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

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    Josie Laro, 19, from Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA, before she bleached her hair
    (Picture: Josie Laro/ Caters News)

    This was Josie Laro’s hair before she decided to bleach it; long, dark brown, and clearly very healthy.

    When she decided she wanted a change, however, that was certainly what she got.

    The 19-year-old from Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA, said she had already bleached her hair twice in the past without any issues and felt very experienced with at-home hair colouring.

    But this time the certified nursing assistant knew something was wrong after she started feeling an intense burning sensation on her scalp 20 minutes into the bleaching process.

    When checking the bleach, she could smell her hair burning off, so quickly got in the shower to wash it off.

    Josie’s hair was falling out in huge clumps when she ran her fingers through it, and what was left was discoloured and heavily damaged.

    Josie Laro hair bleaching at home
    The clump left in the shower (Picture: Josie Laro/ Caters News)

    Josie said: ‘I was really just wanting a change. I had gone dark brown in November last year and was getting really bored of it and wanted to go back to blonde.

    ‘I had dyed and bleached my hair in the past without any problems.I used the same bleach and developers that I had before. I never expected anything to go wrong.’

    Speaking of the moment she realised her hair seemed to be ruined, she said: ‘I kept screaming ‘oh my god, oh no!’. It was really traumatic, and I was freaking out. It looked like a huge pile of spaghetti or noodles in the shower. I felt so sick, it was like something from a horror movie.

    ‘All their hair on the back side of my head fell off, but the front was the same, so it was all uneven. I was just in a state of shock. Seeing your hair fall out in front of your eyes is just horrific.’

    PIC FROM Josie Laro/ Caters News - (PICTURED: Josie Laro, 19, from Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA, after she bleached her hair) - A traumatised teen who tried to go blonde at home was left horrified after bleach MELTED her long locks and caused her hair to FALL OUT in massive chunks. After getting bored of her dark brown hair, Josie Laro decided it was time for a change so earlier this month (9 MARCH) she purchased some bleach in the hopes of achieving the creamy blonde hair of her dreams.SEE CATERS COPY
    The aftermath (Picture: Josie Laro/ Caters News)

    Josie was distraught, and spent three days at home in tears after the mishap, eventually appealing for help on Facebook.

    Her call was answered by hairdresser Maleah Dawn Wilkerson from Wildflowers Salon, who managed to resurrect Josie’s hair and transform it into a trendy new style.

    What she called ‘barbie hair’ (because it was so damaged and plasticky after the bleach) was turned into a healthy looking long bob after protein treatments and plenty of moisture.

    *MANDATORY BYLINE* PIC FROM Maleah Dawn Wilkerson Hairdressing/ Caters News - (PICTURED: Josie Laros hair after being fixed at the hair salon) - A traumatised teen who tried to go blonde at home was left horrified after bleach MELTED her long locks and caused her hair to FALL OUT in massive chunks. After getting bored of her dark brown hair, Josie Laro decided it was time for a change so earlier this month (9 MARCH) she purchased some bleach in the hopes of achieving the creamy blonde hair of her dreams.SEE CATERS COPY
    Maleah’s handiwork took five hours (Picture: Maleah Dawn Wilkerson Hairdressing/ Caters News)

    Bleach opens up the hair cuticles to remove the colour. Using an extra high volume bleach or leaving it on for too long can mean the cortex of your hair is exposed, causing breakage and extreme dryness.

    Hair that’s massively overbleached can feel like it’s melting away, and have a texture similar to bubblegum when wet.

    Everybody’s hair reacts differently to bleach, and it can change for you based on whether your hair’s been coloured before and what condition it’s in.

    That’s why it’s normally extra important to enlist the help of a professional, who can assess what your hair needs, and ensure you have realistic expectations when it comes to the colour result.

    Josie continued: ‘”I’m extremely happy with the results. Maleah was absolutely amazing and I’m forever grateful to her.

    ‘I thought I’d had to get it all shaved off or something. But she salvaged it.

    ‘My plan now is to leave it alone and just let it grow. I’ll never colour or bleach my hair at home again. I’ve definitely learnt my lesson.’

    MORE: A postbox gin portal is coming to the UK and giving you free tipples


    Josie LaroJosie Laro

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    (Picture: MDWfeatures)

    This woman held a boob voyage party before having her breasts removed.

    Assistant buyer Samantha Webber, 27, from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, found out she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene in January 2012, before losing her mother to ovarian cancer in July 2013.

    Initially, she didn’t want to have her breasts removed as she was only 20 but in 2016, she decided to go ahead with the operation to prevent cancer as she wanted to look ahead to her future with her now husband, Toby.

    Losing her mum was incredibly difficult for Samantha but seeing her battle cancer showed the bravery it takes to fight it. Samantha began picturing her own future, and the thought of not being around for her children was motivation enough.

    Samantha was scheduled for a preventative double mastectomy on June 26, 2018 but before going to hospital, she held her ‘Boob Voyage’ party on 3 June 2018.

    The ‘Boob Voyage’ party was 20 of Samantha’s female friends and family, with each guest bringing food which was boob-related, including nipple cupcakes and a large cake shaped as breasts.

    Guests also wrote messages of support in a book for Samantha to treasure.

    Samantha hopes to raise awareness for the BRCA1 gene and encourage more women to be proactive about getting tested. The fear of one day being diagnosed with breast cancer is gone from Samantha’s mind, and she wants other women to put their health first too.

    ‘When I was almost 17, I moved to north west London with my mum and have never looked back since,’ said Samantha.

    ‘Unfortunately, not long after moving, we found out that my mum had advanced ovarian cancer.

    Samantha wanted to make light of what was a difficult decision by embracing it. BOREHAMWOOD, UK: THIS BRAVE woman held a BOOB VOYAGE party before having a preventative double mastectomy after losing her mum to cancer, with party tokens including NIPPLE CUPCAKES and a breast cake. Assistant buyer Samantha Webber (27) from Borehamwood, UK, found out she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene in January 2012, before losing her mother to ovarian cancer in July 2013, who was diagnosed in March 2009. At the age of only 20, Samantha didn???t want to deal with the repercussions of preventative treatment, but by 2016 she felt ready to look into ways of preventing cancer as she began to look ahead to her future with her now husband, Toby. Over the years, Samantha???s fear turned into courage and she looked into having a preventative mastectomy. Losing her mum was incredibly difficult for Samantha but seeing her battle cancer showed the bravery it takes to fight it. Samantha began picturing her own future, and the thought of not being around for her children was motivation enough. Samantha was scheduled for a preventative double mastectomy on June 26, 2018. However, in the weeks before, Samantha and her aunt organised a ???Boob Voyage??? party on June 3, 2018, to shine a positive light on what could have been very difficult. The ???Boob Voyage??? party was 20 of Samantha???s female friends and family, with each guest bringing food which was boob-related, including nipple cupcakes and a large cake shaped as breasts. Guests also wrote messages of support in a book for Samantha to treasure. Samantha hopes to raise awareness for the BRCA1 gene and encourage more women to be proactive about getting tested. The fear of one day being diagnosed with breast cancer is gone from Samantha???s mind, and she wants other women to put their health first too. MDWfeatures / Samantha Webber
    (Picture: MDWfeatures / Samantha Webber)

    ‘After a four-and-a-half-year battle she sadly passed away, but my incredible husband, family and friends have stood by me to help me get through.

    ‘I now live with my wonderful husband Toby who is my absolute rock. He was there through mum’s illness, when we discovered I’d inherited the BRCA1 gene, the loss of mum, and many more obstacles.

    ‘Losing a parent is unbearable pain, and the longer I’ve had to grieve the loss of my mum, it made me picture my future and how I would never want my children to feel this pain, and how I want to be around to watch them grow old.

    ‘When I found out I had the BRCA1 gene it made me feel like I had two split personalities. Half of me was relieved because I knew that I would be watched like a hawk and hopefully would catch any kind of cancer if I was to ever have it very early.

    ‘The other half of me was gutted, knowing that not only would I have to put myself through preventative operations, but also at the thought of potentially passing it on to my children in the future.

    ‘At the time of finding out, I was only 20 years old. So initially I didn’t want to take any course of action. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 when I made the decision that it was time to do something about it, and that decision was to have a mastectomy.

    ‘When I realised what a blessing in disguise this really was, that I could take control and try to prevent myself from getting cancer, it was a no brainer.

    ‘Considering I had so long to come to terms with my decision, I didn’t live in fear. And if I did ever get scared or worry, I just thought of my beautiful mum who was far more of a brave and courageous lady for what she had to go through, and that would take the fear away.

    Samantha wanted to make light of what was a difficult decision by embracing it. BOREHAMWOOD, UK: THIS BRAVE woman held a BOOB VOYAGE party before having a preventative double mastectomy after losing her mum to cancer, with party tokens including NIPPLE CUPCAKES and a breast cake. Assistant buyer Samantha Webber (27) from Borehamwood, UK, found out she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene in January 2012, before losing her mother to ovarian cancer in July 2013, who was diagnosed in March 2009. At the age of only 20, Samantha didn???t want to deal with the repercussions of preventative treatment, but by 2016 she felt ready to look into ways of preventing cancer as she began to look ahead to her future with her now husband, Toby. Over the years, Samantha???s fear turned into courage and she looked into having a preventative mastectomy. Losing her mum was incredibly difficult for Samantha but seeing her battle cancer showed the bravery it takes to fight it. Samantha began picturing her own future, and the thought of not being around for her children was motivation enough. Samantha was scheduled for a preventative double mastectomy on June 26, 2018. However, in the weeks before, Samantha and her aunt organised a ???Boob Voyage??? party on June 3, 2018, to shine a positive light on what could have been very difficult. The ???Boob Voyage??? party was 20 of Samantha???s female friends and family, with each guest bringing food which was boob-related, including nipple cupcakes and a large cake shaped as breasts. Guests also wrote messages of support in a book for Samantha to treasure. Samantha hopes to raise awareness for the BRCA1 gene and encourage more women to be proactive about getting tested. The fear of one day being diagnosed with breast cancer is gone from Samantha???s mind, and she wants other women to put their health first too. MDWfeatures / Samantha Webber
    (Picture: MDWfeatures / Samantha Webber)

    ‘I planned the date for the ‘Boob Voyage’ party and my auntie, who is basically like a mum to me, hosted it. I wanted to make the whole experience that I was about to go through more light-hearted and to have some fun, rather than getting sad. I wanted support around me.”

    Samantha and her guests celebrated her choice to have a mastectomy to embrace the strength it takes and to encourage each other to be strong in the future.

    She now hopes to encourage more women to check their breasts and get genetic testing for the BRCA gene.

    ‘There was endless sushi, salads, cake, biscuits, drinks – it was amazing. I asked everybody to get involved and have some fun by bringing a boob themed cake, and they did just that. There was food for days which was so yummy,’ said Samantha.

    ‘We chatted about everyday life to keep me distracted, but also played a couple of silly games, took lots of photos, ate endless food, and everybody signed a cushion and a little book for me, to show their support.

    ‘My sister also did a speech which was sweet, and I just felt so showered with love and support.

    ‘It was pure girl power as there was lots of support, laughing, and lots of love. The ‘Boob Voyage’ party was quite simply the best way to make what was about to happen a positive thing and lift my spirits before the big day.

    ‘It made me feel like I will always have someone there for me and that there’s nothing I can’t achieve. It will always mean so much to me.

    A cake which was shaped as breasts for the Boob Voyage. BOREHAMWOOD, UK: THIS BRAVE woman held a BOOB VOYAGE party before having a preventative double mastectomy after losing her mum to cancer, with party tokens including NIPPLE CUPCAKES and a breast cake. Assistant buyer Samantha Webber (27) from Borehamwood, UK, found out she was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene in January 2012, before losing her mother to ovarian cancer in July 2013, who was diagnosed in March 2009. At the age of only 20, Samantha didn???t want to deal with the repercussions of preventative treatment, but by 2016 she felt ready to look into ways of preventing cancer as she began to look ahead to her future with her now husband, Toby. Over the years, Samantha???s fear turned into courage and she looked into having a preventative mastectomy. Losing her mum was incredibly difficult for Samantha but seeing her battle cancer showed the bravery it takes to fight it. Samantha began picturing her own future, and the thought of not being around for her children was motivation enough. Samantha was scheduled for a preventative double mastectomy on June 26, 2018. However, in the weeks before, Samantha and her aunt organised a ???Boob Voyage??? party on June 3, 2018, to shine a positive light on what could have been very difficult. The ???Boob Voyage??? party was 20 of Samantha???s female friends and family, with each guest bringing food which was boob-related, including nipple cupcakes and a large cake shaped as breasts. Guests also wrote messages of support in a book for Samantha to treasure. Samantha hopes to raise awareness for the BRCA1 gene and encourage more women to be proactive about getting tested. The fear of one day being diagnosed with breast cancer is gone from Samantha???s mind, and she wants other women to put their health first too. MDWfeatures / Samantha Webber
    (Picture: MDWfeatures / Samantha Webber)

    ‘Recovery from my mastectomy wasn’t easy at first, but again my incredible husband along with family and friends, went above and beyond to help me through it.

    ‘They changed my drains, took me to and from hospital appointments, even bathed me and got me dressed. They were fantastic and I couldn’t have had the operation if I didn’t have that support system.

    ‘Since I went back to work, I’ve been fine. The only thing in my life that has been affected is that I still can’t run, but that hasn’t stopped me from staying healthy and fit and enjoying my life. It’s minor in comparison to how little chance I have of now getting breast cancer.

    ‘I don’t think there’s enough awareness about the BRCA gene, both types of it, and I don’t think women would even think to regularly check their breasts. We need to do far more to get the message out there regularly. Girls, get checking.

    ‘You are stronger than you may think, and if you ever doubt yourself, then don’t. Be the beautiful and brave woman that you are and just go for it. It really was the best decision I’ve ever made.

    ‘I used to have far more anxiety at the thought of developing breast cancer, but now that doesn’t happen. Your family and friends will support you, and you will come out on the other side even stronger than you already are.’

    MORE: A postbox gin portal is coming to the UK and giving you free tipples

    MORE: Mum creates eerily realistic cakes that resemble human body parts


    Boob Voyage Mastectomy PartyBoob Voyage Mastectomy Party

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    (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    When you don’t smoke, it’s easy to feel a little smug about your health.

    Who cares if you had McDonald’s for dinner three times this week – at least you’re not puffing on death sticks, right?

    But there’s another vice you really do need to watch out for: booze.

    New research has compared drinking a bottle of wine per week to smoking 10 cigarettes for women, and five for men.

    According to researchers from the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Bangor University, and the University of Southampton, drinking one bottle of wine per week increases the lifetime risk of cancer to the same extent as smoking up to 10 cigarettes, mostly due to the link between drinking and breast cancer, and cancer of the bowl, liver, and oesophagus.

    The team said that if 1,000 non-smoking men and 1,000 non-smoking women each drank one bottle of wine per week across their lifetime, around 10 men and 14 women would develop cancer as a result.

    As you might expect, when you increase the amount of alcohol being downed, the cancer risk increases.

    The researchers said that if 1,000 men and 1,000 women drank three bottles of wine per week, 19 men and 36 women would develop cancer.

    Three bottles of wine a week is said to be the equivalent of eight cigarettes per week for men and 23 cigarettes per week for women.

    Unrecognizable person, holding a bottle of red wine, is pouring some red wine in a wine glass.
    (Picture: JJRD/Getty)

    The researchers aren’t suggesting all this to get you to take up smoking, to be clear, but to raise awareness of the health risks of a casual boozing habit.

    Dr Theresa Hydes, who worked on the study, said: ‘It is well established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver and breast.

    ‘Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public.

    ‘We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices.

    ‘We must be absolutely clear that this study is not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is in any way equivalent to smoking. Our finds relate to lifetime risk across the population.

    ‘At an individual level, cancer risk represented by drinking or smoking will vary and, for many individuals, the impact of 10 units of alcohol (one bottle of wine) or five to 10 cigarettes may be very different.’

    Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: ‘Even at relatively low levels, alcohol can have serious consequences for our health.

    How many units are in your drinks?

    • Standard (175ml) glass of wine, 13.5% ABV – 2.3 units
    • Large (250ml) glass of wine, 13.5% ABV – 3.4 units
    • Pint of standard lager – 2.3 units
    • Pint of premium lager – 2.8 units
    • Pint of strong cider – 4.7 units

    ‘The Chief Medical Officers recommend drinking no more than 14 units a week to keep the risks low but, worryingly, few people are aware of the guidelines.’

    The researchers want to be clear, though, that drinking is not as bad for you as smoking. The stats have to be viewed in context.

    Jane Green, professor of epidemiology and co-director of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, said: ‘For both men and women in the UK, the lifetime risk of cancer is around 50%.

    ‘The authors estimate that lifetime risk is around 1% higher for men and women who drink a bottle of wine a week, or who smoke five to 10 cigarettes a week, than for those who neither smoke nor drink.

    ‘The average UK drinker reports drinking the equivalent of about a bottle-and-a-half of wine a week, and the average smoker smokes about 10 cigarettes a day, or 70 a week.

    How many units have I had?

    Multiply the amount of the drink (ml) with the strength of the drink (%ABV) then divide by 1,000

    So one pint (568ml) x 5 (5%ABV) = 2,840

    2,840 divided by 1,000 = 2.8 units

    ‘This work confirms that, for most smokers, their smoking carries much greater risks for cancer than does alcohol for most drinkers.

    ‘Moderate levels of drinking are in absolute terms particularly important for cancer risk in women, because they are associated with increased risk of breast cancer, which is very common (lifetime risk of 14%).’

    Sophia Lowes, from Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Smoking remains the biggest cause of cancer, so this comparison can be useful to raise awareness of less well-known risk factors like alcohol. It highlights that even low levels of drinking can increase the risk of cancer.

    ‘Research is clear – the less a person drinks, the lower the risk of cancer. Small changes like having more alcohol-free days can make a big difference to how much you drink.

    ‘But smoking causes over four times as many cases of cancer in the UK compared to alcohol. If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health is stop completely, and you’re most likely to be successful using support from your local free stop-smoking service.’

    MORE: Spill it: How much a 27-year-old journalist drinks in a week

    MORE: Dry January: 10 best alcohol-free drinks to try from prosecco, beer and wine

    MORE: Spill it: How much a 45-year-old mother drinks in a week


    How many cigarettes in a bottle of wine?How many cigarettes in a bottle of wine?

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    Kinky Characters 5: Catsuit / animal play
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    This is Kinky Characters – a series that explores unusual fetishes and the people who like them.

    Last week, we spoke to Stephen, a 53-year-old man who loves when women pee on him (he’s tasted urine a few times) and we’ve also explored sounding, being carried by women and getting off on nosebleeds.

    Today, we venture into animal love and kitten play.

    To clarify, we’re referring to behaving like an animal, not having sex with one.

    Most people might be a little shocked at the idea of animal role play, but it’s actually a very common fetish.

    Just type in the word ‘animal’ on Fetlife and you’ll get over 1,200 results including forums, suggested members and dedicated groups.

    Often those with this fetish will wear catsuits or other animal clothing and accessories – collars, leads and butt plugs with tails – in order to resemble the animal as much as possible.

    Some will role play by meowing or barking during sex, while others fully immerse themselves in the kitty or doggy lifestyle by sleeping in crates or cages and having ‘owners’ take them for walks.

    The kitty community, as it’s known, is vast; across the pond at the Chateu in Colorado, cat lovers can channel their inner animal and attend kitten parties.

    In Japan, you can find ‘neko’ (catgirls) in anime, manga and real life. It’s not necessarily a sexual fetish here, but considered a character trait with women and girls wearing cat ears.

    Some obsessions with cats stretch further than simply dressing up – let’s not forget Jocelyn Wildenstein, the woman who has spent millions on transforming herself into a feline.

    Another dimension within this BDSM subculture is primal play, which refers to a person’s animalistic side and can include rough play such as biting, but is more about dominance with one person acting as the predator and the other, the prey.

    Kitten play on the other hand is more gentle and for some, like Eric*, based on a fond affection for all things cats.

    The cosplay store owner designs outfits for the kinky community and likes to dress up and act as his favourite animal, both on his own and with a partner.

    He often has sex in his catsuit but to Eric, this kink isn’t just about f***ing – sometimes, he’ll simply wear the catsuits as he goes about his day in a normal fashion.

    We ask him what it’s like to live like a cat, what he wears and if he considers himself a good kitty.

    How to compliment a woman without being a dick
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Tell us about your fetish

    I don’t know how to describe it really, but the second I see cats or beautiful women dressed in latex, a feeling of lust comes over me.

    I suddenly want to slip into one of my catsuits or spend a few hours in head-to-toe shiny black latex with a butt plug that has a long fur tail attached to it.

    If my spouse is around, there’s a good chance that typical kitty behaviour will be exhibited towards her, such as rubbing up against her, meowing, cuddles, happy paws and snuggling or kissing.

    Do you act like a cat during sex?

    If I’m feeling feisty, the kitty persona might come out to play.

    Other times it’s more of a cozy lounging around and more sexual activities.

    I wouldn’t be much of a kitty if I didn’t purr, and I also have a collar with a bell, cat mittens (paws), kitty catsuits, kitty pyjamas, kitty bag clips and kitty underwear.

    How often do you dress in a catsuit?

    It depends on my mood – sometimes it’s a few times a week, other times it’s every couple of months.

    There is no regular schedule. It’s a sinusoidal wave in that there are high occurrences and then lows.

    I’ve gone six months without wearing a catsuit, and I’ve worn a catsuit for a solid week, only changing out of one to wear a different one after a quick shower.

    I have catsuits in leather, lycra, PVC, latex, mesh/nylon and velvet, and a pair of big cat-print footed pyjamas.

    All my duvets feature big cat furry prints and my curtains are black and dark silver in leopard print.

    How do your sexual partners react to your fetish?

    Oh gosh, I never suggest it to them – that’s a perfect recipe for disaster.

    Let your partner bring it up, as he or she will likely be aware that this is of interest to you and you’re probably not going to refuse.

    I never ask them myself.

    My current partner is into cat stuff, so the reaction is quite positive and supportive. In some instances, I will dress up in my catsuit and if she’s not in the mood, we’ll just go about our day.

    The focus isn’t on my catsuit; at the end of the day, it’s just a variation of clothing.

    What about your friends and family – do they know about your cat kink?

    By now, my immediate family is aware of my fetish.

    They were a bit shocked at first, but as my life progressed and the cat in me surfaced they grew accustomed to it.

    Friends and the kitty community are encouraging and supportive, and like-minded Fetlife friends also know, as I have a lot of posts and pics about it on my page.   

    My partner and I are always on the lookout for cat stuff.

    What is your dream animal sex scenario?

    A trans woman, a woman and me having a threesome, all dressed in latex.

    My best experiences so far have been with my partner when we play around in the bedroom, tease each other or horse around – kitty style.

    It feels nice, a sense of cosy-ness and comfort comes over me.

    When did you decide to make and sell cat outfits?

    I’ve been selling outfits for nearly a decade.

    I decided to launch a cosplay exclusive costume store where the outfits are primarily latex.

    Being of a cosplay nature, I design these items to bring life to popular characters – be it Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Blackwidow etc.

    My partner encourages me to live my dream and soak up my passion.

    I also help her community of trans friends, as they are all eager to model my outfits for photoshoots – most of them love to dress up like Catwoman.

    Do you think people are judgmental of unusual fetishes?

    People are always judgmental towards things they don’t understand or don’t know.

    Information, awareness and experience goes a long way.

    There is more tolerance in kinky communities, but most men will shudder when they see a guy dressed in a catsuit.

    In vanilla day-to-day life, people are shocked to see a guy wearing this out of context –such as cosplay conventions, costume parties or Halloween – anything outside of this usually leads to a lot of commotion and possibly a great deal of rejection.

    Do you have an unusual fetish?

    Want to tell us about your sexual preferences or odd kinks?

    Drop an email to almara.abgarian@metro.co.uk to be considered for upcoming episodes of Kinky Characters

    MORE: Meet the man who gets turned on by women peeing on him

    MORE: Meet the man who orgasms from sliding metal rods into his urethra

    MORE: Meet the non-binary person who gets turned on by gushing nosebleeds


    Kinky Characters 5: Catsuit / animal playKinky Characters 5: Catsuit / animal play

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    (Picture: H. Samuel jewelers)

    When you’re a bride-to-be it is totally normal to want to feel like a princess.

    The diamond, the dress, the castle – most of our dream weddings are taken straight from the pages of classic fairy tales.

    And now there is a way to live out your princess fantasies from the moment your other half gets down on one knee.

    H.Samuel’s has launched a range of Disney inspired engagement rings that will be sure to make you feel like royalty.

    The Enchanted range is a stunning collection of rings, each one based on a different Disney princess.

    With options in silver, gold and rose gold, each design features something special that ties it directly to a specific Disney movie.

    Disney inspired engagement rings via H. Samuel jewelers https://www.instagram.com/hsamueljeweller/
    (Picture: H. Samuel Jewellers/Instagram/Disney)

    Feel like Belle from Beauty and the Beast with an iconic rose design, Ariel fans can buy a ring featuring an amethyst with shell embellishments and snowflakes feature heavily in the Frozen range of rings.

    One of our favourites has to be the Tinkerbell ring which has a striking green tormaline centrepiece, surrounded by twinkling diamonds and set on a white gold band. Can we have two?

    Enchanted Disney Fine Jewelry Diamond Tinker Bell Ring (Picture: H. Samuel Jewellers)

    But if the sickly sentiments of the princesses don’t float your boat, Disney villains also feature in the collection – perfect if you have a darker streak.

    The sea monster Ursula has her own ring, which offers a black pearl and diamond – while a range of Maleficent inspired rings are set with dark stones and chrome.

    Disney inspired engagement rings via H. Samuel jewelers https://www.instagram.com/hsamueljeweller/
    (Picture: H. Samuel Jewellers/Instagram/Disney)

    Belle, Cinderella, Mulan, Elsa, Tiana, Pocahontas – no matter which Disney princess you feel connected to, there’s a ring that will meet your heart’s desire.

    Prices range from £99.99 for the Maleficent ring to £2299 for the Diamond Morganite Aurora ring.

    So if you’re planning to pop the question and your other half is a Disney fanatic – it’s time to start saving.

    MORE: Drinking a bottle of wine is like smoking 10 cigarettes, suggests new research

    MORE: Ditching cow’s milk could be the best thing you can do to help the environment

    MORE: How I Save: The content creator who earns £40k a year but only has £577.36 saved


    Disney engagement ringsDisney engagement rings

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    ‘I am the squirting queen – or the queen of squirting on faces,’ says Lola Jean, by way of introduction. She is heading up tonight’s Kurious Kittens workshop in Shoreditch where we’ll be discussing the whys and wherefores of ejaculating out of your vagina.

    Prosecco in hand, I sit at the back in my anorak. We’ve been told the live demo’s no longer occurring, but I don’t like to leave these things to chance.

    Lola Jean apparently holds the world record for cannoning lady jizz out of her love tunnel and I imagine she could do some damage to a cashmere jumper.

    ‘I haven’t always squirted,’ says Lola Jean, to the studious stans scribbling in their notepads.

    There are 30 of us sitting on chairs arranged to face a projector screen, on which Lola Jean will show us footage of her personal sprinkler system. The welcome email with the workshop details said: ‘feel free to bring along a pen and paper if you wish to take any notes.’ I thought I’d be the only with my Bic out, but this audience is clearly serious about female ejaculation.

    ‘I had a lover who was very skilled at cunnilingus – that was the first time it happened,’ explains Lola Jean, giving us the origin story behind her Olympian ejaculatory powers. ‘It happened again the next time I saw him, then – for unrelated reasons – we didn’t see each other again, so I locked myself in my bedroom and masturbated until I could make myself squirt.’

    Lola Jean is keen to reframe squirting as something empowering a woman can do for herself.

    She says: ‘Squirting is highly fetishized and stigmatised, and women are often presented as passive, as if the man makes the woman squirt, and the woman just has to relax. No – you can actively make yourself squirt!’

    The record breaker is also keen to, ‘shoot the ‘come hither’ in the head’, meaning she doesn’t rate the’“beckoning finger’ as the default for making women squirt. I didn’t know it was, but perhaps The Beckoner has become an urban myth among men, as I recall my sister’s friend saying she wondered what her boyfriend was doing with his finger, then it turned out he’d watched a You Tube video on making women squirt.

    ‘The first time you squirt it’s often at the same time as you orgasm, but it’s not the same thing,’ says Lola Jean. ‘When I orgasm, I usually squirt as well, but most of the time when I squirt, I don’t orgasm.’

    People are putting weed up their bums and vagina as the 'cannabis sex industry' blossoms metro illustrations Ella Byworth/ metro.co.uk
    (Picture: Ella Byworth/ metro.co.uk)

    So, um, what exactly is the point of it? ‘It’s a release,’ she explains. ‘It feels good. It feels pleasurable. The build-up to squirting is like going up on a roller coaster, and squirting is what it feels like on the way down.’

    OK so, I’ve spoken to a number of women and their partners about squirting, and I can’t help thinking about the mess. Nobody wants to sleep in the wet patch, and Lola Jean shoots out over a litre of liquid. That’s enough to destroy the entire ecosystem of my mattress. Biscuit crumbs, flapjack flakes and what’s-hopefully-a-bit-of-chocolate could all be washed away in the flood. How can I avert this crisis?

    ‘Towels are not great,’ says Lola Jean, speaking from experience. Instead she recommends puppy pads (a thing for cleaning up young dog wee, not an obscure sex aid) for soaking up the mess or putting down a Liberator blanket. ‘This soaks up everything – then you just throw it in the wash. I use one unless I’m in a hotel room, then it’s ‘f*** it! Let’s destroy this!”

    And of course, we couldn’t do a workshop on squirting without addressing the question of what it is. Is it wee?

    ‘Is it pleasurable? Did it feel good? Then it’s likely not pee,’ says Lola Jean. ‘Our bodies don’t want to pee on people. In the shower, I’ve switched back and forth between peeing on a guy and squirting on a guy, and it’s not easy to switch between those two different modes. I’ve also squirted my life savings during sex, then gone for a pee afterwards.’

    In Lola Jean’s view, ‘there is a tiny bit of pee in it, but there are other elements in it too. I’ve tasted mine and it tastes like cereal milk.’ She points out that we know very little about female sexuality and adds, ‘we don’t question what’s in men’s ejaculate.’

    The burning question for the avid note-takers seems to be can every woman squirt?

    ‘We don’t have enough research to definitely say that, but I believe every woman can, if they have a strong enough pelvic floor and a good enough relationship with their vulva,’ says Lola Jean.

    Cunnilingus tends to work for Lola Jean, and she notes, ‘sometimes if something’s penetrating you, it makes it harder to squirt. I’ve only squirted a handful of times with a penis in my vagina.’

    If she’s by herself, she favours a masturbatory move that she terms The Dirty DJ (think waving-your-hand-about-to-get-your-nails-to-dry, but between your legs) then, ‘pushing out with my vagina.’

    And if you’re trying to squirt, but it doesn’t seem to be happening for you?

    Lola Jean has these words of wisdom: ‘Don’t chase the squirt, chase the discovery process. It’s figuring out what works for you because there isn’t one way of doing anything.

    ‘And if it doesn’t happen for you, you’re not broken – you don’t need to squirt to have a good time!’

    MORE: Meet the man who orgasms from sliding metal rods into his urethra

    MORE: Black women are constantly hypersexualised – it’s time to stop fetishising skin colour

    MORE: There’s a difference between kinky and abusive and we need to be clear about that


    Squirting workshop - samantha reaSquirting workshop - samantha rea

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    Dating stages picture; Ella Byworth for metro.co.uk
    (Picture: Ella Byworth/metro.co.uk)

    The stages of dating – from just texting to seeing each other to being in a proper relationship – are complicated.

    Your parents might remember the glory days of courting progressing straight to getting engaged, but in these modern times packed with endless choice and hookup apps, things aren’t so simple.

    You can be talking, texting, dating casually, and until you have ‘the talk’, exclusivity isn’t the expectation.

    These days we have to DTR – define the relationship.

    But when should you do that?

    If you chat about where things are going too early on, you may give the impression that you’re desperate for lifelong commitment. Leave it too late and you could end up in the horror of a situationship, with no way out of misery-inducing commitment without actual, proper commitment.

    A new study of 2,000 people provides some insight, revealing the signs that indicate it’s time to DTR.

    The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of sex toy brand EdenFantasys, found that four in ten of those surveyed waited too long to label their bond, meaning their prospective partner went and hooked up with someone else. Not ideal.

    (Illustration: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    There’s no set timeline, unfortunately, as everyone’s relationship is different.

    For 73% of those surveyed, the first kiss came before they labelled their relationship, 60% said they’d had sex pre-labelling, and 50% have said ‘I love you’ before clarifying what they are to each other.

    So rather than waiting for a specific deadline, it’s best to suss out how you feel. Sorry.

    The top signs you're ready to define the relationship:

    • You confide in them
    • You no longer go on dates with anyone else
    • You’ve told family about them
    • They’re all you think about
    • You’re constantly texting/talking
    • You start planning a future with them
    • You genuinely want to know how their day was
    • You’ve told friends about them
    • You’ve met their friends and vice versa
    • The idea of commitment no longer scares you

    The signs to indicate readiness to DTR that popped up most frequently in the survey included confiding in a person, no longer going on dates with anyone else, and telling your family about them.

    It’s pretty simple: If you want to treat someone as your significant other, it’s probably wise to talk to them about your relationship.

    If you’re happy keeping things casual, cool. If the idea of them smooching someone else makes your stomach feel funny, it’s time for a proper talk.

    Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, told Metro.co.uk: ‘The hope is that you will naturally evolve into this situation. You like each other so much you both want to tell your friends and family that you are an item.

    ‘That is one of the nicest early stages of falling in love.

    ‘If there is some awkwardness about making that announcement – perhaps changing your status on Facebook or using the words ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ around other people – that would ring a few alarm bells with me because it is a sign that you are not communicating as well as you should and that you’re probably not on the same page.

    ‘The crunch time in a relationship where you both decide whether you are exclusive can happen any time from the first date to weeks later when you have been dating regularly but are both wary of commitment.

    ‘No two couples are the same, and we all want different things at different times in our lives.

    ‘Forget about ‘three date rules’ or timeframes for commitment dictated by society and just do what you feel is right for you.’

    Anabelle has four rules for defining the relationship and making things exclusive. First, do it person, second, keep the conversation comfortable, open, and honest, three, go in with an idea of what you want, and four, set your own time frame. Easy.

    MORE: As a black gay man, I am constantly reduced to outdated, racist stereotypes when online dating

    MORE: What I learned from going to a squirting workshop

    MORE: Woman with two wombs gives birth twice a month apart


    How Dry January can improve your sex lifeHow Dry January can improve your sex life

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    (Picture: Jomaica Alfiler/Facebook)

    A student is on a mission to track down a man she met on a flight – after becoming convinced that he could be ‘the one’.

    21-year-old Jomaica Alfiler from Seattle was sitting in a window seat – 43A – on a flight from Frankfurt on 26th March, when she was joined by a ‘good looking’ man who sat in 43B next to her. She thought he must have been in his twenties.

    The pair spoke briefly during the 10-hour flight, he even helped Jomaica with her luggage – leading her to describe him as a ‘gentleman’.

    But in the rush of getting off the plane, Jomaica completely forgot to ask for the man’s name or take any contact details.

    Now she is on a mission to find him because she says she can’t stop thinking about him.

    She started off her search with a post on Facebook.

    ‘He was a good looking young man and was clean cut, had dark hair, and was around 5’8 – 5’9,’ she said.

    ‘He was probably in his twenties. I believe he was wearing black Adidas NMD shoes and a silver/grey back pack, with an orange shirt and jeans.’

    Student wants to track down kind stranger Jomaica Alfiler Provider: Facebook Source: https://www.facebook.com/jomaica.alfiler99
    (Picture: Jomaica Alfiler/Facebook)

    She went on to describe some of his chivalrous behaviour that lead to her attraction.

    ‘He offered to help me out but I insisted on trying to do it myself because I’m a strong independent woman. In the end he helped me anyway because I was too short to even reach it – I’m 5’1.

    ‘He asked me if I was cold since he wasn’t using his blanket so he could give it to me. He also tried to help me recline my seat back but we both failed. However, I still thanked him.

    ‘He responded: “There was no help but you’re welcome”, and smiled.’

    She also commented on the lengths she went to to try and get his attention during the flight.

    ‘I also purposely didn’t use my headphones while I was watching a movie and just turned on the subtitles in the hope he would talk to me, but he didn’t. Maybe he was shy, too.’

    Jomaica even messaged airline Lufthansa to see if they would be able to help and share the man’s information.

    Student wants to track down kind stranger Jomaica Alfiler Provider: Facebook Source: https://www.facebook.com/jomaica.alfiler99
    (Picture: Jomaica Alfiler/Facebook)

    ‘I’m reaching out to you because I haven’t stopped thinking about him since the plane landed,’ explained Jomaica in her message.

    ‘Please hear me out and reach out to him for me please. I don’t know when will I ever see him again or did I miss my chance?’

    Lufthansa responded to say that they hope karma is on her side and that the pair will meet again, but that they couldn’t provide any more information because of data protection.

    It doesn’t like Jomaica is going to give up her hunt easily. So if that was you or one of your friends on that flight from Frankfurt to Seattle – do reach out.

    This could be the start of a beautiful love story.

    MORE: What I learned from going to a squirting workshop

    MORE: H.Samuel is selling Disney engagement rings so someone needs to pop the question immediately

    MORE: For women, drinking a bottle of wine is like smoking 10 cigarettes, suggests new research


    Student wants to track down kind strangerStudent wants to track down kind stranger

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    (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

    You could be forgiven for thinking that there are only three sexual orientations: gay, straight or bi.

    But in recent years as we’ve become more nuanced about our sexuality, other terms have sprung up to describe more niche sexualities. Like asexual – like asexual – people who do not have a desire for sex, aromantic – people who are fine with sex but not into relationships, and pansexual, people who fall in love without seeing gender.

    What does demisexual mean?

    If you are demisexual then you are able to experience sexual feelings, but only towards people who you love or have a strong emotional connection with.

    Also sometimes called grey asexuality, demisexuality is not as clear cut as being asexual, where sex is not something that you want at all.

    How does being demisexual work?

    People who are demisexual need to establish a close emotional bond before they can feel sexual attraction to a partner.

    Demisexuals do not choosing to abstain from sex outside of a meaningful relationship, but rather do not want it.

    What is the difference between demisexual and asexual?

    Asexual people do not want to have sex at all, and do not experience sexual arousal. Demisexual people can and do experience arousal, but only inside close emotional relationships.

    Isn’t that just preferring sex in relationships?

    Not really. Lots of people like being in a relationship, but are still able to experience sexual arousal outside of one. Demisexual people can only feel aroused when experiencing an emotional bond.

    Is it part of LGBT+?

    There has been some resistance from the LGBTQ+ community towards these more specific orientations.

    You can read more about demisexuality and asexuality here.  

    Most official LGBTQ+ groups, for instance at universities, include being demisexual. The ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ stands for asexual.

    MORE: These are the signs you’re ready to define your relationship

    MORE: This intense fitness class will get you ready for your skiing holiday

     


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    The deal lets you get two bags for a cheaper price (Picture: M&S)

    Marks and Spencer has announced a special deal on its iconic Percy Pig sweets in the run up to Mother’s Day.

    Until Mother’s Day, shoppers can save money when they buy Percy Parents and Percy Piglets together.

    Percy Pigs bags typically retail at £1.65. But for limited time, customers can pick up the two bags for just £3.

    Which makes it the perfect bargain Mother’s Day present – particularly if you’re on a budget.

    Or make the Percy Pigs an extra treat if you were already planning on spoiling your mum with flowers or afternoon tea.

    Marks and Spencer, Phizzy Pig Tails
    Earlier this year Phizzy Pig Tails were launched to celebrate Chinese New Year (Picture: Marks & Spencer)

    For the many people who’s mums live in a different city, Mother’s Day usually means getting on a long train journey – and we all know what the perfect train snacks are – Percy Pigs. Obviously.

    So whether they’re a gift for mum, or a gift for yourself for being such a great kid – now is the time to stock up on your fave sweet treat and make the most of this saving.

    The family-themed treats come in strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry flavours, and the Percy Parents are actually vegetarian.

    Percy Pigs have been some of Britain’s most-loved sweets since they launched in 1992. Since then, there has been an explosion of products, including Easter eggs, Percy Pig mousse and Percy Pig porridge.

    MORE: H.Samuel is selling Disney engagement rings so someone needs to pop the question immediately

    MORE: Student is desperate to track down stranger she met on a flight after falling for him

    MORE: What I learned from going to a squirting workshop


    M&S is launching special Percy Pigs for Mother\'s DayM&S is launching special Percy Pigs for Mother\'s Day

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    (Picture: Kirstin Sedgwick/Metro.co.uk)

    Meet Mala, affectionately known to her owner, Kirstin, as ‘the miracle cat’.

    Mala earned her title after defying the expectations of vets, who said she would only survive a maximum of a few months following her diagnosis with lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system.

    Six years ago, when Mala was diagnosed, vets told Kirstin to have the bengal cat put down, explaining that the cost of chemotherapy would be high and that even with treatment she might not survive longer than 18 months.

    Kirstin says she ‘couldn’t bear the thought of losing her’, so decided to refuse vet’s recommendations and invest in surgery and chemotherapy to keep her beloved cat alive.

    Six years later, Mala is in remission, happy, and healthy.

    Kirstin met Mala when she was just a week old. It was love at first sight, and Kirstin took the cat home when she reached 12 weeks.

    ‘She is unique,’ Kirstin tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Very vocal, energetic, affectionate and a little crazy at times.

    Mala as a kitten (Picture: Kirstin Sedgwick/Metro.co.uk)

    ‘True to the Bengal breed, she likes to have a chat, loves to climb and play fetch. She’s a fussy eater but loves Dreamies and the occasional cheese string!

    ‘She doesn’t like hoovers and she will shout very loudly if she’s hungry.’

    When Mala was just a year old, Kirstin began noticing some changes.

    ‘We could tell she wasn’t herself,’ remembers Kirstin. ‘She wasn’t moving very much (she just sat in an unusual place on the stairs) and her fur was not as shiny as usual.’

    When she spotted blood in Mala’s litter tray, Kirstin rushed the cat to the vet, who found a lump when doing a physical examination.

    ‘It was devastating,’ says Kirstin, ‘even before it was confirmed.

    (Picture: Kirstin Sedgwick/Metro.co.uk)

    ‘He said that she would need to have a biopsy but he was pretty sure it would be cancer, and told us we should consider having her put to sleep as the cost for chemotherapy was going to be very high.

    ‘I was devastated and couldn’t bear the thought of losing her, she is such a big part of the family and I just couldn’t do it.

    ‘I told the vet that as long as she had a chance at survival, we would get her the treatment.

    ‘They warned us that even with the chemotherapy, she would only have 9-18 months to live. I felt that if she had a chance at another year of life, she should have it.’

    On the 21st of August 2013, Mala was officially diagnosed with large cell lymphoma of the intestine. The family were in pieces.

    (Picture: Kirstin Sedgwick/Metro.co.uk)

    Mala had to undergo an operation to remove the tumour and urgently needed to find a matching blood donor.

    That’s where her first bit of luck came in. Kirstin contacted the cat’s breeder, he brought Mala’s brother and father into the surgery, and her brother, Pepe, was a match. He donated blood and the operation went smoothly.

    After the surgery it was time for chemotherapy, first with injections then using a course of tablets.

    It was a stressful experience for the family and for Mala.

    (Picture: Kirstin Sedgwick/Metro.co.uk)

    ‘Coming round from sedation made her dizzy and wasn’t very nice to see,’ says Kirstin. ‘Needless to say she is not a fan of the vet’s surgery these days!’

    Thankfully, Mala responded well to her treatment. She has been in remission since 2014.

    Despite the vet’s predictions, the cat is thriving.

    (Picture: Kirstin Sedgwick/Metro.co.uk)

    ‘She is now seven years old and is doing fine, she is her usual happy, energetic self,’ Kristin tells us. ‘We had a scare in January 2017 when she began limping on one of her back legs. She was then diagnosed with patella luxation and had to have further surgery to correct her knee cap position.

    ‘It was then that the vets looked through her notes and said that it couldn’t be the same cat they’d had in back in 2013 as she could not have survived that long!

    ‘Her leg is now fully recovered and she is back to her normal self, and hopefully she will remain in remission for the foreseeable future.’

    Send us your cat stories!

    As the media partners of CatFest, coming to London on 29 June, we're excited to share loads of stories about brilliant cats.

    All cats are wonderful, of course, but if you have a story of a truly exceptional kitty, we want to hear it.

    We're talking about lifesaving cats, cats who've overcome challenges, kitties who've changed things for the better.

    If you've got a story to share, send us an email at ellen.scott@metro.co.uk with the details and pictures.

    To book your tickets to CatFest, do head over to Eventbrite.

    MORE: A cat festival with feline celebs, kitty-themed films, and vegan street food is coming to London

    MORE: Curiosity almost killed the cat who got her head stuck in jar


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    New graduates throw their mortarboard hats into the air following their graduation ceremony at Portsmouth's Guildhall.
    Drinks on Rupert! (Picture: Getty)

    The pay gap between male and female graduates in the UK has widened over the last three years.

    According to new research, a student’s future earnings are linked to both their family background and school.

    The stats, which come from the government’s database of graduate employment and earnings reveal that pay for men continues to be higher than pay for women after finishing an undergraduate degree, and on top of that, the gap widened each year between 2014 and 2017.

    In 2014/15 the median earning gap stood at £2,900, with men earning an average of £27,000 five years after they graduated, whereas women earned £24,100.

    The following year the gap widened to £3,300 and then in 2016/17 it got even wide, going up to £3,600.

    So basically things are actually getting worse, not better.

    The data also shows that men earn more than women at all stages in the decade after graduation, with male earnings 8% higher after one year, 15% after five years and 31% higher at 10 years after graduation.

    However the numbers don’t tell a very nuanced story. The gap is partly caused by the fact that more women take on part-time work (often to balance having a baby and a career) or staying on at university.

    Fewer men go to university, which can skew the results by improving their average pay.

    Similarly, the market value of different degree choices creates a pay gap.

    Courses like economics, medicine and dentistry (more popular among men) were among the best paid, while humanities and creative arts and design (more popular among women)  were among the lowest.

    The figures also suggest that the trajectory of a graduate’s earnings are set by not just their gender but also their social background and family circumstances, as well as their exam results before going onto higher education.

    Your gender isn’t the only thing which informs how much you earn, though.

    Pupils who were on free school meals while at school earned £3,000 a year less than those not on free school meals five years after graduation.

    Ethnicity was an even bigger factor than gender, with black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi graduates all earning less than white, Chinese or Indian ethnicity graduates.

    Pakistani graduates earn a median £6,000 a year less than white graduates a decade after finishing their undergraduate degrees.

    Your attainment while at school is also a contributing factor.

    Students with the best school results went on to earn the highest amounts after graduation, and their earnings grew at a faster rate than their peers. People who got three As or A*s at A-level earned £5,000 more a year after graduation than those with B, C, and lower grades, and over £7,000 more than those with lower than three Cs.

    So in conclusion if you’d like to be rich, probably best that you’re a white man with a rich family, great grades and a degree in economics. Jump to it.

    MORE: What does it mean to be demisexual?

    MORE: These are the signs you’re ready to define your relationship


    Education Graduation stockEducation Graduation stock

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    METRO GRAB INSTA Gwyneth Paltrow annoyed Apple when she shared a pic of her to Insta https://www.instagram.com/p/BvZwEmIhTF_/
    Apple Martin rightly wants consent before her mum posts pictures of her (Photo: gwynethpaltrow/Instagram)

    If parents want to know what their children hate the most about their social media activity, then it is ‘sharenting’.

    Apple Martin proved this when she clapped-back at her mum, Gwyneth Paltrow, for sharing a picture without her consent on Instagram.

    Parents need to understand that we work on our social media profiles just as hard, if not harder, than professional adults work to promote their companies.

    I can honestly tell you that we, as kids, have to constantly keep up with our social media accounts. Replying to stories, making timely comments on posts, avoiding liking pictures of people you or your friends are in an arguments with… the list is endless.

    I saw some figures that 62 per cent of girls and over 50 per cent of boys are insecure about the way they look. This includes body shape, weight, acne and many more flaws we somehow discover about ourselves after spending long hours looking at ourselves in the mirror.

    We are all intimidated by the ‘flawless’ pictures that our peers post and this results in us all spending too much time making our posts ‘insta-worthy’.

    We are also all aware that these pictures will be online forever and seen by future friends, boyfriends and employers. We are all building our profiles online, whether we are doing it on purpose or not.

    Then our parents, who are completely naïve to the world of likes and shares and follows, snap a quick pic and post it right away – aka ‘sharenting’.

    In that photo we have the completely wrong pose, the wrong outfit, we’re not wearing make up… and we are with our parents. Now as rude as that may sound, it simply is not cool to have pictures with parents.

    A picture Tatjana’s dad shared of her on his Instagram, which she dislikes (Picture: Anthony Burr)

    As adolescents who are so insecure, parents should have to ask for our consent before they go and share pictures of us! I feel that when something includes us, like a picture, we have a right to our own privacy.

    Teens put a lot of thought into having the perfect post, whereas parents skip all the hard work. I mean, no wonder they don’t get that many likes!

    Worst of all is when that picture you thought your parents were taking just for memories is shared to all their friends. These friends also have children that might see it and spread it around.

    My parents both have social media accounts and people in my class at school have found and followed them. So they can see all the horrible pictures of me in the morning, dribbling ice cream and doing silly poses with my sisters!

    Parents do get it wrong sometimes. One of my friends, Sarah*, was ‘sharented’ on Christmas Eve when sipping a tiny portion of champagne, which the parents posted and captioned, ‘Bit young to be drinking.’ As light hearted as this picture and caption may be, it upset Sarah.

    She handled it in a responsible and sensible way, and sat down with her parents and told them to take it off. Now, doesn’t this just show how rational we can be when it comes to social media?

    My parents listen to my concerns and will always ask if I am okay with their posts that I feature in. Recently, my dad wanted to post a picture of my sisters and me giving him his birthday cake first thing in the morning. He messaged me when I was on my way to school if he could post the pic on Instagram.

    Although I didn’t look great, it was nice that he asked for my approval and I responded quickly that, because it was his birthday and he asked me, I would permit it for Instagram. The process was quick and simple.

    So for all those adults out there, my message is to listen to your child. These embarrassing photos are torturous for us and have the potential to haunt us forever.

    We are living in a time where kids really are going through anxiety, depression and other mental health issues through social media. So we want our parents to be there for us to turn to, not as people who heap on more social media-associated pressure.

    *Name changed 

    Tatjana’s parents gave their permission for this piece.

    MORE: Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple claps back over Instagram picture: ‘You need my consent’

    MORE: I won’t take the iPad off my toddler, it’s a great parenting tool

    MORE: Geri Horner refuses to spoil her kids as she reveals parenting mantra: ‘I hate self-entitlement, it’s ugly’


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    (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    There’s something satisfying about downing the remaining contents of a can and crushing the container with your bare hands.

    Or smashing it on your head, if you’re one of those people who finds doing stupid, painful things absolutely hilarious.

    But before you relish in the destruction of a metal container, there’s something you should know: You really shouldn’t crush cans when you’re done with them, as this could prevent them from being recycled.

    That’s right – smushing up that can, as satisfying as it may be, is not good for the planet.

    The senior director of public affairs at the Aluminum Association, in the US (that’s why there’s an ‘i’ missing in the name), has issued a warning about flattening cans before putting them in the recycling bin.

    Matt Meenan explains that most sorting facilities for rubbish use a single-stream recycling system, which means that everything’s mixed together then sorted.

    A lot of the sorting relies on material and shape – so if you mush up a can so it no longer has its traditional shape, the machine may not recognise it, pushing it straight in the non-recyclable pile.

    Or, worse, the can may be mistaken for paper or cardboard, leading to it contaminating the entire batch of paper recycling. When this happens, the entire batch can be sent to the landfill. Oh dear.

    (Picture: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Matt told Recyclebank: ‘While cans are recycled at high rates, more than 40 billion cans still end up in landfills in the U.S. each year. That’s $800 million of lost material that could otherwise be recycled back into a new product.’

    We wanted to see if this is the case in the UK, too, or if this method of recycling is just an American thing.

    It turns out that you shouldn’t crush your cans in the UK, either. Sean Pettitt, the director of Purely Waste Solutions, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘If you put all of your recyclables in the same bin which then goes to a materials recovery facility to be segregated, it can make it harder for a squashed can to be separated.

    ‘The reason for this is that it is easier for equipment to sort intact aluminium cans due to the larger surface area of the material for the eddy current separator to detect. The same applies to the steel cans for the magnet to remove this material in the process.’

    But there’s a caveat – if your recycling is separated from the get-go, with cans placed in a separate bin or bag to plastic and paper, then crushing your cans is totally fine.

    In fact, says Sean, ‘it would be beneficial to crush the cans to save space, to get more material in a container and make transportation more efficient.’

    Most of us do just chuck cans straight in the mixed recycling, mind you, so the general rule remains: do not crush your cans. Leave them as they are, put them in the recycling bin, and praise yourself for a job well done.

    Just remember to wash your recycling while you’re at it.

    MORE: We’ll ring in 2019 rowing on the Atlantic to highlight what plastic pollution is doing to our seas

    MORE: I’ve just completed a record-breaking paddleboard journey around the UK and was shocked by the plastic pollution I saw


    Why you shouldn\'t crush cans before recyclingWhy you shouldn\'t crush cans before recycling

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    Male fertility stories (1): I had lazy sperm, but no one to talk to about it Pregnancy fertile mental health male female man hospital baby child kids pregnant body sperm sex relationships Picture: Dave Anderson/Metro.co.uk
    Men might feel uncomfortable talking about their balls, especially if the chat involves a scalpel (Picture: Dave Anderson/Metro.co.uk)

    We are forever being promised that a male pill is ‘just around the corner’ and as much as I passionately believe more money must be spent on its development, we should also be investing in an option that is already available.

    Vasectomies are disappearing from our local NHS services and we shouldn’t be letting them go without a fight.

    As the only non-barrier method of contraception available for men, vasectomies play a leading role in the battle for gender equality in the bedroom.

    Men need to be better informed about all types of contraception, (including those their partner may be taking) but it is vital that they have easier access to the vasectomy, after the last 10 years have shown a 64 per cent decline in the procedure in the UK.

    The current system operates like a postcode lottery. Access to the procedure depends on how financially viable your local authority deems it to be. But removing ‘the snip’ from NHS services is not only a false economy, it’s bad for men, worse for women and, in my opinion, has the potential to put serious strain on the future of our society.

    For one, cutting vasectomies is poor financial planning. The Family Planning Association state that every £1 spent on contraception saves £11 in averted health costs long term, so the NHS removing the option of vasectomies will cost us dearly in the future.

    Surely the cost of a procedure as minor as a vasectomy is substantially smaller than the cost of an unplanned pregnancy, leading to either a termination, or a birth followed by entire lifetime of medical care?

    While some may argue that men who want the procedure that badly will be willing to pay for it privately, at a cost of around £500 the price is far from realistic for men who are already struggling to make ends meet.

    I would also go as far as to say that vasectomies are good for the environment. We’re using the planet’s resources faster than it can replenish itself, and population growth is increasing exponentially.

    Environmental anxiety has been spoken about a lot in the press this week, and people are taking all sorts of measures to reduce their impact on the planet.

    You still orgasm. You still have semen, there just isn’t any sperm in it anymore. Winner.

    It’s all well and good minimising your carbon footprint, but reducing the number of footprints altogether is even better. I’m not saying that we should adopt a Chinese-style ‘one child policy’, but with one in six pregnancies in the UK being unplanned, wouldn’t it be good to take active measures to reduce this number as much as possible?

    The vasectomy is a contraceptive option that leaves no room for user error and requires no maintenance after the eight week sperm count check-up.

    Although no contraceptive is 100 per cent effective, the horror stories you hear about a friend of a friend who got his wife pregnant after getting the snip, is more likely to be due to him missing a check-up, which would have confirmed whether or not his tubes had healed properly.

    We should be advocating it, not erasing it. We need to change our approach to contraception. For too long, women have carried the burden of pregnancy prevention despite providing only one fertilisation candidate each month while men make millions of competitors each day.

    Hormone imbalancesirregular bleeding, IUD insertion and period cramps. Then, once you decide to let one of your eggs go out on a date, it’s nine months of growing an actual human inside of you.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if, after all that trauma, male partners took one for the team?

    As a society, we need to become less ashamed when it comes to talking about sex and fertility. But it is only through talking that we learn about our options.

    Shame breeds misinformation, too. I’ve spoken to many men who seem to be under the illusion that post-vasectomy orgasms are void of pleasure and are as dry as the Arizona desert. False.

    You still orgasm. You still have semen, there just isn’t any sperm in it anymore. Winner.

    Men might feel uncomfortable talking about their balls, especially if the chat involves a scalpel.

    But the procedure can actually be carried out through keyhole surgery, requiring only local anaesthetic with the patient being able to walk out of surgery stitch-free without a scalpel in sight!

    Having a vasectomy is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. The NHS recommend that ‘You should only have a vasectomy if you’re sure that you don’t want more, or any, children. It should always be seen as permanent.’

    In a world where we are living longer, more sexually active lives, I understand that prospect of surgical contraception is daunting. But we should be supporting men who have made the decision to not have any/anymore children.

    As with female contraceptives, male methods are surrounded with stigma. Sterilisation does not equal emasculation.

    Men need to be better informed about the option of a vasectomy and demand access via the NHS.

    What use is a male contraceptive if men aren’t encouraged to consider it? Whilst we eagerly await the arrival of the male pill, we shouldn’t forget about an option that is already developed but sadly underfunded and underused.

    MORE: After being diagnosed with no sperm, I started a group for men to talk about fertility

    MORE: Woman shares emotional fertility battle in heart-wrenching videos

    MORE: Big Narstie is getting a vasectomy after the birth of his second child: ‘Two is enough’


    Metro IllustrationsMetro Illustrations

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    (Picture: SSENSE)

    We live in the age of opportunity.

    Once upon a time we could only select either skinny or flared. Now our denim wardrobe is wide open and full of possibility.

    You can buy jeans covered in fake dirt, denim panties, and even jeans that barely qualify as a pair of trousers.

    But if even these options fill you with ennui, don’t panic, for now there is an even more out-there upgrade on your standard denim.

    Behold Junya Watanabe’s Indigo Denim Mix Panelled Skirt.

    For the bargain price of £3,025, you can be the proud wearer of a skirt designed to look like the waistbands of multiple pairs of jeans stitched together.

    The A-line skirt allows panels of jeans to cascade past your knees, complete with upside down pockets, rivets, and belt loops.

    (Picture: Ssense)

    What could be more stylish? What better thing could there be to spend three grand on?

    The product description reads: ‘Mid-length panelled non-stretch denim skirt in tones of indigo. Mid-rise. Fading, whiskering, belt loops, and pocket detailing throughout. Concealed zip closure at side-seam. Copper-tone hardware. Contrast stitching in tan.’

    The model on Ssense wears the skirt the only possible way – with a chain harness, a white shirt, and a neon plastic bag.

    Look at this picture and you will see the definition of fashion in 2019. Look it up.

    (Picture: Ssense)

    You could make your own take on the skirt with ten pairs of jeans, a pair of scissors, and some safety pins, but that seems like quite a bit of work.

    It comes down to how you value your time, really. Would you rather painstakingly slice apart a bunch of jeggings for a few hours, or just drop a few thousand?

    While you ponder that conundrum, rest assured that the skirt isn’t the only bit of funky denim on offer.

    Junya Watanabe is also selling an upside-down denim skirt (with the waistband on the hem), a denim corset T-shirt, and a jeans skirt ripped open to reveal layers of tulle.

    Like we said, it truly is a wonderful time to be alive.

    MORE: Commenter ‘mansplains’ what a labia is while defending high-cut Fashion Nova bodysuit

    MORE: People are saying this Fashion Nova romper looks like a toe

    MORE: I’m a short, transgender man who modelled at London Fashion Week to show that fashion can be diverse


    If you\'re looking for another way to upgrade your jeans, try turning a bunch of pairs into a skirtIf you\'re looking for another way to upgrade your jeans, try turning a bunch of pairs into a skirt

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    (Picture: Getty)

    Spill it is the series where we get people to anonymously tell us about their drinking habits.

    We’re talking to men and women from all over the UK – unless anyone volunteers from abroad in which case we’re going international – about how much they really drink.

    Not how much they tell their doctor they drink, or a rough guesstimate, but the unvarnished boozy truth.

    This week we’re hearing from Gabrielle (not her real name) who is a 22-year-old student, who lives in central London.

    Friday 

    I had a heavy Thursday night so I don’t get up until around lunch time. I don’t have any lectures today so I watch Riverdale in bed and do some home beauty treatments (sheet mask, exfoliate, tan) to try to make myself look better.

    Around 8PM I head out to dinner with some of my girlfriends. We share three bottles of Prosecco between six, then head to a bar down the road where we have a few rounds of tequila shots and a cocktail each.

    Then my friends insist that we go out-out, so we go to a club. Someone gets at table so I’m just picking up whatever drinks are around, which I know is dangerous but usually works out fine.

    Saturday

    I wake up around lunch time. I don’t have a hang over but I’m tired, so I spend a lot of the afternoon in bed watching TV. I live in a two bed apartment in Notting Hill. My sister technically lives here too but she spends most of her time at her boyfriend’s house.

    Around 5PM my friends talk me into going to the pub in Fulham, so I get an Uber over. I’m not planning to drink much, so I start with a glass of Rose and then move on to vodka lime soda. Then I’m drunk so I just go with it, we do shots – I’m not sure how many.

    Eventually we go back to someone’s house and everyone is doing lines. So much for good intentions.

    Sunday

    Wake up feeling gross. I’m supposed to have yoga and brunch with friends but I can’t face it so I cancel, claiming I have cramps. Spend the day in bed watching Netflix and Whatsapping my friends about who they slept with last night.

    Around 6pm I feel better so my sister and I go down to Westbourne Grove for dinner. We share a bottle of rose.

    Monday

    I want to have a healthy week so I go to a HIIT class on Monday morning at 11am which is super early for me. Then I head down to the library to try to work on an essay. My friends from my course are also there so we decide to go to lunch instead.

    I’m home around 6pm, no work on my essay done but feeling happier than I did that morning.

    Tuesday

    Oversleep and miss my lecture. My sister isn’t working at the moment so we go to brunch and talk about our summer plans – she wants to go to Ibiza for the whole thing which I think is stupid.

    In the afternoon I try to work on my essay but I can’t settle to it, every time I Google a paper I end up looking at Airbnbs for a girls weekend.

    I go to yoga in the evening, down the road from my house, then make dinner for me and my sister and her boyfriend. They get an early night (gross) so I watch TV on the actual TV.

    Wednesday 

    Hump day! I have class so I get an Uber over there, do my lecture and then go to the library. I get 500 words done of my essay and then message my friends to go to lunch. We spend the afternoon shopping and I spend way too much money on a new coat. It’s about to be spring, why do I need a coat?

    In the evening I have some of my girlfriends over to my place to watch a movie. I order us Poke bowls because I don’t feel like cooking. We share two bottles of Rose between four.

    Thursday

    The deadline for my essay is getting closer, I’m thinking about asking for an extension but I’ve done that twice and I think they’re getting suspicious. I spend some time Googling people who write essays for you, but it seems like you always get caught.

    A guy I’m casually seeing asks me to the pub so I go over there about 9pm. They’re sitting outside because they all smoke and I am freezing so I do shots to try and get warm. We go back to his place around 11.30.

    Friday

    Really annoyed to wake up at his place – I had booked into a class and it’s non refundable. I get up and go home to shower because his house is gross.

    This week has been way too drink-y so I decide to get a train back to my parents’ place in the country for the weekend to detox. They’re will be wine obviously but no drugs, no boys and no tequila.

    Recommended NHS units: 14

    Gabrielle drank: 29

    MORE: Spill it: How much a 45-year-old mother drinks in a week

    MORE: Spill it: How much a 37-year-old financier drinks in a week

    MORE: Spill it: How much a 27-year-old journalist drinks in a week


    Spill itSpill it

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    (Picture: Battersea Cat’s Home)

    Birthdays should always be a big occasion. Cake, decorations and a nice party with all of your loved ones.

    But for Twizzle the cat his birthday was spent waiting at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home for someone to give him a fur-ever family.

    The day the handsome cat turned eight also marked his 125th day with Battersea waiting to be adopted.

    The average stay of a cat at Battersea is just 23 days.

    Staff at the rescue centre believe the reason for Twizzle’s unusually long stay is due to him testing positive for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

    FIV is a slow-acting and contagious virus that is most commonly transmitted by deep bite wounds.

    (Picture: Battersea Cat’s Home)

    Due to the contagious nature of the infection, Battersea rehomes FIV+ cats to homes with enclosed gardens to prevent cats from mixing with one another and potentially spreading the virus, a requirement that could rule out some potential owners.

    Although most cats who are FIV+ live a long and happy life with no health issues, in some cases cats can become unwell due to their FIV infection, so people can be put off adopting a cat like Twizzle.

    (Picture: Battersea Cat’s Home)

    Battersea’s Cattery Team Leader, Rosa Steele said: ‘Twizzle is such a lovely cat and it’s a huge shame that he has been waiting for so long to find a home.

    ‘He is an intelligent, playful cat and has a lot to offer as a pet. What better birthday gift could you give one of our cats than a loving new home?’

    To mark the special occasion for their longest staying feline friend, the team at Battersea Cattery threw Twizzle a party and are hoping that this birthday bash will catch the eye of potential new families.

    (Picture: Battersea Cat’s Home)

    Twizzle is not the only FIV+ cat at Battersea. His neighbour in the London cattery, Johnnie, the big black panther, also needs someone to care for him, as does Felix, the ginger and white domestic shorthair, who has been at Battersea’s Old Windsor centre since last November.

    On average, Battersea cares for 120 cats across their sites in London, Kent and Windsor.

    Can you help Twizzle find a home?

    Send us your cat stories!

    As the media partners of CatFest, coming to London on 29 June, we're excited to share loads of stories about brilliant cats.

    All cats are wonderful, of course, but if you have a story of a truly exceptional kitty, we want to hear it.

    We're talking about lifesaving cats, cats who've overcome challenges, kitties who've changed things for the better.

    If you've got a story to share, send us an email at ellen.scott@metro.co.uk with the details and pictures.

    To book your tickets to CatFest, do head over to Eventbrite.

    MORE: Glorious photographs take a look at cats from below

    MORE: ‘Miracle’ cat with cancer survives years after vets said she should be put down


    Twizzle 2-822aTwizzle 2-822a

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    Some people even worry that they are pregnant if they haven’t had sex, and don’t know why their menstrual cycle might vary in length. (Photo: Martin Delaney)

    My name is Robyn and I am autistic. Two years ago, I started work on an autism-friendly guide to periods.

    I’m a very matter-of-fact person, and I decided that we needed a guide that adopted that attitude when it comes to talking about periods.

    After all, so many books out there are quite twee, feminine, or overlook some of the bigger issues.

    As part of my work as an honorary research associate at UCL, I put together a survey and interview project to compare autistic and non-autistic people’s experiences of periods and period education.

    What I learnt was that there were huge gaps in my interviewees’ knowledge. Some would even worry that they were pregnant if they hadn’t had sex, and they didn’t know why their menstrual cycle might vary in length.

    While autistic people might be more prone to having trouble in these areas, a lack of knowledge about this subject affects everyone.

    Often, people are too embarrassed to talk about periods, leading to situations where they don’t know what basic body parts like a cervix look like.

    For me, periods were actually a relatively easy thing to get to grips with because my mum was a biology teacher.

    As a toddler, I would watch her change sanitary pads, but I have found that many children don’t get this kind of practical education.

    This fired a passion in me to try and make something that might inspire change, using my autistic stance to help others see differently.

    First off, the most commonly available period products – like pads and tampons – are often a problem. Many autistic people take in a lot more sensory information, such as smells and textures, and the scents often used in these products would overwhelm them.

    Autistic people also often struggle with executive functioning, meaning that planning and doing things in the right order at the right time is difficult, so it was important to highlight that you can wear period underwear or other longer-use products all day, which is much easier.

    I also commissioned some photos that gave a step-by-step guide to changing a pad. In my research, I found that photos are much more effective at explaining processes like these than cartoons, which are so often used.

    The photos were taken over my shoulder, so that readers didn’t need to flip the image – making allowances for autistic people who have trouble with images rotated at odd angles.

    As a toddler, I would watch my mym change sanitary pads, but I have found that many children don’t get this kind of practical education (Photo: Martin Delaney)

    I also included photos of what periods look like, showing examples of spots of fake blood in your underwear in the pictures, as children starting periods may have previously only seen blood when they are hurt.

    This can mean it’s really scary when they get their first period, as they think something is terribly wrong and they are injured.

    Autistic people can also often be overwhelmed by too much information, so in the book I also created a grid of flaps that can be cut out and placed over the pages with pictures, to make it more user friendly. You can lift up a flap to see a picture and then put the flap down.

    It also felt it was important that everyone understands how big the reproductive system is in comparison to everyday objects.

    Above all, this is because it is the best way to solve any anxiety that a tampon will get lost in you, a worry for many of the autistic children that I spoke to.

    I was told by an expert that the womb is the same size as a lemon, the vagina is the same size as a tube of travel toothpaste. As for the Fallopian tubes, each are a similar size to a long key, and each ovary is the size of a two pence piece.

    I also stress in the book that periods are part of a menstrual cycle. This means that you’re always somewhere within the cycle, and each part has emotional and physical symptoms that can be managed.

    Knowing the probable emotional and physical symptoms of periods can help you understand why your body is doing what it’s doing. Many autistic people are very detail-orientated, so anything that is not explicit can lead to stress and confusion.

    Above all, what I felt we needed was a guide to periods that was written in as plain language as possible, to promote complete understanding.

    This guide is for everyone – including boys, men and people who aren’t autistic – and I hope the opportunity to learn more of the facts around periods takes the shame and unanswered questions out of the equation.

    The Autism-Friendly Guide to Periods will be released on April 18.

    MORE: I painted a self-portrait every week to get myself through four months of chemotherapy

    MORE: Autistic people have voices, reducing us to puppets in a play is a betrayal

    MORE: Single mum reveals daily struggle of caring for her three autistic sons


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    For many women, ‘strong’ is a problematic label – it comes with a stigma and can put women off from being active altogether.

    A huge study by Sport England found that 75% of women say fear of judgement puts them off being active.

    So it is more important than ever that women reclaim their definition of strength and find ways to make fitness part of their lives.

    Any woman can find their strength, love their body and be physically fit – regardless of outward appearance.

    Michelle Elman is a body confidence coach.

    15 surgeries before the age of 20 left her with significant scarring, now she campaigns to include people with scars in the body positive conversation.

    Michelle Elman poses in sports gear
    (Picture: Michelle Elman/Metro.co.uk)

    How important is fitness in your life?

    I first started working out after my last hospitalisation when I was 19.

    I was bed-ridden for six weeks and when I was re-learning to walk, and I found that I developed a sudden interest in learning to run and that’s where my love of exercise started.

    Especially post-hospital, it gave me a lot of control around my body and reminded me that my body was still strong and capable of doing a lot.

    The main reason I hadn’t tried anything previously was around fear that I would injure myself, but that happened anyway – so I started trying new things from dance classes to hiking.

    I went back to a lot of my old favourites that I used to do, but had stopped out of fear, like horse-riding, paddleboarding and wakeboarding.

    In school, sports and PE lessons always gave off the mentality that you had to be good at a sport to play it, especially when as you got older.

    If you weren’t on the team, you weren’t allowed to play, so as an adult, what I love most is being able to enjoy those sports, whether it be squash or netball, and not have to focus on the skill of it – just the pure enjoyment.

    Sport also provides a break away from work and a vital release for my emotions.

    Being in hospital at 19 was a real turning point. I realised how many fun memories I had missed out on and, for the first time, it made me realise that my body had a much larger purpose than to be beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.

    Has the fitness community been welcoming?

    As I found the body positive community online, I started realising how much of the fitness industry used really body-shaming language and always equated movement to numbers on a scale or calories burnt.

    So I started using my social media presence to talk about how your relationship with exercise didn’t need to be that, and that the harsh language we use about our bodies (kill your workout, burn that fat, no pain, no gain) can actually be harmful.

    Michelle Elman on a squash court
    (Picture: Michelle Elman/Metro.co.uk)

    When you talk like this, you override your body’s signals for when you need to rest and you also use exercise as a form of punishment.

    Last year, I particularly started talking about how a lot of exercise was actually landing me in a physiotherapist’s office and how she had told me I really needed to take a step back from everything.

    Society likes to body shame fat women in particular – telling us to ‘go to the gym and lose some weight’, but it is important to show that sometimes health is about stopping exercise.

    I massively reduced my workouts last year and went back to simply walking and the most basic of exercises, like learning how to press the lift button using the right muscles.

    As a result, in January, a year later, I’ve been able to return to playing squash and swimming with the least chronic pain I have ever had.

    I believe it’s important that when we talk about health, it’s not just about being thin or being what society believes ‘health’ looks like. To me, health is experiencing the least chronic pain I have ever had in my life and the fact that I have not been hospitalised in six years.

    Tell us about your scarred not scared campaign

    I believe Scarred Not Scared is important because before I launched it in 2015, there wasn’t a space for people with scars to feel heard and comfortable in their own skin.

    People with scars are often taught to hide them because it ‘makes people uncomfortable’ and so the majority of scarred people have suffered in silence around their body shame.

    Since my campaign predominantly focuses on surgery scars, I include conversations about varying ability in the gym and how to advocate for your body when you can’t always keep up in a class.

    I think we too often only see one type of body when it comes to a strong or fit woman. We are never shown that “strong” is not an appearance, or told that your fitness cannot be assumed by your size.

    Michelle Elman with free weights
    (Picture: Michelle Elman/Metro.co.uk)

    As a result, a lot of people don’t feel comfortable or safe in workout spaces, and this is enhanced by the multiple instances where fat people, (I use fat as a descriptor and not an insult) have been photographed, laughed at or condescended in a gym.

    Whenever you have had health difficulties, surgeries or live with a chronic illness, your relationship with fitness becomes warped and it becomes really easy to focus on what you can’t do. That led to a personal struggle that I was never as capable as my peers.

    But, over time, focusing on the fun of exercise helped me to overcome this struggle. That’s why I think it’s really important to not worry about the skill necessarily.

    When you go to classes, often you have to make amendments and that can be really nerve-wracking if you are new to the gym. Especially when personal trainers don’t take the time to ask about any injuries before the class, and then take the “push harder, you can do it!” approach.

    It’s assumed you are being lazy, when actually you are trying to exercise in a way that is safe for you.

    I think my relationship with fitness differs most in the way that I exercise out of fun and enjoyment, and not out of compulsion.

    You will always hear people say, ‘I need to go to the gym’ or, ‘I have to go’. You shouldn’t need to, or have to. If you don’t enjoy the gym, don’t go.

    Find something else that actually adds to your life. I don’t see the gym as punishment or a way to work off the latest chocolate bar I ate. I focus on what I enjoy.

    MORE: Strong Women: ‘We lost everything, I was suicidal. Signing up for an Ironman saved me’

    MORE: Strong Women: ‘Menopause made me anxious, fitness helped me find myself again’


    Strong Women: MichelleStrong Women: Michelle

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