’d left school with three good A Levels, completed an undergraduate degree in music and a postgraduate certificate of education in secondary music.

    Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.
    Lizzie studied music at university and performs regularly (Picture: Alexander Crawley/Metro.couk)

    I’d travelled the world singing. I spent my evenings and weekends laughing with friends and I was loving life.

    I had tried to block out the little trips and falls, and the required apologies to unsuspecting members of the public who would inevitably think I’d either had a few too many or that I was just plain clumsy.

    There’s nothing to say that you have to be registered, but at that moment, immersed in a state of disillusionment, I promptly agreed.

    That afternoon, sheltering from the rain before the long walk home from the supermarket, the bombshell dropped. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried almost solidly for three days and it took me a good few years to come to terms with being blind.

    How would I explain to those that knew me why I was now using a long cane? How would I deal with the looks and stares as I maneuvered my way around the tube, but then could easily read my phone?

    Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.
    ‘If you’re curious to know how I see, I’d ask you to put your hands together to form a small rectangle and then look through.’ (Picture: Alexander Crawley/Metro.couk)

    Initially, the answer came from a visually impaired friend who said, ‘You just tell people that now you have poorly eyes and have to use a long cane.’ Simple!

    The thing is, there is a rather common misconception that if you are registered blind and/or use mobility aid, you do not have any vision. Actually, there is only a very small percentage of people registered as blind that have no vision at all.

    Many people can at least see light and dark, or shapes and shadows. I do need a long cane when I’m out and about for my own safety and to warn others that I am visually impaired, but I can quite happily look at my phone, do my make-up etc.

    As an aside, because I struggled with coming to terms with using my long cane, I decided to ‘make it my own’. It now has a pink handle and Swarovski crystals! People who know me won’t be surprised.

    I’m also now on the waiting list for a Guide Dog and couldn’t be more excited!

    Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.
    ‘Being blind is part of my life, but it will never define me.’ (Picture: Alexander Crawley/Metro.couk)

    If you’re curious to know how I see, I’d ask you to put your hands together to form a small rectangle and then look through. I can see what’s in the center, but nothing around the edges.

    I count myself lucky that I still have healthy, usable central vision. At night and in dim lights, it’s almost like having a black veil over my eyes. It certainly adds challenges to my life, but aren’t challenges just there to be overcome?

    I continue to live and love my life. I lead singing and music workshops in schools, and travel to and from those schools on the tube, swishing my cane authoritatively.

    If I get curious looks or a sly comment, I try to educate people. In fact, I now run an annual sight loss awareness day at one of my schools in Westminster and regularly raise money for Royal National Institute of Blind people who are an invaluable source of help and support for those affected by sight loss, and who have really helped me along my own journey.

    I still spend evenings and weekends in the company of friends or travelling to and from singing gigs. I have appeared as a judge on BBC1’s All Together Now, and my life is fabulous!

    Being blind is part of my life, but it will never define me.

    Labels

    Labels is an exclusive series that hears from individuals who have been labelled – whether that be by society, a job title, or a diagnosis. Throughout the project, writers will share how having these words ascribed to them shaped their identity  positively or negatively  and what the label means to them.

    If you would like to get involved please email jess.austin@metro.co.uk

    MORE: My Label and Me: Junior doctor

    MORE: My Label and Me: Alcoholic

    MORE: My Label and Me: Scarred


    LABELS BLOGLABELS BLOGjessrubyaustinLizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what LABELS BLOGLABELS BLOGjessrubyaustinLizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.Lizzie Capener - Breaking the stereotype of what "blind" is. Lizzie has good central vision and can perform tasks as any normal person would but is still labelled blind and lives with a degenerative condition.

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    Just another couple of weeks to go until we can all just beach ourselves on our sofas, mid-food-coma.

    But before that, there’s plenty of things going on in the plant-based world.

    Missing the taste of ultra-expensive, ultra-fine beef? No problem – apparently a cruelty-free version is just on the horizon. Want to get some cool vegan celeb inspo? We’ve got you sorted.

    From plant-based Wagyu to the ever-suave Lewis Hamilton here’s what a week in vegan news looked like:

    Japanese vegan Wagyu beef is coming

    (justforall.com)

    Wagyu beef is, by all accounts, totally delicious. But it’s also a cruel product which involves overfeeding cows and massaging their stuffed bellies so that the meat ends up with fatty streaks running through it.

    So very not vegan – until now.

    JUST, the company which makes liquid vegan egg from mung beans, is developing clean Wagyu beef – using cell lines to create a sustainable and cruelty-free protein.

    ‘For decades, the Toriyama family has paired science and skill with a passion for achieving a superior flavour for all the meat they produce.

    ‘Precious few have had the chance to experience umami Wagyu and we hope this partnership allows more restaurants to share Toriyama beef and its story in a new, exciting way,’ said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of JUST, in a statement.

    It’s not the first example of ‘clean meat’ being made; vegan fois gras has been in development for some time. But if it does come to market, it’ll be the first properly fleshy meat…that doesn’t involve the killing of animals. Winner.

    The FDA releases monkeys from its labs for the first time

    (Picture: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

    26 little squirrel monkeys were rescued this week from a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nicotine testing lab in the states.

    The monkeys were used in an FDA study investigating the role of various levels of nicotine in the onset of addiction in young adults. After learning about the study, advocacy group The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) went about petitioning for their release, alongside world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.

    And they won!

    So now these monkeys will see out their days in the luxury of a nice sanctuary, far from horrible humans.

    Last year, nearly 76,000 primates were used in experiments at US animal research facilities, and more than 34,000 were held captive in facilities but not used for experimentation, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

    Corona is switching to vegan plastic-free beer can rings

    Instagram Photo

    We know that the plastic beer can rings are a real menace to nature. Turtles get their necks stuck in them while birds try to eat them.

    Which is why Corona has decided to trial fully plastic-free six-pack can rings.

    Made from compostable materials, the rings will break down into organic material once finished with. The rings are going to come to the UK next year after first being trialled in Mexico.

    The brand said in a statement: ‘although most plastic rings are recyclable, the reality is that the majority of all plastic ever created hasn’t been recycled, which is the motivation for brands like Corona to pursue solutions that avoid the material entirely’.

    According to Corona, half of all plastic was produced in the last 13 years alone, and production continues to grow, ‘right when it should be scaling down. Paradise needs our protection.’

    Vegan recipes were one of the most Googled food searches of 2018

    Loads of vegetarians and vegans are accidentally eating meat
    (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    For the first time ever, vegan recipes made their first appearance in Irish Google’s top trending food search list this year.

    Along with Meghan Markle and the world cup, the Irish spent 2018 Googling how to make their dishes more plant-heavy.

    Last month, vegan Thanksgiving was one of the top Google searches in the states – twice as popular as keto.

    And with one in five households planning to host a veggie or vegan at Christmas this year, we reckon ‘vegan Christmas recipes’ is probably going to be one of the most Googled phrases over the next couple of weeks.

    Lewis Hamilton just asked his 9 million followers to go vegan

    Instagram Photo

    Since the formula 1 driver went vegan last year, he’s been pretty vocal about animal rights.

    And this week, he took to Instagram to encourage his hoards of followers to join him in the vegan lifestyle, sharing a distressing picture of a dead sow and her babies.

    Using the hashtag #GoVegan, he wrote: ‘We all have a voice’.

    ‘I have this platform and so to not use it correctly would be wrong me. Nobody is perfect, I certainly am not but this is actually happening every day to so many animals worldwide.

    ‘This is why I have decided to go to a vegan plant-based diet, been over a year now. Yes, it’s hard, [nothing is] ever easy but I’ve felt the best I’ve ever felt for the past year.’

    Clearly going vegan hasn’t affected his performance, as Hamilton is the 2018 champion, winning Grand Prix after Grand Prix.

    MORE: What is the pegan diet?

    MORE: Morrisons launches veggies in vests as a vegan alternative to pigs in blankets


    Wagyu-a51aWagyu-a51amkylLoads of vegetarians and vegans are accidentally eating meatWagyu-a51aWagyu-a51amkylLoads of vegetarians and vegans are accidentally eating meat

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    Not taking on everyone else?s problems all the time doesn?t make you a bad friend (Beth Smith) Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk
    ‘If you go in too strong, you risk them not confiding in you in the future.’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Welcome to Lean On Me – a weekly agony aunt style column from Metro.co.uk where Kate Leaver answers your friendship woes.

    Dear Kate,

    One of my best friends is going out with – and living with – a guy who is just not right for her.

    They argue often, have been unfaithful to each other on varying levels and seem to have problems communicating how they’re feeling about the relationship.

    How can you best advise a close friend with her relationship if you don’t believe that her partner is right for them?

    If you go in too strong and tell them you think they’re terrible for each other, you risk them not confiding in you in the future.

    But if you aren’t honest with your thoughts then it’s easy to feel like you’re standing idly by while someone you care about so much is being hurt and, worse, wasting their time.

    How can I deal with this?

    Rose, 28

    ‘You do not want to put your mate in a position where she feels alone in the world.’ (Picture: Mmuffin for Metro.co.uk)

    Ooph, Rose. Thank you so much for bringing me this delicate dilemma.

    I think you’ve actually said aloud the secret fears a lot of women hug to themselves about beloved friends and their idiot boyfriends.

    You’ve aptly identified the crucial concern here, too: If you say something, you risk losing your position as your friend’s confidant.

    That’s the last thing you want to do, when you’re worried your friend is embroiled in the wrong relationship.

    Especially if you suspect it’s an abusive relationship of some sort, because a classic tactic for coercive men is to isolate their victims from their friends.

    So you do not want to put your mate in a position where she feels alone in the world except for this man she’s inexplicably clinging to.

    On the other hand, you don’t want to be a passive witness to a friend’s anguish.

    Believe me, I know this particular impasse well; I’ve been in your position several times in my 31 years and I anticipate being there again.

    It’s a peculiar torture, trying to stay silent when all you want is to whisper (or yell) ‘Babe! Get him out of your life! You’re an angel and he’s trash!’

    My advice is this: give a slightly censored version of the pep talk you’re dying to give your friend.

    Don’t go all out with your most honest criticisms of the man your mate is shacked up with because you may just put her offside and send her home, directly into his stupid, big, man arms.

    In my experience, the smashing women who stay with rubbish blokes have often misinterpreted love altogether.

    Maybe write down everything you wish you could say, uncensored, if you need an outlet.

    Then work on a revised speech that casts you as the concerned but approachable buddy with a very simple and sensible agenda: to remind your friend of her own worth.

    The thing is, in my experience, the smashing women who stay with rubbish blokes have often misinterpreted love altogether.

    They think love is about pain and suffering, they think fighting is just a sign of their passion, they think infidelity makes them interesting or sexy or edgy.

    That’s not the kind of love we wish upon our friends. I wish upon mine – and yours – the type of love that makes them feel supported and seen and heard and cherished.

    A gentle love, a patient love, a true and sweet love. Your friend deserves that kind of love, but she may not even truly believe it exists.

    Worse, she may think she doesn’t deserve it. Your job, for now, is to try and make her see that she is worthy of kind, compassionate, faithful love.

    If she wants it, she deserves monogamy and she deserves to be with someone who can communicate with her properly.

    Stage the gentlest of interventions by saying something a little like what you’ve just said to me.

    Tell her that you’re worried about her – tell her that you’re worried she’ll break up with this guy, turn to you and say ‘why didn’t you tell me I was wasting my time with such a turd burger?’

    Tell her that you’re even more worried she’ll marry him and spend the rest of her life fighting, cheating and wondering what could have been, if only someone had warned her that love doesn’t have to be this way.

    Tell her that you love her and all you want in this world is for her to be happy and safe. Tell her that she’s a beauteous angel, a heavenly goddess, an unrivalled queen.

    Focus on how wonderful she is, rather than on how dreadful he is. You will get nowhere with this woman if you dive straight in with ‘Kevin is a sniveling little troll…’

    Tell her you’ll never forgive yourself if you stay silent on this and let the woman you adore stay in a relationship you just don’t think is right.

    Tell her what she needs to know: that she doesn’t have to stay with this guy.

    Offer her the chance to confess that she’s not happy in this relationship and make sure she knows that you’ll be right there on the sofa next to her, with a big old tub of Ben and Jerry’s, if and when she needs to end it.

    You have to say something, lovely Rose. You won’t forgive yourself if you don’t – and, weeks or months or years from now, she might not, either.

    Friendship is about joy and cuddles and brunch but it’s also about being real with one another, even when it hurts.

    She’s not going to be overjoyed to hear that you don’t approve of her boyfriend, but she may well realise (maybe not straight away) that you’re right.

    Give her the chance to see herself the way you see her: as a glorious human being who deserves proper, loving love.

    About Lean On Me

    Kate Leaver is the author of The Friendship Cure and she will be answering your friendship woes in her weekly Metro.co.uk column.

    If you’d like to submit a question or problem, email LeanOnMe@metro.co.uk with ‘Lean on me’ in the subject line.

    Submissions are anonymous and you can follow the discussion on Twitter #LeanOnMe.

    MORE: Lean On Me: How can I stop my friends bitching about each other?

    MORE: Lean On Me: Can a friendship between a man and woman ever be purely platonic?

    MORE: Introducing ‘Lean On Me’: Female friendships are transformative, beautiful and life-saving and must be nurtured


    Why we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helpWhy we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helpkateleaverNot taking on everyone else?s problems all the time doesn?t make you a bad friend (Beth Smith) Ella Byworth for Metro.co.ukWhy we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helpWhy we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helpkateleaverNot taking on everyone else?s problems all the time doesn?t make you a bad friend (Beth Smith) Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk

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    (Picture: Getty)

    You’ve probably heard something about the benefits of skipping.

    Boxing world champions swear by it – so we know it’s got to be good for you. But have any of us actually picked up a skipping rope since year six?

    That might be about to change.

    2019 could be the year of the skipping rope – with fitness experts predicting a resurgence of the childhood classic.

    And the results could be amazing. Once you nail the technique, skipping can provide a full-body workout, pushing your aerobic endurance and toning your body all at the same time.

    All you need is a rope, some space and a reasonable amount of hand-eye coordination. Sign us up.

    Co-founder Darren Barker won Commonwealth Games gold in 2002. Not for skipping. (Picture: 12×3/Metro.co.uk)

    But if you have no idea what you’re doing with a skipping rope, or don’t fancy the idea of rocking up to your local park and making an idiot of yourself – group classes could be the way forward.

    Hone your skills in the relative privacy of a dimly-lit gym, where there’s fewer people to see you whip yourself in the face with the skipping rope. Because that will happen.

    London boxing gym, 12×3, is set to become one of the first places to offer skipping HIIT classes – high intensity interval training based almost entirely on the art of skipping.

    We tried it out and, while the structure of the class is still a little rough around the edges, the basic principles are sound. It’s challenging enough, and fun enough to act as a valid alternative to your fave spin class.

    Founded by former world champion boxer, Darren Barker, and gold medal winner Ryan Pickard, 12×3 offers a simple concept in a high-end setting. Participants work for 12 rounds of three-minute intervals – emulating an actual boxing match.

    And that is tough. Three-minutes of solid work is exhausting – and 12 rounds of it will finish you off. It’s not for the faint-hearted. But nailing this grueling session regularly will make rapid improvements to your aerobic endurance levels.

    The class incorporates strength and resistance moves alongside all the skipping (Picture: 12X3)

    Why skipping? It’s the foundation on which human machines like Anthony Joshua are built – but what, exactly, makes it so effective?

    First of all, it’s an easy, accessible way to build cardio – without leaving the gym. When you’re skipping, your heart rate is consistently elevated, and if you vary your speed and intensity over intervals, the effect on your cardiovascular system is even better.

    The stats speak for themselves. Skippers can burn 1200 calories in a 60-minute session, which is almost double that of a spin class. And ten minutes of skipping has the same health benefits as 45 minutes of running.

    What are the benefits of skipping?

    • Helps to improve muscle tone
    • Improves footwork, balance, coordination, and agility
    • Engages and improves the hip-flexor muscles
    • It’s thought to help improve bone density
    • It’s accessible and super cheap

    It’s an undeniably efficient way to get fit.

    But it’s not just about cardio – skipping is also an incredible toning tool – and will help to build and define your muscles. The constant jumping takes effect on your thigh and bum muscles, but it’s also working your abs, arms and shoulders.

    It’s also really functional. Running is great, but travelling in a straight line has it’s limitations – the human body is designed for more than simply linear movement.

    Skipping gets you moving up and down, backwards and forwards, side to side. It forces your brain to engage with the movements, so there’s a cognitive element as well.

    It’s also great for improving footwork, agility and hand-eye coordination. So we can see why it works so well for boxers.

    It was hard. I have the sweat patches to prove it. (Picture: 12×3)

    ‘Skipping is always part of a boxers training programme,’ explains co-founder Ryan Pickford.

    ‘It improves timing, coordination and agility whilst toning upper and lower body muscles and burning fat.

    ‘We’ve designed the class so all abilities and anyone looking to improve their skill level can take part. The more skillful they get, the harder they’ll be able to push.’

    Top tips for skipping

    Wear a good sports bra
    For obvious reasons. There is lots of jumping. You will need extra support.

    Wear decent sports trainers
    Similar reasons – jumping is high-impact so you need good support in your shoes to counter the shock through your ankles and knees.

    Consult your physio
    If you have dodgy knees, ankles or a bad back, make sure you speak to your doctor or physio before trying skipping.

    Don’t give up
    It can be really frustrating if you keep messing it up – but be patient, keep practicing and it will click!

    Improving your skill level is the key thing – it’s hard to get a great workout when your stand on the rope every five seconds and have to start over.

    But there is a certain muscle memory when it comes to skipping. Something, long-forgotten, in the back of your brain just remembers what to do when you feel a skipping rope in your hands – so it won’t take long before you feel like a natural again.

    Darren Barker added, ‘skipping is one of the best cardio and HIIT workouts you can do.

    ‘The skipping session we do at 12×3 is tough but fun and delivers results that can be achieved by anyone that sets their mind to it. Boxers are among the fittest athletes on the planet, and skipping is an integral part of a their training.’

    Warming down is an important part of the process (Picture: 12×3)

    That all sounds great. We want in.

    The best thing is that it’s utterly accessible. Get your hands on a rope and you’re good to go.

    You don’t even need to do it as part of a class, just hone your skills in the garden. Make sure you vary your sessions by alternating speeds and mixing up the direction of travel.

    But if you do fancy the idea of a class, 12×3’s sessions will be added to the timetable from January 2019 in their Paddington and Aldgate clubs.

    MORE: The ultimate gift guide for fitness lovers

    MORE: This 29-year-old with stage four lung cancer says fitness has transformed her life

    MORE: This is why it’s so important to wear the right shoes for running


    Young woman training with skipping rope in rural parkYoung woman training with skipping rope in rural parknataliemorris88Young woman training with skipping rope in rural parkYoung woman training with skipping rope in rural parknataliemorris88

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    Scrooging dating trend picture: Getty/ metro.co.uk
    (Picture: Getty/ metro.co.uk)

    Oh what fun it is to assign catchy terms to awful behaviour.

    We’re stashing through the snow, on a no-horse submarine, bumping into a firedoor, crying all the way.

    Now there’s a fun term for a festive type of dating shittery: Scroogeing.

    Coined by eharmony, to be scrooged is to be unceremoniously dumped right before Christmas, so the scrooger doesn’t have to buy the scroogee a gift.

    Ugh.

    Eharmony reports that one in ten British people have scrooged someone they were dating, and that those aged 18 to 24 are the worst offenders.

    Scroogeing tends to happen for one of two reasons: Either the scrooger has overspent and simply can’t afford to buy a gift, or they’re struggling to think of what to buy their date.

    In the latter case, it sort of makes sense to break up – if it’s that hard to come up with something the person you’re dating would like, you clearly don’t know them very well.

    Eharmony’s research found that men are more likely to scrooge a partner than women, and that typically a scrooger will do a slow fade as Christmas nears, before breaking up in advance of 25 December.

    If you are going to scrooge someone, we have some recommendations.

    How to talk to a woman you don't know
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    First off, make sure you’re certain that you want to break up, and not just because of the stress of Christmas shopping. Don’t you dare break up over the festive period only to get back together in January… especially as you’ll have to repeat the process come Valentine’s Day.

    The earlier the breakup, the better. It’s cruel to dump someone on Christmas Day itself, and ideally you want to end the relationship before they’ve spent money on a present for you.

    Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony, said: ‘We know that relationships can often become less of a priority in the run up to Christmas.

    ‘It’s also a time when dating significantly slows down. In fact, a quarter (24%) of Brits agree that it’s a time to prioritise family and friends above romance.

    ‘However, it seems particularly miserly to end a relationship simply to avoid buying your partner a present and indicates that you weren’t ready for a romantic commitment in the first place.

    ‘There’s no excuse for this type of behaviour. There are a huge number of purse-friendly presents on offer, which some of these ‘Scrooges’ might consider before pulling the plug.

    ‘Often people in relationships get anxious about what to buy their partner, particularly if they’re not given any clues.

    ‘If this is the case speak to your partner’s best friend or close relatives and get some advice. Often the most treasured presents have sentimental value such as creating a beautiful photobook of moments you’ve spent together.

    ‘If you’ve been Scrooged this Christmas, take heart. That person was never right for you in the first place and you’re one step nearer to finding someone who is.’

    MORE: Christmas gifts for the guy or girl who already has everything

    MORE: Why do men lie about their age on dating apps?

    MORE: Why do women lie about their age on dating apps?


    XMAS_SCROOGE-aeeaXMAS_SCROOGE-aeeaellencscottHow to talk to a woman you don't knowXMAS_SCROOGE-aeeaXMAS_SCROOGE-aeeaellencscottHow to talk to a woman you don't know

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    Why we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to help (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk) Metro Illustration Illustrations
    (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk)

    A woman who lost her baby 30 weeks into her pregnancy has posted a heartbreaking letter appealing to tech companies to recognise when someone has been through a tragedy and tailor their advertising.

    Gillian Brockell and her partner Bobby lost their baby boy Sohan Singh Gulshan after he stopped growing in her womb and died in the last week in November.

    A few weeks after he was stillborn, Gillian posted this open letter on Twitter, highlighting the difficulties of targeted advertising when you are grieving.

    The letter begins: ‘Dear Tech Companies:

    ‘I know you knew I was pregnant. It’s my fault, I just couldn’t resist those Instagram hashtags – #30weekspregnant, #babybump. And, stupid me!, I even clicked once or twice on the maternity-wear ads Facebook served up.

    ‘You surely saw my heartfelt thank-you post to all the girl friends who came to my baby shower, and the sister-in-law who flew in from Arizona for said shower tagging me in her photos. You probably saw me googling “holiday dress maternity plaid” and “babysafe crib paint.” And I bet Amazon even told you my due date, January 24th, when I created an Amazon registry.’

    Gillian then describes how her internet activity changed when she realised there was something wrong.

    She adds: ‘But didn’t you also see me googling “is this braxton hicks?” and “baby not moving”? Did you not see the three days of silence, uncommon for a high-frequency user like me? And then the announcement with keywords like “heartbroken” and “problem” and “stillborn” and the two-hundred teardrop emoticons from my friends? Is that not something you could track?

    ‘You see, there are 26,000 stillbirths in the U.S. every year, and millions more among your worldwide users; and let me tell you what social media is like when you finally come home from the hospital with the emptiest arms in the world, after you’ve spent days sobbing in bed, and pick up your phone for a couple of minutes of distraction before the next wail. It’s exactly, crushingly, the same as it was when your baby was still alive. Pea in the Pod. Motherhood Maternity. Latched Mama. Every goddam Etsy tchotchke I was planning for the nursery.

    ‘And when we millions of brokenhearted people helpfully click “I don’t want to see this ad,” and even answer your “why?” with the cruel-but-true “It’s not relevant to me,” do you know what your algorithm decides, Tech Companies? It decides you’ve given birth, assumes a happy result, and deluges you with ads for the best nursing bras [I have cabbage leaves on my breasts because that is the best medical science has to offer to turn your milk off], and the best strollers to grow with your baby [mine will forever be 4 pounds, 1 ounce].

    ‘And then, after all that, Experian swoops in with the lowest tracking blow of them all: a spam email encouraging me to “finish registering your baby” (I never “started” but sure) to track his credit throughout the life he will never lead.’

    She ends the letter with an appeal to social media and technology companies to incorporate these things into their algorithms to stop those who lose a baby having to be reminded of the things they were going to buy.

    She said: ‘Please, Tech Companies, I implore you: If you’re smart enough to realise that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth, then surely you’re smart enough to realise that my baby died, and can advertise to me accordingly, or maybe just maybe, not at all’

    After posting her response, Gillian received a reply from Facebook Vice President for Advertising Rob Goldman who advised that there is a setting available to block advertisements for topics that users might find upsetting.

    Although Gillian said that she has now found that setting, she added that it is not an easy process. She replied: ‘Thank you for responding. Since I posted this, someone showed me where in my settings to turn off pregnancy/parenting ads. I tried to find it a few days ago, but it’s too confusing when you’re grieving. That’s why I was suggesting a keyword like “stillborn” triggering an ad break.’

    And later she posted a screengrab of an advertisement for adoption grants, which she says appeared after she turned on the filters.

    Responding to the letter, a spokesperson for Twitter said: ‘We cannot imagine the pain of those who have experienced this type of loss. We are continuously working on improving our advertising products to ensure they serve appropriate content to the people who use our services.’

    A spokesperson for Experian added: ‘We have reached out to Gillian Brockell and have expressed our deepest condolences, as well as our apologies for the unfortunate email.

    ‘The communication was delivered because Gillian is currently enrolled in our identity protection solution, which offers the opportunity to also monitor family members’ information on the dark web.

    ‘While the email was not based on marketing data, we understand the inappropriate timing of the communication. We will remove the family feature from her membership and offered to discuss the matter further with her.’

    MORE: My Label and Me: Being blind is part of my life, but it will never define me

    MORE: Morning Face: Chidera Eggerue, AKA The Slumflower, shares how she wakes up


    Why we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helpWhy we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helplauraabernethy6Why we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to help (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk) Metro Illustration IllustrationsWhy we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helpWhy we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to helplauraabernethy6Why we should care about children?s mental wellbeing - and what we can do to help (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk) Metro Illustration Illustrations

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