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

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    What it's really like to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital
    Testosterone deficiency is really common – but there is still a lot of stigma (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Around one in 20 men over the age of 40 have low levels of testosterone – but it isn’t being talked about.

    Because of limited social understandings of gender, testosterone has become so intrinsically wrapped up with the concept of ‘masculinity’ that there is shame attached if you don’t have enough of the stuff in your body.

    Which is ridiculous. Testosterone is just a hormone, nothing more. It is the primary sex hormone in men and testosterone deficiency (TD) can cause a whole range of problems – so it’s important that men are able to talk about this common health issue and help remove the stigma.

    Peter* began experiencing symptoms in his early 40s. He was constantly lethargic, with physical tiredness and mental fatigue.

    Peter has a high powered job in the city and enjoys doing martial arts in his spare time, but he started to feel as if he no longer wanted to take part because of a sudden lack of willpower.

    He began to feel like a stranger in his job and was less engaged with the work than before leaving him feeling lonely and isolated and ‘like a fraud.’ He also felt the symptoms of TD had an impact on his marriage, as his low mood and lack of willpower put a strain on his relationship.

    ‘I found it increasingly difficult to concentrate and even the simplest tasks like household chores, seemed like insurmountable problems,’ says Peter.

    ‘No amount of rest or sleep seemed to help and changes in my diet had no effect. I would eat constantly to try to gain energy and so began to put on extra weight.’

    The consensus from different doctors he consulted was that he was healthy in all other respects, so stress might be the underlying cause. Peter was told to focus on stress management techniques and dietary control.

    Doctors also recommended different diets, for example more magnesium, but nothing he tried had any impact on his persistent symptoms.

    ‘Whilst I certainly did have a stressful job, I was not convinced that was the issues, and I resigned myself to my condition,’ Peter tells us.

    Should you drink after a marathon?
    ‘No amount of rest or sleep seemed to help and changes in my diet had no effect’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    ‘I looked on in envy at friends and colleagues who would spend their weekends doing fun things, hobbies and sports, while I would be in zombie-mode doing very little and desperately trying to recharge my batteries before the working week began again.’

    Some professionals even suggested that his symptoms were simply the sign of Peter being an ‘introvert,’ but that didn’t explain the recent onset of his condition.

    Stranger still, Peter’s son James* was experiencing similar symptoms and had previously been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, he had started to research around the subject of testosterone.

    Symptoms of testosterone deficiency

    • Testosterone deficiency (TD) or hypogonadism is a condition where the testes produce few or no hormones
    • The symptoms may occur quickly or gradually, sometimes taking years to become noticeable
    • Common symptoms include:
      • Fatigue
      • Erectile dysfunction
      • Low sexual desire (low libido)
      • Lack of physical strength
      • Loss of muscle mass
      • Weight gain
    • Other signs:
      • Loss of body, facial and pubic hair
      • Increased breast tissue (gynaescomastia)
      • Small testicles
      • Increased BMI/body fat (body mass index)

    Symptom checker website for patients: www.TackleTD.com

    • Provides symptom checker so men can tick-off of the symptoms they may be experiencing and print off results to speak with a doctor
    • Offers background information on the condition for patients

    Peter and James went to a private practice together where they were diagnosed with TD at the same time and prescribed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

    ‘I was very skeptical,’ admits Peter, ‘but after consulting a specialist GP, it was diagnosed that my testosterone levels were extremely low and that could be the cause of my symptoms.

    ‘The doctor suggested a course of testosterone replacement therapy. I was shocked and a little concerned. I thought only bodybuilders took this and did not realise at the time that it was a natural hormone produced by the body that simply diminished with age.’

    Peter life was almost instantly transformed by the treatment. He said it has had a positive effect on his character, happiness and confidence levels.

    He feels more energetic and more engaged in his work, relishing the challenges of new projects in his chief executive position.

    ‘It was as if my brain fog had cleared and I could concentrate with ease and face any problem no matter how big or small. I now have energy levels I could only dream of previously. I even attend the gym regularly and this is increasing my health and well being and I am losing weight.

    ‘When I stop taking the testosterone replacement therapy the symptoms return so I would never be without my medication.’

    Peter does however feel that there are still negative assumptions around testosterone and its usage. He says the connotations around the word testosterone – being associated with steroids and excessive gym use – are misleading.

    He wants people to understand that that testosterone is just a natural hormone that men produce less of as they get older.

    ‘The stigma exists and needs to be addressed so that more people in my situation can experience the life-changing benefits of getting treatment.’

    Who is most at risk of TD?

    • It is estimated that up to 5% of men over 40 suffer from low testosterone – although many may remain undiagnosed
    • Men can develop low testosterone for a number of reasons, although sometimes the specific cause is unknown
    • It can occur later in life (40s-50s+)  and can also affect men who are obese or have type 2 diabetes
    • Men with cardiovascular problems may also be at risk of developing testosterone deficiency

    Research has found that less than a quarter (22%) of men over the age of 55 would talk to their partner if they were experiencing the symptoms of testosterone deficiency.

    Men are more likely to head straight to the doctor to sort out ‘bedroom issues’ like erectile dysfunction and low libido, but are much less likely to seek help for other testosterone deficiency symptoms like mood changes/depression and reduced strength.

    ‘Testosterone deficiency or hypogonadism is a potentially serious condition where the body is unable to produce enough levels of testosterone, which can negatively impact sexual performance, emotional well-being and physical strength. It is currently underdiagnosed,’ says sexual medicine expert Dr Kam Mann, from University Hospital Southampton.

    ‘It is important that men recognise the symptoms of testosterone deficiency, such as erectile dysfunction, low libido, reduced strength, tiredness, lack of concentration and low mood, and don’t simply mistake them for signs of ageing.

    ‘Men with testosterone deficiency may unknowingly be suffering in silence and it is important that more is done to encourage men to seek medical advice for a formal assessment.’

    As part of the campaign to boost awareness and get men talking, charity Tackling TD have enlisted football pundit Chris Kamara to produce a special video highlighting the symptoms.

    ‘It’s great to be involved with a campaign that is encouraging men to stop putting their health on the sidelines and go and speak to a GP if they have health concerns, for example, symptoms of testosterone deficiency,’ said Chris.

    ‘In truth, before supporting the campaign I knew little about the condition or how it can seriously affect men.

    ‘I am now aware of the major impact it can have on a man’s quality of life, affecting relationships, mental health, work and hobbies, amongst other things, so it’s very important to recognise the symptoms and address it as soon as possible.’

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘My daughter’s teacher recoiled when I tried to take her because I don’t look like her’

    MORE: Man takes selfies for three years to show how much sobriety has changed him

    MORE: Man who struggled with eczema on his face for years is treating the condition by drying out his skin

    What it's really like to be admitted to a psychiatric hospitalWhat it's really like to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital

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    TU Sainsburys breastfeeding range
    Tu is offering a range of tops, dresses and jackets that allow easy access for breastfeeding (Picture: Tu Clothing)

    If you’re a mum who is breastfeeding, finding clothes that are stylish but offer easy access to your boobs, can be difficult.

    That’s why Tu, the fashion brand at Sainsbury’s, has launched a range of breastfeeding-friendly clothes.

    The collection has been put together with the help of the Can I Breastfeed In It community, a group that shares outfit ideas for breastfeeding mums.

    It includes shirts, blouses, pinafores, jumpsuits and tops, featuring zip, wrap fronts and button-through designs.

    Most pieces run from sizes 8-22, with some items available up to a size 28.

    Prices start at £14 and the most expensive piece is a dress for £45.

    Shoppers were very excited by the range and the Facebook post announcing the collection received over 3,800 shares and 11,000 likes.

    Rebekah said: ‘Well done Sainsbury’s! Finally breastfeeding friendly clothes are not classed as maternity! This should have happened ages ago!’

    Jessica said: ‘One of the hardest things PP [post-partnum] is learning to love your new body and I found it even harder not being able to wear my usual clothes as they didn’t have boob access.

    ‘This is really helpful that you have a lovely range of breastfeeding-friendly clothes without being maternity.’

    The supermarket is also using a model breastfeeding a baby to promote the new collection.

    Suzanne added: ‘TU seriously you have made so many ladies happy with this!

    ‘I am already a huge TU shopper loving your quality and your fit but this has blown me away. An advert with nipple too. I’m so pleased.’

    Beccy said: ‘Woohoo. Fantastic thank you TU clothing!!! I’m loving that the model represents new and current mothers too.’

    You can browse the whole collection on their website.

    MORE: Man reveals how testosterone deficiency caused ‘brain fog’ and put a strain on his marriage

    MORE: Dad saves baby born on living room floor by tying umbilical cord with a shoelace


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    Amputee barraged by trolls who say one leg would make her 'easier to rape' https://www.instagram.com/cherie.louise/ Picture: Cherie Louise
    Cherie posted the mirror pic to Instagram (Picture: Cherie Louise)

    Aged six, Cherie, lost a leg to bone cancer, and has spent her life helping other amputees, fielding online questions and working to improve accessibility and awareness.

    Now 27, she models and is an influencer, working to dispel myths about disability.

    Despite the great work she’s doing, though, she’s still not immune to online idiots and trolls bombarding her with insults and threats.

    Recently, the Melbourne resident posted a jokey Twitter reply as part of a social media game. The original tweet said ‘name something you can’t do’, to which Cherie replied a selfie and the caption ‘cross my legs’.

    That’s when the barrage of explicit and disgusting comments started coming in from trolls.

    Sharing screenshots of some of the comments she’d received, Cherie said: ‘Men are so funny and original and smart’.

    Amputee barraged by trolls who say one leg would make her 'easier to rape' https://www.instagram.com/cherie.louise/ Picture: Cherie Louise
    Cherie hopes sharing her story will raise awareness (Picture: Cherie Louise)

    Of their ‘witty’ remarks, multiple people said they’d give her their third leg (sure she’s never heard that before *eye roll*) and another rated her legs 1 out of 2 (*eye rolls so hard I can see my brain*).

    In a sickening turn, one person even replied to the picture claiming that Cherie’s disability would make her easier to rape. The shocking tweet, loosely translated from French, said ‘two times less effort to rape her, I do not think that with one leg she can do much’.

    If that wasn’t already a damning indictment of how women – and particularly disabled women – are treated, another man implied that Cherie had brought it on herself.

    Amputee barraged by trolls who say one leg would make her 'easier to rape' https://www.instagram.com/cherie.louise/ Picture: Cherie Louise
    Disgusting (Picture: Cherie Louise)

    ‘What do you expect from men when you post something sexy or half naked?’ asked the tweeter, clearly ignoring the fact that Cherie was fully clothed in the pictures, and demonstrating just how low the bar is for some.

    It’s not really a PSA you’d imagine you’d have to repeat, but even if Cherie had been fully naked in her pictures, there’s still no justification for rape threats, objectification, and being an annoying sex-pest reply guy.

    Amputee barraged by trolls who say one leg would make her 'easier to rape' https://www.instagram.com/cherie.louise/ Picture: Cherie Louise
    The emoji makes this dumb comment somehow even dumber (Picture: Cherie Louise)

    Sadly, it is something that has to be said again, and something Cherie has experienced throughout her life.

    ‘None of this is new. I’ve had comments like these all my life,’ she said.

    ‘Not just on the internet. Men on the streets have come up to me and said all of these things before.

    ‘We can’t pretend this behaviour only exists online. But just because I’m used to it, and don’t get upset about it, doesn’t mean I understand it or that it’s okay.’

    Cherie uses her public image to hold trolls, ableist individuals, and misogynists to account, and the screenshots of the sick replies have now racked up thousands of social media likes.

    She continued: ‘Although I understand the more public I am, the more negative attention I will garner, I think it does more good than bad.’

    Amputee barraged by trolls who say one leg would make her \'easier to rape\'Amputee barraged by trolls who say one leg would make her \'easier to rape\'

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    The front of the calendar and the tray filled with toys
    The empty calendar and gifts cost a total of £10 (Picture: ExtremeCouponingAndBargainsUK)

    Last year Maria Stockton bought her son an advent calendar – but he ended up being disappointed by the treats he got.

    So this year, Maria, from Chester, decided to create her own.

    She bought an empty calendar for £4 and £6 worth of sweets and toys from budget stores to create the perfect Christmas countdown.

    She shared her DIY creation on the Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK Facebook group and other members were impressed.

    Maria posted: ‘I was so disappointed with the advent calendar I got for my little boy last year, so decided to make my own! £4 from the works for the calendar and about £6 to fill it. I’m made up with it’

    She added multiple items, including tiny packets of sweets, chocolate coins and tiny Thomas trains, to each window to give her son lots to open every day.

    The empty tray from the advent calendar
    She bought the calendar for £4 (Picture: ExtremeCouponingAndBargainsUK)
    The gifts she included in the advent calendar
    And then spent another £6 on gifts (Picture: ExtremeCouponingAndBargainsUK)

    The post had over 3,000 likes with lots of people commenting that they wanted to copy the idea.

    One said: ‘I didn’t know you could do anything like this, I think I’ll do this for my little boy instead of chocolates, they get boring don’t they .’

    The tray of the advent calendar when full
    She added a few items to each day (Picture: Picture: ExtremeCouponingAndBargainsUK)

    Another added: ‘I was thinking of using the Thomas toy to make my own but couldn’t find any that wasn’t too expensive.’

    The £4 calendar isn’t reusable and some suggested picking up a wooden one that can be used again and again.

    Primark is selling this incredible Harry Potter Hogwarts Express train that you could fill up with gifts.

    It’s slightly more at £15, but you can use it every year.

    MORE: Man reveals how testosterone deficiency caused ‘brain fog’ and put a strain on his marriage

    MORE: Shoppers praise Tu at Sainsbury’s for launching breastfeeding-friendly clothing range

    DIY advent calendarDIY advent calendar

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    Self-employed stress
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    I’m fine, you say, despite running on four hours of sleep, having a never-ending to-do list, and having a running monologue running through your mind about the world burning to a crisp.

    As a nation, we’re really not great at knowing when our stress levels have passed the point of acceptable.

    We think as long as we’re able to get up, go to work, and carry out our basic tasks for the day, we must be alright.

    Spoiler: Often, we’re not.

    As we’re rubbish at assessing and acknowledging our own mental wellbeing, it’s worth having a reminder of all the signs of stress that might not immediately make you think ‘okay, I need a break’.

    It’s easy to dismiss a sore jaw or forgetfulness as just one of those annoying body things that happens after a bad night’s sleep, for example, when in fact these are both signs of high levels of stress.

    Other signs include being easily distracted, having frequent colds (yep, if you’ve been sniffling away for the last month, you’re probably more stressed than you think), and feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get.

    Would you be able to spot any of the signs of high stress? Or would you just ignore, ignore, ignore until you’re on route for full-on burnout?

    Signs of stress:

    There are physical signs and those other people can see, then the sneaky types you need to personally watch out for.

    Psychological signs of stress:

    • Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions
    • Difficulty remembering things
    • Being easily distracted
    • Feeling less creative
    • Negative thinking
    • Worrying
    • Depression and anxiety
    • Being prone to accidents
    • Insomnia
    • Feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep

    Emotional signs of stress: 

    • Being tearful
    • Feeling irritable
    • Mood swings
    • Being extra sensitive to criticism
    • Feeling defensive
    • Feeling out of control
    • A lack of motivation
    • Anger and frustration
    • A lack of confidence

    Physical signs of stress:

    • Aches and pains
    • Muscle tension
    • Grinding your teeth (you’ll notice a sore jaw in the morning
    • Allergies/rashes/skin irritations
    • Constipation/diarrhoea
    • Weight loss or gain
    • Indigestion and heartburn
    • Ulcers
    • Feeling a lump in your throat
    • Pins and needles
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Panic attacks
    • Physical tiredness
    • Loss of libido
    • Changes to your period

    Behavioural signs: 

    • Not making time for relaxation or fun
    • Increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and using drugs
    • Working long hours
    • Poor time management
    • Poor standard of work
    • Changes in appearance
    • Social withdrawal
    • Recklessness
    • Outbursts of anger
    • Nervousness
    • Telling lies

    – International Stress Management Association

    If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s likely your stress has stopped being healthy and you may be on the brink of burnout.

    Talk to your manager as soon as possible to work out what changes can be made to lower your stress levels, and talk to your GP if you’re experiencing physical, mental, or emotional symptoms.

    Make sure to prioritise your own wellbeing and lower stress in your own time, too. That means getting enough sleep, eating well, and managing your time so you’re actually leaving the office and spending time relaxing.

    Trying mental exercises such as mindfulness and meditation can help.

    Dr Luke Powles' tips for preventing burnout:

    Manage your expectations

    It’s important to remember that you’re not invincible and there’ll be times when you can’t do everything you’re asked. By trying to do too many things, you’ll increase your stress levels and your risk of burning out.

    Ask for help

    If you’re stressed it can help to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. It’s also a good idea to talk to your boss about your workload if you’re struggling. There are self-referral counselling services that are free to access. You can find more information about these at your GP practice.

    Exercise and meditate

    If done on a regular basis, meditative approaches like practicing mindfulness or yoga can really help. While you may not feel like exercising, it can really help boost your mood. Exercise boosts your endorphins, which are your ‘feel good’ hormones. It also helps to bring cortisol levels (stress hormones) down which can impact your mood and energy levels.

    Healthy lifestyle

    It’s important to also maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and enough sleep. While it might be a struggle to fit this in, it can have a big impact if you’re able to get it right.

    MORE: A quarter of Brits breathing polluted air inside their homes, company claims

    MORE: Shoppers praise Tu at Sainsbury’s for launching breastfeeding-friendly clothing range

    Self-employed stressSelf-employed stress

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    Ali Kilman, from Kentucky, was involved in a car accident in 2017 where her injuries meant she had to have her jaw wired shut.

    As a result, she was forced to learn American Sign Language (ASL) to converse.

    When she got married this week, her dad Al Jones decided to do a special tribute to the significant journey she’s been on since the accident.

    During the reception of Ali and groom, Mitch Kiman, in Ashland, dad Al signed an intimate and meaningful rendition of I Loved Her First by Heartland.

    As soon as he began, an emotional Ali burst into tears.

    Dad signs wedding song for deaf bride Picture: Always Hope Creative
    In a video of the ceremony, dad Al was filmed signing with a side-by-side shot of Ali crying (Picture: Always Hope Creative)

    The tear-jerking scene was filmed by filmmakers Always Hope Creative, who captured the special moment where Al began his speech and referenced the accident.

    Ali was only able to communicate through non-verbal means at the time and began signing to her family to which they did not understand which resulted in the use of a whiteboard being used.

    Al had the poignant song playing as he interpreted the lyrics into ASL.

    The rehearsed piece brought the room to silence as the guests watched and listened intently.

    At the end, Al was met with huge applause and received an emotional hug from his daughter.

    Videographer for Always Hope Creative, Andrew Stevens said: ‘The mother of the bride told me they were planning it as a surprise.

    ‘I teared up as I was filming it. It was in suspense and a lot of tears flowing.’

    What a sweet moment.

    We love a dad-daughter wedding moment. If you liked this story you may enjoy this (be warned, it’s pretty emotional) where a bride incorporated her late father’s ashes into her manicure for the big day.

    While unconventional, it’s still pretty sweet.

    If you have a powerful wedding story to share, get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

    MORE: Granddad eats meal at granddaughter’s wedding beside tribute to his late wife to make sure she is part of it

    MORE: Bride and dad break out in roller skates for father-daughter wedding dance

    MORE: Poignant moment butterfly lands on dad’s hand as he honours daughter who died


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    How being unable to decorate the places we live is affecting us
    Try these breathing techniques to easily de-stress (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Just breathe.

    How many times have you heard that advice when you’re in the middle of a stress-induced meltdown?

    The problem, though, is that many of us don’t know how to properly breathe to calm ourselves down.

    We know the general in and out thing, but when we’re anxious it’s all too easy to start speed-breathing with no way to stop, or become so self-aware of our body that we forget how to breathe without thinking about it.

    Breathwork can be a handy strategy for dealing with stress and anxiety, giving us simple guides to adjust our breathing and thus boost our mood. By encouraging us to count our breaths, the exercise gives us something to focus on and makes sure our breath is properly regulated – rather than being anxious gasps for air.

    Below, for National Stress Day and any other time you need them, we’ve chatted to some breathing experts (yes, those exist) to gather some simple techniques we can all master.

    Breathing technique for general anxiety: Basic box breathing

    This is your go-to breathing technique for dealing with anxiety.

    Rebecca Dennis, the author of And Breathe, explains: ‘When people feel anxious they tend to breathe shallowly, in their chest and often hold their breath. Box breathing is a technique that can help calm thoughts, bring us back into the present moment and release tension. It’s a simple technique that’s easy to learn and one you can do anywhere.

    ‘Box breathing can help handle even the most stressful of situations by focusing on deep breathing. It’s a technique used by SAS to focus and ground in highly stressful situations. You can use this whether you are stuck in heavy traffic, feel some nerves before presenting or taking an exam.’

    So, here’s how you do it:

    • Inhale through the nose for a count of four
    • Hold this breath for a count of four
    • Release the breath out through the nose for a count of four
    • Hold for a count of four

    Easy, right? You can do this cycle as many times as you like, making sure to focus on breathing from the lower belly instead of the upper chest.

    Rebecca suggests placing one or both of your hands on your abdomen or sides to feel the lower part of your belly rise as you breathe in.


    Breathing technique to de-stress: The Double Calm Breath

    The double calm breath is one often used over at Breathpod, a breathwork coaching organisation.

    Breathpod founder Stuart Sanderman talks us through the technique, which is done simply by doubling the length of the exhale to the inhale.

    • Inhale through the nose for a count of four
    • Exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight
    • Inhale for a count of five through the nose
    • Exhale through pursed lips for a count of 10
    • Inhale through the nose for a count of six
    • Exhale through pursed lips for a count of 12

    If the increase in lengths is difficult, don’t panic. You can stick to inhaling for four and exhaling for eight – do whatever makes you feel most relaxed.

    Spending illustrations Money spending cash wallet man broke quid pound pounds rich control lifestyle skint Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk
    Breathe in, breathe out (Picture: Ella Byworth)

    Breathing technique to deal with anxiety ahead of meetings: Bee Breath

    The Bee Breth helps you tune out distractions and get you feeling calm and confident. Use it before a social gathering or a meeting to soothe that negative mental monologue.

    • Sit up straight with eyes closed and a gentle smile
    • Place tips of index fingers against the cartilage between your cheek and ear
    • Inhale deep and steady through the nose
    • Exhale, and as you do make a bumble-bee humming sound – ‘mmmm’ rather than ‘buzzzz’
    • Repeat this five times


    Breathing technique to deal with anxiety in crowds: Alternative Nostril Breathing

    Stuart recommends trying this on your commute to feel centred and calm in crowds.

    You can do this in a private space, too, though, in case you feel a bit awkward pressing your nose in front of a load of strangers.

    Here’s how:

    • Sit comfortably, spine straight, rest left hand on lap and bring right hand to face make a peace sign
    • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril
    • Pause as you close your left nostril with your right ring finger and open right nostril
    • Release breath slowly through right nostril, pausing briefly at end of exhale
    • Inhale through right nostril slowly and steadily.
    • Pause as you close right nostril with right thumb and open left nostril
    • Release breath slowly through left nostril
    • Repeat for five to ten cycles

    Try to keep the length of inhales and exhales consistent – a count of five can help.


    Breathing technique to unwind after work: 5pm Breathing

    Richie, better known as The Breath Guy, says 5pm Breathing is meant for the ‘joyous moment where we get to knock off work, relax, and let our hair down’.

    He says: ‘It also stands for five breaths per minute and is designed to help you wind down and de-stress your internal systems.’

    • Start in a seated or lying down position
    • Put one or both hands over your belly button so you can feel the movement of your abdomen
    • Inhale for four seconds through your nose – you should feel your hands rise or move outwards
    • Exhale slowly for six seconds through your nose. No need to empty your lungs all the way, just exhale slowly until your lungs feel comfortably empty.
    • Hold your breath for two seconds
    • Repeat this cycle ten times

    Breathing technique to help you get back to sleep

    If you can’t drift off or your stress is keeping you up at night, try this technique to help slow the mind and increase calmness.

    • Inhale through the nose for a count of four
    • Hold that breath for a count of six
    • Exhale through pursed lips for a count of eight
    • Repeat four times

    MORE: National Stress Awareness Day: Unexpected signs that you’re experiencing more stress than you realise

    MORE: National Stress Awareness Day: A bad night’s sleep ‘can raise stress levels by a third’

    How being unable to decorate the places we live is affecting usHow being unable to decorate the places we live is affecting us

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    What’s the most extravagant gift you’ve received from your friends?

    The answer to that probably depends on how large your friendship circle is, how loaded they are, and also how much they rate you.

    One woman has clearly done something right as four of her nearest and dearest surprised her with a brand new car for her birthday.

    Mizani Rev from Florida has four amazing friends – Jean, Quia, Taty, and Sara. The group made the ambition plan eight months prior to the big day.

    They used an app called Quapital and saved $25 (£19.40) every week for eight months until they had the funds.

    There were some setbacks, being 22-year-olds on minimum wage jobs and having other commitments, but they got there in the end.

    Yesterday they were able to surprise Mizani with the whip, which made her break down in tears.

    Meanwhile, some of us can’t get a reply back in our Whatsapp squad plans.

    Group of friends next to a car they bought for their friend
    From left: Mizani the birthday girl, Jean, Tati at the back, Quia at the front and Sara on the far right (Picture: Jean Rendel)

    Daycare worker Jean, 23, was the mastermind behind the plan.

    He explains to Metro.co.uk: ‘We used an app called Quapital and set it to automatically take $25 a week from our bank accounts and put it into one group fund “Zani whip fund” until we hit our goal and we searched the internet together to find her the best car!’

    Also in the group are two nurses and one waitress, all aged between 22-23.

    Group chat discussing big birthday present
    The group formed a chat to discuss the plan (Picture: Jean Rendel)

    ‘There were some bumps on the road cause a lot can happen in eight months,’ adds Jean. ‘For example, Sara actually totaled her car a few months back and had to buy a new one so that set us back a bit but we made it happen.’

    He adds that they’re not rich but the weekly set amount was manageable for the group.

    And they felt Mizani was hugely deserving of the gift.

    Woman delighted with birthday present
    Wholesome reaction (Picture: Jean Rendel)

    ‘We did it for her because she is so selfless and always willing to give her last to anyone in need,’ he continued. ‘She doesn’t get much back and doesn’t ask for it but I thought that she deserved it!’

    When Jean shared a video and photos of Mizani’s reaction, the post went viral, racking up nearly 70,000 likes.

    Many people commented, writing: ‘love seeing black love in all its forms’ and ‘we love black friendships’.

    Others added that they were friendship goals, adding that Mizani must be an amazing woman.

    ‘She must be a phenomenal, humble, and giving a woman for friends to come together and do something this big for her.’

    Jean concluded ‘worth every penny’.

    We love to see it.

    MORE: Bride ties the knot wearing a wedding dress made of patches crafted by friends and family

    MORE: Dad’s heartwarming appeal after only two friends show up to autistic daughter’s birthday

    MORE: WhatsApp update let you quietly gossip about Group Chat friends behind their back

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    Posh crumpets, seaweed and tahini used in houmous were all food trends
    Crumpets, seaweed and tahini (used in houmous) were all big this year (Picture: Getty)

    Think back to 2018 – a time when Theresa May was still Prime Minister and vegans were still missing out on Greggs sausage rolls.

    A lot has changed in the last year, including in the food world.

    Waitrose has revealed the biggest food trends of 2019, and predicted what we have to look forward to in 2020.

    One of the biggest trends this year according to the Waitrose Food and Drink Report, was Tahini, a paste made from hulled sesame seeds that have been toasted and ground.

    It’s used to make houmous and searches for jars of stuff on waitrose.com have increased by more than 700% in the last year.

    Next up is noodles. Yes, we know they’ve been around forever but using different types of noodles and incorporating them in different ways has become more popular.

    Searches for soba noodles on waitrose.com are up 83%, udon noddles searches are up 50% and sales of egg noddles have risen by 22%.

    Another tend was celery juice with sales at Waitrose & Partners increasing by 30% and searches on Pinterest rising by 2,457%.

    Celery juice surrounded by celery sticks
    We can’t get enough of the green stuff (Picture: Getty)

    Crumpet sales are up 27% this year and Waitrose says they’ve become posher thanks to chefs like Yotam Ottoleghi and Marcus Wareing adding toppings like lobster, cockle butter, cheddar and Marmite.

    Sales of grains like amaranth (a protein-rich, gluten-free grain) are up 20%, while pouches containing a mix of quinoa, chickpea, bulgar wheat and rice are up 36%.

    Summer might seem like a distant memory right now but Waitrose adds that the trend in the warmer months was for skewers. Four out of five of the bestselling barbecue meat lines were kebabs.

    Another trend was seaweed and seaganism. Kelp, algae, samphire and nori have all been popular, with searches for aonori seaweed up 127% on waitrose.com. The store says seaganism – a vegan diet including sustainable seafood – has also been gaining a folllowing.

    Finally, luxury frozen food and vegan ready meals have become more popular as people want delicious food that is quick to eat. Waitrose says vegan ready meals have become so popular, sales have overtaken vegetarian microwave dinners.

    Outside food, Waitrose has also seen a move towards eco-friendly cleaning products. Sales of eco household cleaning products at Waitrose & Partners are up 17%, eco laundry sales have risen 40% and eco dishwashing products are up 26%. Even recycled toilet paper is selling 39% more than last year.

    For drinks, Waitrose says pink drinks, English orange wine, alcohol-free Negroni, cans over bottles and flavouring your own spirits are the latest trends.

    They predict a few things to watch out for in the year to come.

    A plate of falafels
    People are enjoying making Middle Eastern food at home (Picture: Getty)

    Middle Eastern food at home is set to become more popular, according to the report.

    The report says: ‘Many of us have been buying houmous or falafels for some time – and the kebab house holds a place in many Brits’ hearts.

    ‘But now we’re dabbling with the complex flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine at home as well.’

    Sales of ingredients like sumac, baharat and zaatar are increasing. Courses including Middle Eastern Mezze, Moroccan Kitchen and Chicken Shawarma are selling out at the Waitrose Cookery School.

    Seacuterie is another prediction for 2020. Described as a ‘reimagining of charcuterie, using seafood instead of meat’, the idea started in Australia.

    ‘In recent years, we’ve seen UK chefs turning out classic meat-based charcuterie to rival anything produced on the Continent,’ Amber Dalton, editor of The Good Food Guide, says.

    ‘It makes total sense that they’d look to the sea’s bounty to create intriguing new dishes using time-honoured preserving techniques.’

    With under-35s wanting to eat less salt, other ways of adding flavour include hot sauce, chilli or extra black pepper but Waitrose predicts we’ll be using more mint, basil or nutmeg as seasoning.

    The report adds: ‘Our love for saltiness remains, though, and innovative dishes are replicating the flavour, from crispy chicken skin and halloumi ice cream to tapenade on toast.

    ‘We can look forward to less salt, but more saltiness.’

    And the final prediction for future trends is a move towards better quality meat or fish while cutting down on the amount we eat.

    Views on the animal welfare page on waitrose.com are up 37% and the number of flexitarians continues to rise.

    Research by YouGov for Waitrose in August 2019 showed that a third of Brits are eating less meat and fish than two years ago, and 32% plan to reduce their consumption even more over the next two years.

    MORE: Friends save up £19 a week for eight months to buy a car for their bestie’s birthday

    MORE: Mum creates amazing DIY advent calendar by filling empty tray with pound shop toys

    Waitrose food trendsWaitrose food trends

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    A powerlifting couple celebrated their wedding day by deadlifting an enormous 253-pound barbell.

    Zenna Hernandez, 27, married fiancee Lisa Yang, 28, in Brooklyn in September, and decided to commemorate the happy day with a very special weightlifting session.

    The newlyweds approached the bar while still in their gowns, then used mixed grips – one hand on top and one hand below – to deadlift the weight three times.

    Hernandez told Women’s Health magazine that the exercise was an important symbolic gesture for her and her new wife.

    She said: ‘Individually, we are strong capable women, but together we are stronger.’

    thumbnail for post ID 11052616Jimmy White 'playing some kid called Ronnie O'Sullivan, heard he's useful'

    And wedding photographer Eileen Meny was equally moved by the gesture, writing on Instagram: ‘You can light a unity candle, pour sand in a glass, or do a deadlift.

    ‘Huge advocate of doing your wedding your own way.’

    Hernandez and Yang had to have someone help them take off their shoes before doing the lift.

    The bar was placed on an oriental rug stationed on top of a mat to protect the dock they were standing on.

    Both women are capable of lifting the weight individually, but say wearing their wedding gowns were too ‘poufy’ to pull the bar as close as they normally would, prompting them to opt for a lighter weight.

    Hernandez and Yang met five years ago. The women were initially running fans, but Hernandez got her partner into CrossFit, which involves combining weights with cardiovascular fitness.

    Yang was so enthused by the pastime that she and her wife now enter weightlifting competitions, NBC News reported.


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    Bride and groom in Paris
    A ghost town wedding (Picture: Le Secret d\’Audrey )

    When violent protests erupted in Paris over the summer, it went from being the city of love to being completely deserted.

    For Australian couple Lisa and Tim Gillam, that meant their dream Parisian wedding photoshoot would have to come to a halt.

    Lisa, a 31-year-old pilates instructor and Tim, a 34-year-old executive manager, travelled to the French capital from the Gold Coast, in Queensland, to take dreamy pics overlooking the Eiffel Tower in May this year.

    Unfortunately, 7,000 officers, including riot police, closed down parts of the city after a 28,000-strong protest grew violent on the streets.

    The newlyweds were devastated that their plans for a photoshoot at the Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysees and Arc De Triomphe weren’t going to happen.

    But trying their luck, Lisa, dressed in a stunning white gown, and Tim, in his dapper suit, decided to ask the guards if they could be let in to take some quick pics.

    Luckily for them, officers in the French military were in a good mood and let them in for ten minutes… but it quickly turned into an hour.

    What resulted was a stunning set of shots in a beautiful Parisian ghost town, something film directors would have to pay thousands for.

    Wedding photos in deserted Paris
    The Australian couple got extremely lucky (Picture: Le Secret d\’Audrey)

    ‘When we first approached the military guarding the area they were very hesitant and stern and wouldn’t let us pass,’ Lisa told Femail.

    ‘So Tim and I said, “Please, we’re from Australia and we’re eloping!” and just like that the head of the military police completely changed his mood and let us through with the biggest grin.

    ‘No one seemed to mind. We even got more photos with the cheeky guards when we returned and they were playing the Australian National Anthem on their phones upon our return.

    ‘When we were standing at the very bottom of the Champs Elysees looking up toward the Arc de Triomphe, with not a single soul or car in sight, it felt like the apocalypse.

    Bride kissing French military guard
    And all it took was a little peck on the cheek (Picture: Le Secret d\’Audrey)
    Wedding photos in deserted Paris
    The couple who love travelling eloped to France to get married (Picture: Le Secret d\’Audrey)

    ‘Our videographer had never seen Paris like this and told us to just stop, look, and really take in this once in a lifetime sight.’

    Whenever loved ones see the pictures, they’re always blown away by how Lisa and Tim managed to capture the deserted city.

    Wedding photos in deserted Paris
    Movie directors wanting the same peace and quiet would normally have to pay thousands  (Picture: Le Secret d\’Audrey)
    Wedding photos in deserted Paris
    Lisa and Tim are spending their honeymoon in Europe too (Picture: Le Secret d’Audrey)

    The travel-loving couple decided to eschew the whole traditional wedding in favour of eloping. They also had a European honeymoon.

    MORE: Inseparable kids who say they’ll be together forever stage fake wedding photoshoot

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    Wedding photos in deserted ParisWedding photos in deserted Paris

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    Woman transforms boring bathroom with a sheet of vinyl
    Chloe’s bathroom before and after (Picture: Mercury News & Media)

    Chloe Preece was bored with her grey and cream bathroom but she didn’t want to send thousands replacing it.

    The bathroom was brand new as the Victorian house in Knottingley, West Yorks, was renovated by a developer before Chloe and husband Daniel, 36, bought it but they thought it was a bit dull.

    But in just one day, the 34-year-old transformed the room with a lick of paint, plants, decorations and an amazing tropical-themed vinyl, which cost just £22 for one sheet.

    Clinical Coder Specialist Lead Chloe said: ‘The bathroom was new when we bought the house, so we couldn’t really justify pulling it out and wanted to transform it without spending lots of money.

    ‘The bath panel and cupboard were the wrong shade of grey to go with the flooring – it was a disaster and wasn’t to my taste.

    ‘But something had to be done because it wasn’t liveable and it didn’t look right, we wanted to work towards giving the house some more character.

    ‘I started by painting the cupboards dark green and I didn’t realise how much a lick of paint could change it – usually, I’m quite gung-ho with decorating but I was actually happy with the results at that point.

    ‘We went for a Jumanji vibe by adding lots of plants, and I stumbled across a recently-launched vinyl design company on Facebook and bought their banana plant vinyl to stick on the bath panel.’

    PIC BY MERCURY PRESS (PICTURED Chloe Preeces bathroom after its transformation - fully furnished) A savvy DIY lover has transformed her boring bathroom into an Instagram-worthy plant paradise for just ?167 - by using sticky back vinyl. Chloe Preece, 34, wanted to transform the plain grey and cream bathroom of her new home in Knottingley, West Yorks, without having to fork out thousands to rip it out completely. She bought the semi-detached Victorian house in October last year with husband Daniel, 36, and was told that it was once derelict and had to be extensively renovated by the developer, but despite being brand new found the bathroom left a lot to be desired. SEE MERCURY COPY
    Chloe Preece’s bathroom after its transformation (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

    She spent two hours painting the cupboard and bath panel, with the paint costing £19. She then spent half an hour measuring and sticking the vinyl from Manchester company Jes Rose onto the bath.

    She filled the room with plants including a banana plant, fern and bird of paradise – which all came to £77.

    To finish the look off, she added a tribal wall hanging for £35 and several Ikea wall hangings for the plants at £14.

    All together, Chloe’s bathroom transformation handiwork cost around £167 and took less than one day to carry out.

    PIC BY MERCURY PRESS (PICTURED Chloe Preece and husband Daniel) A savvy DIY lover has transformed her boring bathroom into an Instagram-worthy plant paradise for just ?167 - by using sticky back vinyl. Chloe Preece, 34, wanted to transform the plain grey and cream bathroom of her new home in Knottingley, West Yorks, without having to fork out thousands to rip it out completely. She bought the semi-detached Victorian house in October last year with husband Daniel, 36, and was told that it was once derelict and had to be extensively renovated by the developer, but despite being brand new found the bathroom left a lot to be desired. SEE MERCURY COPY
    Chloe Preece and husband Daniel (Picture: Mercury Press & Media)

    Chloe added: ‘Money was a big factor in the transformation; there was nothing wrong with the bathroom because it was plain white and brand new but we just wanted to work to give it some character again.

    ‘I don’t usually manage to do something on the cheap and only intended on painting the bath panel at first – it just evolved into this naturally!

    ‘The vinyl didn’t just end up being the finishing touch, it was the cherry on top of the plant vibe and jazzed it up.

    ‘I was initially worried that the vinyl would be a nightmare and pull the paint off but it has held up really well.

    ‘People have gone wild for our bathroom online, saying that it’s the bathroom of dreams, and I’m just thinking ‘Wow, we did that!”

    The couple, who recently got married, have documented their whole home transformation on their Instagram page @teampreece and have used vinyl in other rooms, including their utility room.

    They now plan to continue using the Jes Rose vinyl prints to transform their plain white shower.

    MORE: Woman transforms £3.50 chocolate cake from Tesco into adorable hedgehog

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    Woman transforms boring bathroom with a sheet of vinylWoman transforms boring bathroom with a sheet of vinyl

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    metro illustrations
    ‘When you are borrowing money, a loan has a fixed term and repayments, but credit cards, catalogues and overdrafts work differently’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Debt is complex, varied and wide-ranging.

    You can find yourself in loads of different kinds of debt; from the small to the short-term to the crisis-level of debt.

    Knowing which type of debt you have can be crucial in helping you to get out of it – so it’s important to understand the many categories of debt and how they are different.

    They type of debt you have really depends on how you borrowed the money, how much, and where from. That all has an impact on how quickly you need to try to pay off your debts, and which ones you need to prioritise.

    Unsecured debt

    Let’s start with unsecured loans; loans where you agree to make regular repayments to the lender until the loan, as well as all interest, is fully repaid.

    Non-payment of these kinds of loans can result in further fees and even court proceedings, so you need to keep on top of them.

    Common unsecured debts include:


    This is where you buy something from a catalogue and a payment plan is agreed.

    Payments are made weekly until whatever you bought is paid for in full. The payment is usually a fixed sum credit agreement.

    ‘0 per cent offers can prove difficult and expensive if you don’t repay them on time,’ explains debt advisor Sara Williams.

    ‘The Buy Now Pay Later deals from catalogues turn into very expensive debt if they aren’t repaid in the set period.

    ‘And some of the new shopping facilities like Klarna may not even feel like debt, until you find you have bought more than you can afford to repay and the letters arrive from a debt collector.’

    ella byworth 1 of 3 for Spending illustrations Metro illustrations Ella Byworth/ metro.co.uk
    Credit card debt is one of the UK’s biggest debt problems (Picture: Ella Byworth/ metro.co.uk)

    Personal loans

    This is a loan made to a person rather than a company. The loan is offered with a fixed rate of interest built in at the beginning.

    Payments are made monthly and are fixed over an agreed period of time. The interest rate on personal loans is usually pretty high.


    An overdraft is an agreement between you and your bank that allows you to spend an agreed upon amount of money more than you currently have in your account.

    It might not feel like debt, but it definitely is.

    Overdrafts often have a high level of interest on them and also there is usually a small charge to use your overdraft, or a big charge if you haven’t pre-agreed to the overdraft with your bank.

    Store cards

    Store cards are now available in most high street shops. Repayments are made on a monthly basis and have to be paid in full to avoid interest charges.

    Guarantor loans

    This is a type of unsecured loan that requires a guarantor to co-sign the credit agreement.

    A guarantor is a person who agrees to repay the borrower’s debt should the borrower default on agreed repayments.

    ‘If you have bad credit, a guarantor loan may look cheaper than a payday loan, but if you get into financial difficulty, a guarantor loan can be incredibly stressful as you have to keep making the payments if you don’t want you guarantor to be affected,’ explains Sara.

    ‘I hope the regulator will introduce extra protection for guarantor loans to help borrowers and guarantors, but until that happens a guarantor loan can be dangerous.’

    Credit cards

    Credit card debt is one of the UK’s biggest debt problems. If you have credit card debts that remain unpaid for long enough, it can make it much harder to borrow in future because it can tank your credit score.

    A common cause of credit card debt is using your credit card to withdraw cash – which can incur a fee and higher interest rate – or exceeding your credit limit.

    ‘When you are borrowing money, a loan has a fixed term and repayments, but credit cards, catalogues and overdrafts work differently,’ says Sara.

    ‘With these debts, you can keep borrowing more and the repayments are flexible; so long as you pay the minimum.

    ‘This flexibility can feel very useful, but you can end up trapped in debt for 15 or 20 years if you are only making the minimum repayments – so they can work out very expensive.’

    Online banking illustration
    Knowing which kind of debt you have is important when prioritising your repayments (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Shutterstock)

    Secured debt

    Secured debts are secured by an asset – like a house or a car. So a mortgage is a secured debt. And if you don’t keep up with your repayments, the lender has the right to seize your property – which we don’t want.

    ‘Secured debts are a priority because you can lose your home (mortgage) or car (HP, PCP, leasing),’ explains Sara.

    ‘Other priority debts are those which have to be paid first because something bad can happen if it isn’t; losing your home (rent), having essential services cut off (gas, electricity) or getting sent to prison (council tax, magistrates court fines).

    Sara explains that a secured loan will always be much cheaper than an unsecured loan because you are putting your house at risk.

    ‘If you lose your job or have your hours cut, you can make an arrangement to pay an unsecured loan at a lower rate, but a secured loan always has to be repaid in full,’ she adds.

    ‘Obviously, the interest rate matters.

    ‘All lenders have to quote an APR (annual percentage rate) for their debt to help you compare different products.

    The better your credit record is the lower interest rate you can usually get – although if you have already borrowed a lot, there gets to a point where no-one will give you more debt at a cheap rate.’

    Knowing which kind of debt you have is important when prioritising your repayments.

    Priority debts mean that something bad will happen if you don’t pay it back – like losing your house or going to prison. So it’s always best to start with these debts first when looking at your monthly budget.

    Mortgage repayments, council tax arrears, household bills and magistrate court fines should be top of your list.

    Debt Month

    This article is part of a month-long focus in November all about debt.

    Scary word, we know, but we're hoping if we tackle this head on we'll be able to reduce the shame around money struggles and help everyone improve their understanding of their finances.

    Throughout November we'll be publishing first-person accounts of debt, features, advice, and explainers. You can read everything from the month on the Debt Month tag.

    If you have a story to share, a topic you want us to cover, or a question that needs answering, get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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    the art of borrowing £20the art of borrowing £20

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    For many of us, renting is our only option; and it’s a long-term reality.

    With skyrocketing house prices and astronomical deposit costs, the dream of buying a place of our own may be out of reach unless you’re earning a hell of a lot of money, or you get a helping hand from mum and dad.

    And, while renting can be beneficial and preferable for plenty of reasons, it also comes with its fair share of problems – not least the issue of scraping together a deposit.

    A deposit of up to two months’ rent, plus letting fees, plus the first month’s rent, can add up to thousands.

    Renters in London need to find an average deposit of £3,000 just to secure a lease for a property. In the most expensive boroughs that figure can rise to £8,000.

    If that isn’t bad enough, you can find yourself in real trouble when moving between rented properties, as you’re often required to cough up for a new deposit before you get your old one back.

    This can feel utterly hopeless because most of us don’t have a spare £3,000 lying around every time we move house.

    Pile that on top of the fact that the average renter in London is already paying £1,665 per month on rent alone, it’s no wonder that this additional deposit cost is causing people to use credit cards or take out expensive loans.

    For some, it’s causing a cycle of debt that can be almost impossible to break out of.

    metro illustrations
    ‘I have no savings and had to resort to credit to secure the flat’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Carole is a teacher from Kent. The 53-year-old has found herself in a serious spiral of debt since getting divorced 11 years ago and being forced to put a rental deposit fee on her credit card in order to secure somewhere for her and her son to live.

    Selling her marital home cleared her initial credit card debt, but when she began renting in 2018 her credit score plummeted leaving her in financial difficulty.

    ‘Although I have a very good income, the outgoings are huge,’ says Carole. ‘I have no savings and had to resort to credit to secure the flat as there are not many that are on the ground floor and accept pets.

    ‘Finances had always been hard, but finding a £1200 deposit knowing that I would struggle to pay it back felt awful. Paying interest rates on credit cards was my only option, and something I had never done in my life before. But I needed somewhere to live.’

    Carole’s children are young adults now, but they still need her support, and making sure they are looked after as well as meeting her own monthly bills has been incredibly difficult.

    ‘The stress has been intolerable at times, and it has had an impact on my physical and mental health,’ explains Carole.

    Things took a turn for the worse when her son needed more financial help. He had been living with his partner and new baby in his partner’s graddad’s council flat. They thought it would be passed to her as she had been the live-in carer for him before he died, but this was not the case and the young family was evicted.

    ‘We tried everything to get them a council flat but, in the end, they lived with me for three months in my one-bed flat. The baby was just seven months old when they moved in,’ explains Carole.

    ‘This was difficult for all of us and very stressful as I had to work full-time. The baby was sleeping in my room and my sleep was disturbed to the point sometimes I found it hard to function at work.

    ‘The only option, we were advised, was to get a private rental flat and claim housing benefit.

    ‘They had no money and no way of borrowing – they had no credit score yet. So what else can a mum and grandma do when there is a little baby involved?

    ‘I used my credit card with an interest rate of nearly 30 per cent, knowing full-well I could not pay it back interest-free.’

    metro illustrations
    ‘I was scared and stressed but I felt I had no other choice’ (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Carole put the deposit and the first month’s rent on her credit card – it came to more than £2,000.

    ‘I was scared and stressed but I felt I had no other choice,’ she says. ‘We asked about no deposit options, but nobody seemed to want to help

    With the deposit for both her flat and her son’s flat put onto her credit cards within the space of a year, Carole now owes thousands and the interest is ever-growing. She says the worry affects every aspect of her life.

    ‘I have suffered from episodes of depression, although I try to keep upbeat,’ explains Carole. ‘I am sad that I have worked all my life – from 17 years old – and find myself in a position I never thought I would be in.

    ‘I am becoming quite reclusive as I don’t want to talk to people about my situation. I continue to support my son and grandson, but I look forward to a time in my life where I can be as close to “stress free” as possible, and never pay high interest on cards again.’

    Carole puts her situation down to sheer desperation. She said she rushed to find the first suitable property because there was a baby involved, but if she could do it again she would take time to really assess her options.

    ‘My advice would be (for myself also) to never pay a huge deposit again,’ she says. ‘I would always try and find the no deposit option. As well as avoiding getting into debt, it also means no haggling or stress at the end of the tenancy trying to get your money back.’

    So, what are the options for people like Carole? Is it possible to secure a rental property without paying a deposit? Or paying a smaller, more affordable deposit?

    One option is a Zero Deposit scheme – which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to make sure tenants are fully protected.

    It’s basically an alternative to a traditional cash deposit, designed to cut the upfront cost of renting for tenants, whilst providing the same level of protection for landlords.

    Referencing, check-in and check-out procedures all remain the same, and if there is any damage to the property or unpaid rent, you will need to reimburse the landlord yourself.

    ‘Our research shows that a significant proportion of tenants are forced to borrow money for their deposit when they move,’ says Jon Notley, Chief Executive of Zero Deposit.

    ‘The situation is often made worse when they have a deposit already locked up in their current property and which they don’t get back until after they’ve moved.

    ‘Products like the Zero Deposit Guarantee lower the upfront cost of renting and can make the process much less stressful, giving the landlord the equivalent protection to a deposit and providing an attractive alternative for tenants.’

    Tips on how to get your deposit back

    It’s best to write or email when you ask for your deposit back – if you do, you’ll have a record of when you asked for it.

    You’ll have a better chance of getting all or most of your deposit back if you leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in.

    If possible, you should:

    • Take photos of the property to show how it was when you left
    • Get a check-out inventory and ask your landlord to sign it – this could include things like the condition of carpets and walls

    You might not get the full amount of your deposit back if, for example:

    • You owe rent
    • You’ve damaged the property – this could be something like a spill on the carpet or a mark on the wall where you’ve hung a picture
    • You’ve lost or broken some items from the inventory, like some cutlery or mugs

    Your landlord shouldn’t take money from your deposit, for example, to:

    • Replace a worn carpet with a new one if it’s worn out gradually over time
    • Fix any damage caused by a repair they didn’t do when they should have, for example a leak you told them about that got worse and damaged the floor
    • Decorate a whole room if there are a few scuff marks on a wall that have appeared while you’ve lived in the property

    Your landlord can’t take money from your deposit for ‘reasonable wear and tear’.

    Your landlord can’t take unreasonable amounts of money from your deposit. They should tell you why they’re taking money off – if they don’t, ask them.

    If you still can’t agree with your landlord, you can take further action.

    Citizen’s Advice

    But, it’s up to individual landlords to decide whether or not they accept Zero Deposit schemes, so this won’t be a solution for everyone.

    It’s also important to note that you won’t get your policy money back at the end of the agreement – even if there are no issues with the landlord. A Zero Deposit Guarantee costs a tenant one week’s rent, so if your rent is £220 per week, that is the cost – and you won’t get that back.

    The good news is that the rental market is definitely evolving, and the situation is improving for tenants – slowly.

    The Tenant Fees Act came into force in June this year and it stops landlords from charging tenants excessive fees – other than the ones allowed by the act. It also caps deposits.

    ‘Under the Act, a refundable tenancy deposit is capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above,’ explains Nina Patel, Head of Housing and Welfare at Broudie Jackson Canter solicitors.

    ‘Refundable holding deposits, which can be charged to reserve a property, are capped at no more than one week’s rent.

    ‘Landlords can only keep deposits in cases where there is damage to the property or the tenant has fallen into arrears with their rent.’

    Nina says that under the new regulations, deposits should always be placed in a protected deposit scheme.

    ‘If it turns out their deposit was not protected appropriately, they are entitled to up to three times the value of their deposit,’ she adds.

    Nina suggests that a great way to avoid falling into debt is to be in direct communication with your landlord. She says that as long as you have a good relationship, you should be able to find a solution to avoid falling into the trap of deposit overlap.

    ‘In order to try and make the moving between rented homes a bit less painful financially, tenants should liaise with their landlords to agree their deposit repayment in good time,’ says Nina. ‘Or you can sometimes arrange to retain the deposit and pay it as rent in the period leading to their departure.’

    What are landlords legally allowed to charge you?

    Under the Tenant Fees Act, landlords are allowed to charge the fees below:

    • A refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
    • A refundable holding deposit to reserve a property, capped at no more than one week’s rent
    • Payments associated with early termination of the tenancy – when the termination is requested by the tenant
    • Payments capped at £50 (or reasonably incurred costs, if higher) for the variation, assignment or novation of a tenancy
    • Payments for utilities, communication services, TV licence and Council Tax
    • A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement

    Nina Patel, Broudie Jackson Canter solicitors

    The options for renters are pretty limited. If you don’t have the option of moving home to save up to buy somewhere, you can feel locked in an endless cycle of unstable contracts, scrambling to find a deposit every time you move.

    Researchers found in 2018 that the average duration of a tenancy was just 20 months – that’s a lot of financial pressure to find yourself under every two years.

    ‘The tenant fees ban has no doubt reduced the amount of money a tenant has to pay when moving home, and I don’t see a time where mandated fees will return,’ says Oli Sherlock, Head of Insurance at lettings platform Goodlord.

    ‘However, I do see the rental market changing in terms of the services and products which tenants are offered. Deposit replacement services are a good example of this, and I think we’ll see them increase in popularity.

    ‘However, before taking out any scheme both landlords and tenants should understand how it will affect them before, after and during the tenancy and ensure they are on the same page. Transparency is always absolutely key.’

    Oli explains that when tenants move, landlords are required to pay the deposit back within ten days after all disputes have been settled and any costs agreed.

    ‘Tenants should bear this time lag in mind when moving to a different property. It is more than likely they will have to save a little more than expected to pay their next deposit, as they won’t necessarily have received their previous deposit back at that stage.’

    But for many renters, the idea of saving anything on top of their monthly payments would feel like an insurmountable challenge.

    According to research from PwC, London is set to become a city of renters with just 40 per cent of people owning their own home by 2025.

    Many renters in Europe enjoy greater stability, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t be the case for UK tenants as well.

    In order to make renting a truly sustainable option – particularly for people living in big cities – it’s imperative that rental deposits and fees don’t have a knock-on affect that can spiral people into debt that could take months or years to recover from.

    The Tenant Fees Act is a good starting point, but renters need more stability and longer, fixed-term contracts that will help to remove the additional costs of moving frequently.

    According to figures from Which? last year, 43 per cent of renters take on debt (in the form of credit cards, loans or asking family for help) as they wait for landlords to return money and respond to challenges to deductions.

    One in six tenants waited more than four weeks to get their deposit back, and 31 per cent had to pay a new security deposit before having their previous one returned.

    The watchdog found that renters turned to a credit card, loan or overdraft, or borrowed money from family and friends, to cover the expense.

    And, while the new Act is beginning to change things for the better, far too many renters are still trapped in a system that rarely works in their favour.

    Debt Month

    This article is part of a month-long focus in November all about debt.

    Scary word, we know, but we're hoping if we tackle this head on we'll be able to reduce the shame around money struggles and help everyone improve their understanding of their finances.

    Throughout November we'll be publishing first-person accounts of debt, features, advice, and explainers. You can read everything from the month on the Debt Month tag.

    If you have a story to share, a topic you want us to cover, or a question that needs answering, get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


    MORE: How do you know if you’re in a ‘debt crisis’?

    MORE: People who’ve paid off debts give their tips on how to do it

    MORE: My halal student debt: How Muslims navigate Sharia financing when interest is haram

    Mental health series: How to look after your mental health when you're moving house, because it's bloody stressfulMental health series: How to look after your mental health when you're moving house, because it's bloody stressful

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    I was born without any hope of surviving.

    I was extremely premature and weighed less than a bag of sugar. Being born so early meant that my internal organs didn’t have time to form fully and I was left with a very narrow and complicated windpipe.

    The priority at that time was making sure I could get enough oxygen, so it hadn’t been established whether my vocal chords worked.

    This resulted in me having a tracheostomy, which makes speech difficult, and so as a child I often had adults speak for me.

    Being voiceless had an impact on my growth mentally and emotionally and when I was with other children I felt invisible due to my narrow airway.

    Nana Marfo
    I used to cry myself to sleep every night (Picture: Susannah Ireland)

    I often felt like I didn’t have an identity and it took me a long time to know the true power of my own voice because society, local authorities and extended family members never asked my opinion or how I felt.

    This feeling of isolation was only made worse by the bullying I received at school. Children would make fun of how I spoke and even my breathing was picked on. It ground me down, making me feel worthless and unwanted.

    They called me Darth Vader because of the loud noise I made to inhale. I used to cry myself to sleep every night.

    It became a struggle to go to school a lot of the time and I got into fights. Looking back I realise this was a cry for attention.

    My experience is something I wouldn’t wish on any child. If I had my time over again I would tell my younger self to speak and hold teachers to account as to why they let children bully me over something that wasn’t in my control.

    Nana Marfo
    They called me Darth Vader because of the loud noise I made to inhale (Picture: Susannah Ireland)

    I wish I could say it all changed as soon as I left school and found employment, but even in adulthood I was discriminated against or not listened to, simply because I am disabled.

    Like many disabled people I have had to fight my case to the Department of Work and Pensions that I qualify for benefits.

    I also took an employer to court who failed to recognise my disability and therefore make provisions and adjustments for me. The judge ruled in my favour but up until that point I had been struggling in my job, and because of a lack of support I couldn’t manage my health either.

    In winning the case, I finally felt heard. I was no longer voiceless.

    After this I went on to learn about the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. If my workplace failed to take into consideration my needs, I thought, there must be many other companies up and down the country doing exactly the same to their disabled employees.

    Nana Marfo
    Disabled people too often have to fight for our existence to be seen and heard (Picture: Susannah Ireland)

    I founded a company that gives people with disabilities a space to speak out on employment issues and how they feel in the workplace.

    I know what it means to be voiceless and I wasn’t going to let anyone else feel hopeless.

    I received messages from people who had been taken advantage of by employers, people who had been told by employers that having a disabled person work for them tarnished their company image, and some companies declined job applications flat out.

    My voice became loud and I began challenging the status quo because I believe that if we start having difficult conversations, rather than ignoring them, we can begin changing the narrative.

    Every company should be given mandatory disability training. In every sector, whether public, private or voluntary, we can change attitudes.

    Nana Marfo
    Being heard is empowering, and I want to pass the microphone on to others (Picture: Susannah Ireland)

    Disabled people too often have to fight for our existence to be seen and heard. From gaining state support, to asking for safeguarding needs within your own home, or just reasonable adjustments in the workplace – you are made to feel that your disability is a lie or you are just lazy.

    Being disabled doesn’t make you any different as a human being, it just gives you an alternative way of living life.

    You might ask why I am happy to be labelled as voiceless. It’s because growing up I was a shy, invisible child who wasn’t really noticed or heard. My disability and low tone of voice meant people would often strain to hear me.

    If you had told me then that I would one day be an advocate, enabling people with physical, hearing and learning disabilities into work and educating employers and students about what it is like to grow up disabled, I wouldn’t have believed you.

    The boy who grew up being called voiceless is now using his voice to change the lives of people who need encouragement to stand up and use theirs to fight for their rights.

    Being heard is empowering, and I want to pass the microphone on to others.

    You can follow Nana on Twitter here to find out more about Unique Abilities Ltd. 


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

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

    MORE: My Label and Me: I’m tall and do not want to stand out from the crowd

    MORE: My Label and Me: I’m HIV positive and that doesn’t make me ‘reckless’ or ‘risky’

    MORE: My Label and Me: Being deaf is a gift, especially when the baby is crying at 4am


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    Rachel got the messages from a stranger
    Rachel got the messages from a stranger (Picture: Jam Press)

    When Rachel Brogan, 23, received a message out of the blue from a stranger she was a little confused.

    The man simply said: ‘Hey did you hear about my granddad x’.

    Not recognising the name, Rachel simply replied ‘What?’

    He claimed he had sent the message to the wrong person but told her he wasn’t ‘thinking straight’ as his granddad had passed away.

    He claimed he meant to text a girl from school but clicked on Rachel’s profile by accident.

    But not one to miss an opportunity, the man decides it’s the perfect moment to make a pass at Rachel.

    He says: ‘You are lovely tho x’, before following the message with a smiley face and asking ‘You single?’.

    Rachel got the messages from a stranger
    The messages Rachel received (Picture: Jam Press)

    Rachel, a clerical officer for the NHS from Scotland, posted a screengrab of the messages on Twitter, saying: ‘I mean, that’s a weird way to slide into the DMs.’

    She said she didn’t bother to reply to the messages.

    Her tweet got over 30,000 likes and retweets and people weren’t impressed.

    One said: ‘I suppose he needs a date to the funeral!’

    Another added: ‘The guy’s got balls I’ll give him that.’

    Rachel said: ‘I think it was just a weird way to get my attention.

    ‘I don’t think he meant to click someone else at all.’

    And it’s not the first time Rachel has received a DM that is a little bit unusual.

    She added: ‘Yeah, I get quite a few ones like that.’

    MORE: All the different kinds of debt you need to know about

    MORE: Rental deposits are getting people into an inescapable cycle of debt

    Dead granddad textDead granddad text

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    The Liberty london Tree of Liberty for Christmas
    This looks amazing (Picture: Liberty London)

    Christmas is coming and stores are already rolling out the decorations.

    And Liberty London has a really incredible look this year.

    The department store has created a colourful bonsai tree from fabric, that hangs from the ceiling through the middle of the iconic store.

    Known as The Tree of Liberty, it’s made from blue velvet branches and real reindeer moss.

    Baubles, gifts and exotic animals are perched across the elaborate tree, which was unveiled on Tuesday.

    It’s based on a poem by Gabrielle Djanogly, which tells the story of an All-Seeing Owl and the vision he had for a magical tree.

    People on social media have fallen in love with the creative decorations, with the post showing the first glimpse of the tree getting over 17,000 likes on Instagram.

    One person said: ‘This is the most creative Christmas tree. Adore the enchanting story too.’

    Another added: ‘I’m breathless. Absolutely divine.’

    The Liberty london Tree of Liberty for Christmas
    The Tree of Liberty (Picture: Liberty London)
    Gifts on the Liberty london Tree of Liberty for Christmas
    Each branch holds gifts and decorations (Picture: Liberty London)

    ‘Wow! stunningly beautiful I adore the sculptural tree. The velvet animals peacock and the gorgeous colours!’ another fan said.

    The whole theme runs through the store and even the windows tie into the idea of the story.

    Liberty isn’t the only store doing a new take on a traditional Christmas display.

    The Liberty london Tree of Liberty for Christmas
    It’s made with real moss (Picture: Liberty London)

    Selfridges unveiled their Christmas display in October, featuring a futuristic silver Santa and symbolic representations of well-known family tales in each window.

    ‘Future Fantasy: A Christmas For Modern Times’ is the theme across all its store windows in London, Birmingham, Manchester and even online.

    The Liberty london Tree of Liberty for Christmas
    A meerkat! (Picture: Liberty London)

    The Liberty london Tree of Liberty for Christmas
    And a beautiful peacock! (Picture: Liberty London)

    Themes include the Enchanted Forest, Rapunzel, Princess and the Pea and Jack and the Beanstalk.

    Window shopping is so much more exciting at this time of year.

    MORE: Woman’s anger after man messaged her saying his granddad had died – before asking if she was single

    MORE: My Label and Me: I was born without a voice but now I’m speaking out for others

    Liberty London has built an incredible giant bonsai tree out of velvet inside the storeLiberty London has built an incredible giant bonsai tree out of velvet inside the store

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    A woman staring out of a place window with her hand pressed to the glass
    It’s entirely possible to love people very much from afar (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Twice in my life I’ve left my friends, moved across the world and promised to be very, very good at WhatsApp communication to stay in touch.

    The first time was 2015, when I moved 12,500km from Sydney to London. The second was yesterday, when I retraced all those kilometres back to Australia.

    Both times I’ve felt extremely sad and extremely grateful. I have glorious friends in multiple cities, which is a mighty fine thing, but it also means that at any one time I’m missing someone beloved from my immediate life. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to love people very much from afar.

    As I say goodbye for a while to my life and my mates in London, I wanted to share a little advice.

    Maybe you’re moving from your hometown to a new city, maybe you’re moving all the way to another country. Either way, no matter how far you’re actually travelling, you’ll be saying goodbye to people who mean something to you.

    It’s one of those miserable inevitabilities of relocation but if you think about it right, it can also be the most delightful reminder of who belongs in your life and what matters.

    Long distance friendship can be absolutely wonderful but like anything worth having, it’ll take a little work.

    Organise a farewell tour

    In the month leading up to my departure, I basically treated myself to a farewell tour.

    I made a mental list of the people I’d like to see before I left and conscientiously found space in my calendar for them. It means I’ve socialised more in the past month than any other normal 31-day period, and it has been quite a feat for an introvert, but it’s also been exceptionally lovely.

    It is awkward to say to someone that you will likely not see them again for some time but it’s worth being clear about it, making proper time to see them and saying a few sweet things to herald your departure.

    I recommend having one party-style event where you invite friends to your place or a pub and see lots of people at once. For one thing, it’s quite a warming feeling to see all the people you like in one place.

    It’s also a nice ceremony to mark your leaving. Then, schedule in time with the people you really like – preferably one-on-one over a delicious meal.

    **Illustration request** Does social media make life easier for people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder? (Violet Fenn)
    You can form strong bonds without being face-to-face (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    You want to have fun and be dramatic and wave people off from a party but you also want to be able to properly catch up with someone, hear how they really feel and say ‘I’ll miss you’ a couple times with a slight catch in your throat.

    Try and have a few big meaningful conversations if possible, just to cover some sentimental territory in person before you revert to using your phone to chat long-distance.

    I’ve spoken a lot about marriage, love, children, ambition, dreams, romance and identity over the past month, just to get in some real, proper chats. You may not be as sentimental as I am and truly, that’s fine. Be as emotional as you wish.

    Feel all your feelings

    I hadn’t anticipated all the feelings that came up for me as I prepared to leave the country.

    I had thought so much about what life in Sydney would be like that I almost forgot to fully consider the life I’d be leaving.

    I have done some crying, chatted to my therapist, debriefed with my mum and dad, had elaborate tantrums in front of my boyfriend and generally gone about being more emotional than usual.

    I’ve been open with my friends about my anxiety levels recently and it’s been really helpful. If you’re moving away from home, you’re likely to have all the feelings, too. Feel them, get vulnerable, move on from them.

    Get good at WhatsApp

    Your primary mode of communication with your friends is probably going to be on your phone.

    Some via Instagram DM, some by Twitter and some on Facebook messenger. Most of my friendships are conducted long-distance via WhatsApp and I am deliberately conscientious with my WhatsApp behaviour.

    I try to always answer questions, I get back to messages in a relatively timely fashion, I send a lot of the heart eye emoji. I have real conversations on there as well as trivial ones.

    I send frequent reminders to people that I’m thinking of them and I check in on how people are feeling. I try and encourage a policy of vulnerability and kindness and love because I know that we’ve got to make up for not being in the same room.

    Pick up the phone

    Like any good millennial, I have a phone call phobia. I do not generally like to speak to anyone by telephone, especially if they call my mobile unannounced. I lift this rule for friends who live far away and people I actually like.

    I simply request that we organise a phone call in advance so I know when it’s going to happen and that eases my phone-related anxiety. Regular phone calls are actually quite delightful and I recommend getting a few in.

    If you’re not keen then voice notes are a helpful compromise you can send via WhatsApp. It is actually a very lovely thing to hear a friend’s voice.

    Some of them could be important but more than anything, they’re casual little monologues about your day, and your thoughts, and your outfit, and your breakfast and your commute, and your latest date.

    The best way to cope with leaving your friends is to hold onto them in some way. Some people will be good at long-distance friendship, others will not.

    It is absolutely possible to drop out of touch with someone and then seamlessly pick that friendship up again once you’re in the same place.

    Don’t panic, you have not lost friends, even if you or they initially find it difficult to jump from face-to-face chats to phone ones. Be persistent in your communication, be kind, be understanding, be loving.

    Enjoy your new home, enjoy your new life – but find a way to make your old friends a part of it.

    MORE: Lean On Me: I have lots of friends so why do I still feel lonely?

    MORE: I’ve just moved here from the US. How do I meet people?

    MORE: How do I make meaningful friendships?

    Does jet lag make your depression worse?Does jet lag make your depression worse?

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    Man's before and after image
    Matt was addicted to drink and drugs but when he tried to get sober he piled on the pounds (Picture: UP Fitness)

    A former drug and alcohol addict, who has been sober for three years, turned to eating whatever he wanted to cope.

    Matt Ellengold, from London, revealed how his life was all about partying but when he decided to stop, he didn’t think healthy eating was a priority.

    After recovering from addiction, the 39-year-old set up a dating profile to look for a relationship.

    But when he looked at the pictures of himself to upload, he realised how unhappy he was with the way he looked.

    So Matt signed up with gym brand UP Fitness to get in shape. And in just the space of six months, Matt managed to lose an impressive 28kg.

    Though he is now enjoying being ripped, it has been a long and tumultuous journey.

    Man standing next to movie poster
    Matt wanted to get into dating but wasn’t happy with the way he looked (Picture: UP Fitness)

    Matt had begun drinking and doing drugs in his 20s. But he found himself going home early so he could do drugs alone. It got to the point that he would constantly be thinking about using.

    ‘They made me not feel, they made my head not think about anything, it switched me off from world. They filled the void I felt inside of me,’ he said.

    He began to self-medicate as a way to deal with his poor mental health. In 2011, after a failed suicide attempt, Matt contacted the City of Westminster Turning Point Drug and Wellbeing Service to finally get some help.

    He was eventually able to get sober but then began piling on the pounds.

    Man at beach
    Matt’s been sober for three years now (Picture: UP Fitness)

    His weight increased after his recovery and Matt had to muster a lot of courage to hit the gym.

    ‘I felt ashamed and embarrassed in my own body,’ he said to MailOnline. ‘I would order online as I was too embarrassed to go into shops.

    ‘Prior to joining I had a lot of self-doubts, questioned myself and had no self-belief. I believe in myself more now.

    ‘I used to go to bed at night and hope I wouldn’t wake up. Fast forward to now, with my experience at UP, I go to bed at night looking forward to waking up.’

    Man's weight loss transformation
    He lost 28kg in 24 weeks (Picture: UP Fitness)
    Before and after weight loss
    This happened in just six months (Picture: UP Fitness)

    Now, four years into his recovery, Matt spends his time at the gym.

    He added: ‘My experience at UP has made me feel like a better person and version of myself since I joined.

    ‘I can’t describe what an improvement this is for me.’

    Need support? Contact the Samaritans

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

    MORE: Man takes selfies for three years to show how much sobriety has changed him

    MORE: Weight loss drugs aren’t a miracle fix: They all have side effects and some can be fatal

    MORE: Woman who quit drugs and focused on weight loss left with ten pounds of excess skin


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    How I Save: Alana, who has £364.55 in a help to buy isa
    In this week’s How I Save we track the spending of a 28-year-old living in Preston (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

    In our weekly series How I Save, we take a look inside a week of someone’s spending and saving to see what we can learn.*

    *Whether from their genius budgeting tips or what not to do.

    We do this because we’re all a little awkward talking about money. That’s a problem when we have no clue what we’re doing, finance-wise, and feel too embarrassed to ask for help.

    Last week we learned from an impressive saver in Birmingham.

    This time we’re tracking the spending of Alana (not her real name, as people can get nasty about money habits), a 28-year-old marketing and communications manager living in Preston, Lancashire. She also has her own writing business, which isn’t currently making her money but does incur costs.

    How Alana saves:

    I earn £30,000 a year, but in my Help to Buy ISA right now I have £364.55.

    I saved this by my parents giving me and my girlfriend an engagement present of £500, as well as my grandma giving us £500 – but then I had an unexpected VAT bill for the business, which I had to field somehow.

    I’m saving for my girlfriend’s 30th birthday trip to New York in December 2020, as well as our elopement in New York at the same time. We also want to save for a house, but I have a huge credit card bill that I need to pay off before this can happen.

    The main way I save is putting money away, then taking it straight back out before the end of the month. So I basically don’t save.

    I struggle with saving because I’m spending a lot on petrol, food, credit card repayments, and LIFE.

    How Alana spends:

    Monthly expenses:

    • Rent, £575
    • Energy, £60
    • Broadband, £25
    • Mobile phone, £37
    • Car finance, £199.99
    • Car insurance, £67.24
    • Car tax, £12.25
    • Gym membership, £15.99
    • Water, £23
    • Furniture, £22
    • Council tax, £110
    • Netflix, £8.99
    • Trinity lottery, £4.34
    • Spotify, £9.99
    • Accountant, £51
    • Website hosting, £21
    • Microsoft, £5.99
    • Prescription, £9
    • Contact lenses, £18
    • TV license – paid quarterly, £38
    Flying cash
    (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    A week of spending: 

    Monday: Had a course in Liverpool through work, which meant the ticket and travel are paid for. Paid 99p for some chewing gum at the train station, but took porridge, water, and some fruit with me, so I wasn’t tempted to buy anything else.

    Lunch was provided, but my work colleague and I got a cheeky pint before the train back – I paid for the round, which came to £7.34 for two pints (thank goodness for Wetherspoon’s). Made tea from the food shopping we bought on Sunday – veggie fajitas and rice.

    Total spent on Monday: £8.33

    Tuesday: Lots of bills came out of my account today as it’s the first of the month, which means I know how much I have left for the month. I keep an Excel spreadsheet with everything on to ensure I know where everything is going, but invariably, I’m always struggling by the last week of the month.

    Felt inspired to make a cake for my girlfriend as the Great British Bake Off was on, so bought some ingredients from the newsagents around the corner, as well as a mini bottle of wine and I two Euromillions tickets too. Came to a surprising £10.14. Think it was the greaseproof paper that pushed it over.

    Made lasagne and chips from the weekly shop and had leftover fajitas for my lunch.

    Total spent on Tuesday: £10.14

    Wednesday: Uncle’s birthday is on Friday, so sent a John Lewis gift-card in the post – £50 for the actual gift and £2 to send it.

    Won £3.50 on the Euromillions, so used the winnings to buy some snacks on my lunch break – Philadelphia dipper and Pepsi Max, which went with the Snack-a-Jacks and Quorn chicken I’d brought with me.

    I also ordered some photo prints online too, which came to £3.59, including postage and packaging – my mum wanted some of me and my girlfriend. Made katsu curry and rice from the weekly shop.

    Girlfriend also transferred me her part of the bills and the half for the food shop on Sunday, so £235.

    Total for Wednesday: £55.59

    Thursday: Worked from home, so there wasn’t the risk of spending anything unnecessary at the newsagents on my lunch break. However, my girlfriend messaged me earlier in the day to see if I wanted to go for a pub meal for tea – we haven’t been for a meal mid-week for a while, so I was looking forward to going out. I paid for two mains and two drinks, which came to £35.20.

    Total for Thursday: £35.20

    Friday: Brought Snack-a-Jacks and Quorn chicken again for lunch, but very peckish, so popped to the shop on lunch. Instead of food I bought a bottle of Pepsi Max and two scratch cards, coming to a grand total of £5.45. Won f*** all on the scratch cards, as per.

    Total for Friday: £5.45

    Saturday: Two new tires are needed on my car, so I sourced some deals and managed to get them from a local garage – £100 in total, including fitting.

    It was supposed to be one of my friend’s baby shower today, but I just can’t afford a present or spending money on drinks, so I’ve declined.

    However, in the evening, my girlfriend’s sister invites us round for tea, and I have to buy my own veggie chicken for the meal, as she doesn’t have any. This comes to £3.45.

    Total for Saturday: £103.45

    Sunday: Big food shop today, costing £57. This will feed my girlfriend and me for the week, including lunches.

    I also needed to get the rest of my mum’s birthday present, which came to £52 for some charms from Thomas Sabo, as well as the box to send them in, which was £2.99.

    Then my girlfriend and I decided to walk into town to get brunch (she paid) and I needed a new mascara. There was an offer on Rimmel makeup, for two items for £10 – my mascara was £7.99, so I decided it would be better to get a new powder too, as mine had almost ran out – plus it was a couple of pounds cheaper to do it this way.

    We then decided to get the bus home as it was raining – unfortunately we didn’t have quite enough for two tickets, but the bus driver let us on anyway, which was so kind. I contributed 60p to the bus tickets.

    Total for Sunday: £122.59

    Total spent this week: £340.75

    How Alana could save:

    We spoke to the experts over at money tracking app Cleo to find out how Charli can save better (and what we can learn from her spending).

    Note: the advice featured is specific to one individual and doesn’t constitute financial advice, especially for a London budget. 

    Here’s what Cleo said:

    You’re very spenerous (i.e. very generous with your spending).

    Main vice:

    Over the course of the week, you spent over £150 on other people. Unfortunately, your bank balance probably didn’t feel much of the love.

    The gifts you bought for family members clocked up to £106.99. If two £50 gift spends per month is a regular habit, that’s over £1,200 a year.

    We suggest capping your gift spending to £20 per person. Are there any cheaper, thoughtful gifts you think your family and friends would really love? If they’re coming to the wedding, we think they’d rather you save for the big day than spend lots of money on them.

    We notice that you didn’t make a single trip to the gym this week, so definitely worth rethinking the value of any subscriptions or memberships you’re currently signed up to.

    For anyone reading: If you go longer than a month without using a service you’re paying for, maybe think about hitting the cancel button.

    Where you’re going right:

    Love the Excel spreadsheet. We’ve also heard there are apps out there that help you categorise your spending… (spoiler: that’s Cleo)

    Side hustles are brilliant, so we’re very excited about your writing business. Any ways you could try to help it pay for itself?

    When it comes to yourself, you’re really rather frugal. Doing one big weekly food shop and taking your own snacks to work are fantastic habits when it comes to saving.

    Spending plan:

    We’re going to give you a goal of getting 15% of your income (£298) into savings each month (and keeping it there). Every time you’re tempted to take it straight back out again, get on the Internet and window shop for the house you want to save for.

    Judging from your current budget, when your wedding and girlfriend’s birthday present are paid for, you should be good to start putting 20% of your income into savings.

    Bottom line:

    When it comes to buying gifts for your loved ones, sentimentality beats cold hard cash every time.

    How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing ellen.scott@metro.co.uk.

    MORE: How I Save: The 28-year-old senior marketing executive in Manchester with £16,750 saved

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    MORE: How I Save: The British expat IT sales manager in Dubai with £314,678 saved

    How Alice SavesHow Alice Saves

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