The silent killer

Today, the footballing world was shocked and horrified to hear that Gary Speed was found dead at his home after hanging himself to death.  Police have confirmed that a 42-year-old man had been found dead and identified as Speed by his next-of-kin.

One of the reasons that everyone has been so stunned by his death is there were no indicators of a problem before his death.  He appeared on Sky Sports yesterday (I saw him and can’t quite get my head round it) and was celebrating with his friend Robbie Savage on the set of Strictly Come Dancing only a couple of weeks ago.

My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife and two sons.  Losing a family member at all is a hideous thing to go through but under these circumstances, it is inconceivable how a family can process and work their way through such a tragedy.

I have said before that I have suffered from depression and I’m not afraid or ashamed of admitting that there was a point where I came very close to carrying out the same act.  I remember carrying my cats around my flat telling them that my parents would look after them.  I remember making plans which stretched from stealing a family friend’s shotgun to overdosing to crashing my car to using it to gas myself.  The scary thing is at some of the points where I seriously entertained those plans, I was the only person who knew how ill I was.  I was at work and by and a fully functional member of society.  In reality I was suffering from very severe depression.

We have become much more accustomed to people talking of depression and the fact that up to one in every eight people is suffering from some sort of mental illness at any given time.  There is a perception that through antidepressants and a bit of therapy this illness can be cured.  And in a lot of cases a six month course od antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy is what is needed.  But when help is not available or a person cannot make use of it for whatever reason, the results can be catastrophic.

What people fail to see is that depression is an illness that kills. It is the biggest killer of young men between 25 and 34 years of age other than car accidents.  And yet we hear very little about that side of depression.  We do not hear about the depression that does not lift with medication or when therapy fails.  It is only when a tragedy occurs that we begin to wonder what drives a successful man with a family to kill himself.

So please, if you start to think about how best to take your own life, go to a doctor. There is no shame is depression; it is an illness, an error in a chemical in your brain.  It is not a sign of weakness. A long time ago my father told me that asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength rather than weakness and I beg all of you to remember that.

You will all know someone with depression.  They may never have told you but they will be there.  Support them, be there for them and maybe we can avoid some of the repeats of the tragedy that has happened today.

Average Josephine x

Remember, remember the month of Movember

Well, it’s the end of November and if you look around on the streets you can see something that wasn’t there a month ago.

Moustaches.  Everywhere you look.

And it isn’t some random new trend because come December 1st they will most likely be gone and clean-shaven faces will reign supreme once more.  No, the reason for the return to the seventies ‘tache is Movember, a campaign to raise both awareness and funds for men’s health and, in particular, prostate cancer and other male cancers.

As a woman, I count myself to be very lucky in that we are educated from quite a young age about breast cancer and the importance of checking regularly for any changes in our breasts.  Breast cancer is a very hot topic with a number of high-profile sufferers such as Kylie Minogue and whilst the other female cancers are not as well publicised, they seem to be better publicised than their male equivalents (although having never read Men’s Health or GQ or anything similar, that is purely a female perception).

So Movember is a brilliant innovation as far as I’m concerned as it brings men’s health to the fore and as the boys are wearing the evidence on their faces it’s something that no-one can forget for a month.  I have heard a couple of comments along the lines of “I banned my husband/boyfriend/partner from growing a moustache” and I am so disappointed in what I feel is a really short-sighted perspective.

As a girl I can’t take part in Movember but I am supporting a team of my favourite boys from Birmingham Royal Ballet (were you expecting them to be from anywhere else?!).  Twenty nine members of the company (including one girl oddly enough although quite how Samara is managing her moustache is a bit of a mystery) have teamed up and at my last check had raised a rather fantastic £2,479 as well as having grown some amazing ‘taches!  Check out Oliver Till, Aonghus Hoole, Kit Holder and, for sheer comedy value, the artistic director, Mr. David Bintley whose photos are hysterical (I like the Mahatma and the Clouseau ones myself).

So whether you know anyone who is taking part or not, and if not, feel free to donate the BRB team, I’m sure the boys would appreciate a last-minute boost to the amount they have raised, please go to http://uk.movember.com and donate to what is a really worthy event that has been organised in such a brilliantly fun way.

Average Josephine x

Wallis Simpson’s mistake

Wallis Simpson has been quoted as saying that “you can never be too rich or too thin”.  I can’t comment about the former as much as I would love to be able to speak from experience but when it comes to being too thin, you can very definitely be too thin.

I understand the irony of this post coming straight after one that is about my desire to lose weight and th purpose of Operation Fit and Fabulous but I actually think that, in a way, the two go together quite well.  One of the reasons I like Operation Fit and Fabulous as a concept is because it is about the whole person rather than just the external packaging.  One of our first missions is being kind to ourselves which is something we all could do a bit more of.  How often do we all feel that we aren’t pretty enough, clever enough, thin enough, fit enough…. I could go on but I guess you see the point.

The reason I’m writing this is that I’ve seen a series of increasingly worrying photos of LeAnn Rimes, Ali Lohan and Kate Bosworth- they are worryingly thin.  LeAnn Rimes has apparently struck back at her critics stating that she feels she is healthy and people need to stop focusing on how much she eats but unfortunately if you live your life in the public eye then I’m afraid you can’t decide you want certain things left undiscussed.

LeAnn Rimes claims she is healthy. What do you think? Picture from poponthepop.com

I had hoped that after all the furore over size zero a few years ago that this idea of being thin at all costs would have blown over and people would have worked out that being ultra-skinny is neither healthy not attractive.  After all, once upon a time a bloke once informed me when I said that I wanted to lose weight (this was back in my skinny days when I probably weighed all of about 8st) that men would much rather have Kate Winslet than Kate Moss.  On top of that, a bit of body fat is not only essential for good health but once you get past the age of about 35 it’s actually much more flattering than being ultra-skinny as it plumps out those fine lines (of course this is for those of us who don’t have the plastic surgeon on speed dial for Botox and fillers).  But if you look at what the biological effects of that bit extra body fat are, you will see why it is equally as unhealthy to have a too-low body fat percentage as a too-high one.

One of the women who has famously suffered the effects of eating too little is Gwyneth Paltrow who has, despite her relatively young age, been diagnosed with osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis.  Whilst this could have a genetic component, given Paltrow’s history of radical diets such as eating a macrobiotic diet and the infamous maple syrup diet (consisting of a lot of water, maple syrup (maybe 12 tablespoons a day, not a lot), lemon juice and cayenne pepper, this is likely to be the major factor in her disease.

But why do we do this to ourselves?  I fully admit I’ve done a few silly diets in my time but I am not entirely sure why women like Paltrow and Rimes do this to themselves.  I can at least claim that with a BMI stating that I am overweight dieting is logical for me but these women are tiny.  They don’t need to diet.  In fact the only diet they need to be on is one that ensures they get enough calories to support whatever exercise they are doing.

So why do we do it?  What is the lure in being so thin?  It’s certainly not because it’s what the majority of men prefer.  If you look at FHM’s all time top 100 women (OK this was actually compiled in 2008 but the principle still stands) the top ten goes Louise Redknapp, Cameron Diaz, Kylie Minogue, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Kelly Brook, Jennifer Aniston, Dannii Minogue, Britney Spears and Jordan.  These women would all be classed as slim, maybe even thin, but there is not a waif among them.  And there are several who are renowned and in fact positively notorious for their curves.

So where does this pressure to be thin come from?  And the awful, dreadful, hideous and only conclusion I can come to is that it comes from us.  It comes from other women.  How many times have we seen magazine articles saying “look how hideous so and so looks in a bikini”, that someone has put on masses of weight or someone else has lost masses of weight.  One day we’re too fat and the next we’re too thin and what it boils down to in many women’s minds (and I do include myself in there) is that we have to look perfect in order to be accepted.

The thing is, we don’t have to look perfect.  No-one does look perfect.  Speak to any one of those women I listed above and they will have some of the same hangups the rest of us do.  None of us are completely satisfied with the picture in the mirror.  But the difference is accepting the picture in the mirror.  Not everyone is born to be a size eight.  Almost no-one is born to be a size zero although there are a couple of rare examples floating around.  And in accepting what we see in the mirror we will accept the other women in our lives and not project our own insecurities on to the others around me.

So girls, what do you think?  Can we stop judging each other and accept ourselves for who we are? Or is this a bit much to ask?

Average Josephine x

Operation Fit and Fabulous

I first joined Twitter about a million years ago (@thecupcake_girl if you want to follow me and don’t already) back in the dim and distant past that was April 2009 but it was only earlier this year that I started using it “properly”.  I did all the normal things, following people my friends followed, randomly tweeted at a few celebrities (why not? If they make a public comment then I’m entitled to respond!) and slowly but surely, a profile was created.

Now I have a list of my main Twitter girls who include the fabulous BeachBumBeauty, the wonderful DexterousDiva and gorgeous Sarah’s Scribbles which is the first place I check when I look at Twitter to see what is going on in my little online world.  But as of a week ago there is also a hashtag which  regularly check: #operationfitandfabulous.  Operation Fit and Fabulous was born on a Sunday afternoon during a discussion on the merits of buying Christmas presents of tins of Quality Street early (decided it was possibly not the best idea!).  We all wanted to lose some weight or get more toned up and so the already fabulous BeachBumBeauty came up with Operation Fit and Fabulous.

BeachBumBeauty is well aware of the power of the team mentality.  As a member of Team Bangs on the Run 1 and 2 she has now trained for two half-marathons (she was unable to participate in the first, the Semi de Paris, due to a back injury) and if the recent Twitter posts are anything to go by, the team and support it provides has been a massive help to all the participants.  As such she suggested that we band together to form Operation Fit and Fabulous.

The focus of Operation Fit and Fabulous is not so much losing weight (although that is a primary concern of mine as I have previously written) but feeling fabulous.  I understand being fabulous as being healthy and comfortable in my own skin, something which I haven’t been in about five and a half years.

The point of this plan isn’t to make major changes because to be blunt, we’ve all been there, done that and failed.  So we’re making slow, gradual changes by way of missions that BeachBumBeauty is setting us each week.  Each one is a small manageable task which over the lifetime of Operation Fit and Fabulous should add up to a new healthier lifestyle and a happier, more confident me.

Our first missions are ones that we all hear constantly as the backbone of good health:

  1. Drink 2 Litres of water a day;
  2. Body brush every morning (OK, this one is not such a basic tenet of good health but is meant to do wonders for cellulite);
  3. Get 8 hours’ sleep a night;
  4. Exercise for an hour at least three times a week;
  5. Be kind to yourself.

Now, due to feeling revolting over the past week due to my previously blogged about issues with gluten (actually feeling revolting would have been a step up from how I’ve been feeling) I haven’t really started this week’s missions so I’m going to start today and run a week behind everyone else.  I also know which of these first week’s missions I am going to find the hardest: being kind to myself.  It’s really not my strong point and it’s something that I have been working on for a while….

So for me, week one starts today!  I’m going to boggle some brains by measuring my vital statistics over the next couple of months and alongside the standard measurements, I’m going to include an Energyometer, a rating of my energy levels from 1 to 10.  Obviously I’m kind of hoping that over the next couple of months this is going to go up!

So my starting measurements are (and please try to curb any instincts to laugh):

  • Upper arm: 12″
  • Chest: 39″
  • Waist: 32″
  • Hips: 42″
  • Thigh: 24″
  • Weight: 10st 11 lbs
  • BMI: 25.46 (overweight)
  • Energy level: Honestly, 3 would be generous most days! I spend my life wanting to sleep…

In an ideal world I’d like to be the 8st 7lb I was when I moved back to Birmingham 6 years ago and started work but in reality I’d be happy at 9st.  In fact I’ll be happy when I can look in the mirror and be happy with the person I see there…

If anyone else wants to join in with Operation Fit and Fabulous then please go to BeachBumBeauty’s Operation Fit and Fabulous page and leave a comment with your name, Twitter ID (if you have one, it’s a great way to connect with the other girls on the plan and get some support when you’re having a bad day), your goals, strengths, weaknesses, favourite type of exercise and the music you listen to when you’re exercising.

After all, what have you got to lose?

Average Josephine x