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Glorify Me Too

First of all I want to make it exceptionally clear that this post is not a dig at mothers at all. I applaud you all, you have the hardest job in the world and I have seen first-hand with my friends the strains and stress and pressure that mothers have.

But I have been thinking about this for a while and it seems to pop up more and more on Instagram as my friends and the people I follow get older and become parents.

There are so many posts I see that tell mothers to love their bodies because they have created a child and every stretch mark and scar tells a journey. They should wonder at what the female body can be put through and even though it doesn’t look like the airbrushed images we see in magazines, that’s ok because at the end of the day you grew a baby in there.

And yes, that’s wonderful advice and so true. But there are women such as myself that has a tummy with stretch marks, and scars and I have to accept this wonderful body even though I have not created a child with it. There are women who cannot have children, or do not want children but this does not make their body less wondrous.

I feel like these posts are a get out of jail free card. To me when I read them it screams: “my body looks like this because it’s grown a child… what’s your excuse?” It’s dragging us back to the times where women were seen as home bodies only good for making babies and that’s just so not true.

Women with children are mums, but they are so much more than that too, and if they hadn’t had children they would still be entitled to have a body that looks however it looks.

My body has grown and shrunk with me on my journey through life. During this life, it has not grown a baby but it has given me strength to do exercise, stay awake through endless amounts of work, supported me when I accidentally undercooked sausages (granted it got me back with 9 hours sickness). It works miracles every day and allows me to be me.

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Hear me out

I was almost 13 back in 2005, so as a moody preteen I spent most of my time on the computer, mostly on MSN.

I’m not ashamed to say that for my 12th birthday I asked for a Logitech webcam so when those strangers from the rival school randomly added me I could put a face to the ever so embarrassing name (ox_shell_xo).

I was downloading music on Limewire and listening to the same song over and over.

I was picking my top friends for Myspace and Bebo.

I wanted to be a scene girl – that was the trend back then trust me – and I would dye my hair outrageous colours or cut it in a ridiculous mullet that I thought looked trendy.

Now how is this like 2020?

For starters I’m moody as hell and I’m always on my laptop.

And yep you guessed it my webcam’s had a workout. I’ve put so many ‘faces to names’ on the countless daily zoom calls and Microsoft teams meetings. I have ‘virtually’ met every person in my department and beyond. And MSN may have died of death but Skype IM’s have kept me on my toes. Gone is the ASL/LOL/GTG and now it’s mainly “did you see that e-mail” but I still set my status to BRB. Don’t want to look too available.

As for Limewire (RIP), we’ve all matured and moved on to Spotify, but let’s be honest I bet not all of you are paying for that. I bet it’s the same deal with Netflix where one poor bugger is paying for it and everyone else is enjoying it. It might not be virus inducing but you’re all a bunch of thieves! (I’m the account payer if you can’t tell.) And listening to the same song on repeat?

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram doesn’t really have a top friend function where you can pick your top friends and make the rest of your friends list green with envy. No. What we have this year is this really fun notion where you pick your three favourite households to see over Christmas! Fabulous!

And well, at least this year I don’t have a mullet, but we’ve all seen the E-girls. We’ll talk in fifteen years about those multi-coloured fringes.

And obviously I’m missing the elephant in the room – the outbreak of the virus – but we had one of those back in 2005 too. Bird Flu seems divine now though right?

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Sorry Caroline

Going after journalists and media in the wake of Caroline’s death in my eyes is counter-productive. All of the ‘be kind’ posts have been eye opening but have also had a profound effect on my own mental health.

On Saturday when I found out that Caroline Flack had committed suicide I felt instantly saddened and in some respects guilty. She was a topic in a few of my WhatsApp groups and I had just said to a friend that I had been so enthralled in the winter episodes, I’d forgotten what Love Island was like with her. I felt shame about my career and Caroline then turned into every person I had interviewed and every quote I had used.

Working in and with media is not a job for the faint hearted. For starters brutal hours for little pay and recognition. As a print journalist, unless you are working directly for a national newspaper, you can be sure no one will really know you from Adam. It’s a constant fight for the biggest, most scandalous stories and clawing your way through the ranks working god awful hours in cities miles away from where you live.

I started off as a local reporter and as much as they get a bad rep in their respective areas, local journalism is the most wholesome part of the industry in my opinion, especially the independent papers.

After moving my way through the ranks I decided I wanted to get my teeth stuck into big national stories, and not be tied to the boundaries of sleepy village areas. It was daunting but exciting and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I worked for a news agency who collect stories and sell them to the national papers. I got my first national by-line on my 26th birthday last year in the Daily Star. It was a fluffy story about a sausage dog who helps student’s mental health at university and I was thrilled. After my first week however the pressure came piling on.

Every Monday we had a brainstorming meeting where we were expected to have a long list of stories (news lists) we were chasing and a rough time table of when they would be ready for publishing. If my news list was anything less than ten stories you could be sure that you would be sent some ideas and things to chase up.

The big thing was the story had to be quirky, out of the ordinary or shocking, and if it wasn’t you could guarantee that the news editor would find an angle they wanted you to push or a quote we had to get out of the sources mouth.

Journalists are trained at university on how to get people to go down the angle they are working to, and if they haven’t picked that up then the news editor will push and push until they get what they want out of the story. If you don’t get the required angle, the story will be dropped and you wouldn’t have had anything published and therefore vulnerable in your job.

As well as finding these stories, we would keep our eye on national tragedies and get every cough and spit out of those that we could. In my third week I was asked to knock on the door of a woman who lost her 16-year-old son in a knife attack. It had been less than 12 hours since he died.

I remember ringing my mum and asking her what she would do in that situation and she said “I don’t think I could be held responsible for my actions if a journalist showed up on my door 12 hours after I lost my child.” It was heart-breaking but I had been hired by the national papers, and I was not able to refuse to do my job.

1) Because at university we are taught death knocks are part and parcel of the job.

2) I wanted to excel in my career.

3) Like everyone else, I needed the job and the money to survive.

I knocked on the door and there was no answer so I felt quite relieved. I rang my editor and told them what had happened and I was sent a number for the mother and I was to ring her instead. I rang and there was no answer so I left a message and within the hour Greater Manchester Police rang me and asked me to leave her alone because she felt like I was harassing her. It knocked me for six and I felt sick to my stomach that I had caused a grieving mum to feel even more pain than losing her only son.

I have written many stories that have been positive and fun but for every one of those I have done two death knocks and a court case or an inquest and probably aided in adding more stress to the situation.

I am not blameless. I chose that career. But I was also not given the opportunity to say no to these stories as I would have lost my job, a career I fought tooth and nail to have. It took me a while to realise that if more journalists say no to the requests of the nationals to intrude in people’s grief, then together we could change the landscape of this industry.

But honestly people want those stories. They get the most clicks, they cause the most sales, and we as the readers need to stop digesting them if we want to see a change. Even when you click on the article to write a negative comment about it you are still making the papers money, its supply and demand, like every industry.

I didn’t write any stories on Caroline Flack, but for anyone whose personal life I may have invaded while working as a journalist I am truly sorry.

 

Slimming World protected my weight loss, but not my mental health.

I’d always been a larger kid for as far as back as I can remember. I never fitted into my age range of clothes and it’s always been a source of embarrassment to me. Even back to the point when I noticed my PE kit was age nine to ten when I was seven or eight and no one else in the class used to be. Not everyone was mean and I forced how I was feeling onto other people. I’d get a sense of dread when I saw someone pick up my clothes and then instant comfort when I saw they were tight on them.

When I got to secondary school I started slimming world. I was 11-years-old. I went with my mum and I can remember a feeling of pure joy when I lost those first few pounds, I think it was then I began a love hate feud with my food.

I was average to big all the way through school but I got a size 10 prom dress and I felt amazing. My weight never physically held me back because I wasn’t that big in the grand scheme of things but I would eat and feel immediately guilty.

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I’m on the right.

I would binge and then not eat for a day, and then binge again and the cycle repeated. By the time I was at University I had been the heaviest and the skinniest I’d ever been. And this trend has continued into my twenties.

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Looking quite skinny after university. Probably at this point living off 11p noodles.

I’m now 26-years-old and in the process of once again losing weight. The only difference is, this time it’s really coming off and I’m seeing actual changes in my lifestyle.

As good as slimming world was to initially lose weight, for me it created an unhealthy relationship with food. I would eat far more than I wanted to just because it was free or a speed food, and I would stick to my ‘syns’, or not use them at all. But then I would go for a meal out with friends and it would devastate me because I would feel all the hard work slip away.

I would go on holiday and walk back into the slimming class knowing full well I’d put on weight and have to sit there in front of total strangers while the consultant asked me where it all went wrong.

“Probably the 850 units of alcohol, all you can eat buffet, no scales to weigh my A and B choices and the fact that I went on a diet for six months straight and still felt shit in my bikini Margaret!”

Obviously I politely said to the class that it was all the food and drink, and then the consultant asked everyone what they think I could do in future to protect my weight loss in future.

Protect it, like it is a precious commodity that must be the be all and end all of your life’s purpose. This is what I cannot deal with. This is the sort of negativity that I really don’t need when I am working on myself physically. It’s a hard slog and you shouldn’t have to feel bad when you put on weight.

At the moment I am eating intuitively. I eat what I want when I want and the weight is falling off me. I’ve realised I don’t have to make and oaty yoghurt gloop for my breakfast and force it down even though I’m not hungry. I don’t have to “load my plate with a third worth of speed food” when I’m not hungry or even fancy green beans. I don’t have to eat bread and cereal bars because I have a B choice left to use. I just eat when I’m hungry and I stop when I’m full.

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Last year I was a lot heavier.

And that’s been the real challenge. Stopping. It’s taken me a while but I’ve cracked it. After a meal you should feel satisfied not sick. And it’s the same feeling as when you are hungry and you are in town shopping and you stop for a Greggs sausage roll. Your hunger subsides, you think “God that was nice, really enjoyed that,” and you carry on with your shopping. Every meal is like that for me.

I’m no doctor, I don’t know if this is a good way to be, I don’t know if it’s healthy but I feel 100 times better since I started listening to my body and my body feels 100 times better and I’m being rewarded with big weight losses every week.

I posted a couple of months the boiled egg diet that I did for six days and lost twelve pounds. Yes, it boosted my weight loss, yes, for an event I’d probably even do it again but on a long term basis it is unsustainable and probably very dangerous.

I’ve been intuitively eating for seven weeks now and in that time I’ve lost 1 stone 2lb. It might not be as impressive as almost a stone in a week but I have not once felt deprived, or hungry, or like I was forcing food down me for no reason.

I don’t want to bash Slimming World because I lost three stone odd using their tactics but I think for me I needed to protect my mentality and not my weight loss.

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Sorry for the Silence

I’ve not written anything on here for a long time. I always thought that when something devastating happened in my life I would be inspired to pen to paper and create something deep and meaningful as a sort of memoir, but it turns out, I’m not that kind of person.

The past two months I’ve found out more about myself than I had done in two years. I always thought I was weak, emotional, someone you couldn’t rely on in a crisis but it turns out I’m just the opposite.

I am strong, I can put on a brave face, and I call rally the troops if needed and to be honest the biggest thing I’ve learnt is how much I underestimate myself.

This time four years ago, I started a job where no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t reach the next level. I couldn’t get a promotion. I couldn’t blag an interview and I saw myself living a life in a job I didn’t particularly like for the rest of my life. The thought terrified me and I knew I had to do something.

I didn’t realise it then, but that thought was the catalyst for every moment in my life since. Every decision I’ve made, whether it be work, home, relationships I’ve had my future in mind.

Then a decision was taken out of my control and although my immediate reaction was panic, it soon subsided, and I thought, yet again, how I can come back from this? How can I turn this moment into a pivotal point in my life? How can I look back in four more years and think “Well done for doing that because now I’m here.”

So if something devastating happens, a relationship break up, getting fired, a fall out with a friend, think about how you handle this because you never know what good can come out of a rubbish situation.

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I lost 12lb in SIX days.

So, the month of March brought 10,000 steps per day and the month of April is the month I started my diet!

Yes I know you’ve heard it all before but I’m in the zone.

And for the first week of April I started an extra strict, extra fun (not) diet and I lost a whopping 12lb in six days.

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Yes, six days, and 12lb. In that week I dropped almost a stone and a dress size and I’m going to tell you every last morsel of food and drink that passed my lips.

First of all, I have to say before you undertake any diet, check with your doctor. It’s important to make sure that you are fully checked because this diet especially has A LOT of eggs and eggs can cause a wide variety of side effects in people and I don’t want any incidents on my conscience!

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Secondly this diet is not for the faint hearted. It’s boring. It’s repetitive. It’s sometimes gross. It makes you fart. It stops you pooping. It makes you poop. It makes you eat breathe and sleep eggs and you will start sprouting feathers before the week is out.

The diet I followed was supposed to be for two weeks, but I was almost sick on the 7th day and I started to feel faint. I’d also lost such a large amount of weight that it didn’t seem safe to do for a second week.

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The main thing I learnt is how much crap I eat; how many unnecessary calories I consume from sauces and snacks that I don’t actually need. It also made me realise that I don’t drink nearly enough. The two litres of water I drank every day not only filled me up and curbed any hunger pangs, it also cleared my skin dramatically. MY face has never looked clearer.

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Another big thing for me was cutting down my coffees, I was drinking so many before and it really adds up. I realise now it’s better to have fewer nicer tasting coffees than one mediocre coffee. (Read my coffee review here)

It also made me look at my body differently and made me want to really look after myself from the inside out.

 

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I’ve joined Slimming World now and will continue to eat healthily but from a diet where there are no restrictions. I felt it was important to get back into healthy eating habits so that I don’t put all that weight back on.

This is not a diet to do for very long and I’m not promising you will all lose the same as me but I think you will see a big difference.

Check out my before and after here.

I have made a little printable for you if you want to do it yourself. The calories are estimated as obviously I can’t weigh it for you.

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HUGHES REVIEWS: Balmforth and Co Coffee

I was lucky enough to be gifted some treats from Balmforth and Co, a Yorkshire coffee company based in Barnsley.

Now Yorkshire is well known for their banging brews, but normally of the tea variety. (Don’t @ me with your southern fortnightly teas… 2 week… get it… haha).

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Balmforth and Co

Anyway, they let me try their breakfast brew and I have to say it was absolutely lovely. If you like a heavenly dark roast with a caffeine kick then this is the coffee for you.

I used to think of filter coffee as a bit of a treat, as it can be messy to clean up and seems a bit of a faff , but after a couple of weeks it stopped feeling like that, and felt worth every extra second of effort. Freeze dried coffee stopped tasting as good and definitely didn’t wake me up in the same way this did.

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Coffee Addict

The favourite thing about the taste is that coffee is allowed on most diets, so I could be extra strict and have a delicious tasty coffee and it felt like a treat. It meant that I stuck to my diet religiously, and treated myself to a full bodied coffee instead of a full bar of chocolate.

Not only was the coffee lovely, but I noticed that there was no plastic in my delivery, a real plus point for me.

The company, founded 50 years ago, has been carbon free for more than ten years and their cups and coffee bags are all sustainably sourced. On top of that their coffee is Fairtrade which means that the farmers they work with not only build a better quality of life for their family and community, but also invest in the future of their farm and into a better quality bean.

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It’s important to be mindful of these things especially in the current climate and I think it’s fair to say that this company is paving the way for other less commercial businesses. Their product lives up to their ethos and I think that is so important.

They sent me a reusable flask as well which has been a god send, as it means I don’t just get to enjoy it at home I can have it on the go.

So yes, there are many places throughout Yorkshire who stock Balmforth and Co’s eight blends of coffee. Visit their website for more details here.

HUGHES REVIEWS: THE NEWS

Catchy headline, I know.

So I’ve been working in journalism for the past two and a half years and I absolutely love current affairs. If you had said that to me when I started my degree I would have said don’t be silly, because even though I was studying journalism I had no real interest in watching the news or reading the papers.

I can’t believe I am admitting that but genuinely if it didn’t directly affect me I wasn’t interested. I thought I was going to be a Carrie Bradshaw, writing columns about a wild sex life and fancy designer clothes that I afforded with my witty writing.

It was a wake-up call when I got into my second year of university and started work experience at my local paper. It was then that I realised that no one was going to take my crap. By the end of my work experience I’d been bitten by local news and it poured through me like venom. I wanted to give a voice to the little people. I wanted to tell other people’s stories because my god I was boring.

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After two and a bit years at locals I decided I wanted to spread my wings and get my teeth into bigger stories, national stories, international stories if I could.

My job is to report what is going on in the world and not have an opinion on it. It can be really challenging at times to keep schtum about what I really feel and it’s even harder that I have to give a right of reply to everyone, even if I think they are undeserving. But all the while I remember that I want to be a good person and a journalist and although people may not believe me, it can be done.

Yes we invade people’s privacy to some extent and yes we can word things in a dramatic way but believe me when I say we have the public interest at heart.

Would we put these stories out if we didn’t think they would be consumed by the public? We write the stories the masses want to read. We write the stories that people have badgered us to put out. We write the stories that people want to know more about. And you cal say whatever you like about the press, we take some real beatings but we still come to work the next day, put more unpaid hours in than you’ll ever know and we hope to god that at least one person reads it and thinks… “Wow, that was a good read. I’m glad I know that now.”

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I consume so much news and have so many conflicting ideas about stories that by the time I finish an article I’m none the wiser as to how I feel.

I also hear and see a lot of horrible things, so much so that my colleague suggested that by the time we retire we will probably have PTSD trying to work through the emotions, gore, conflict we experience in our job. I can completely appreciate that because we really do have to see some horrendous things.

I appreciate that papers have political standings and that the journalists who work at those papers may not agree with what they write but they know the audience and they put their own views on hold for the masses.

I think all I’m trying to say is, next time you go and slag off an article online or blame the press for what they are doing; just think about why you clicked on that story.

Think about why you chose that newspaper.

Think about the amount of content you consume and the time and effort it takes to compile.

Think about the rules and regulation journalists have to work to (there is 17 sections to the editors code, plus media law)

And think about how great it is that we live in a society where there is freedom of the press. We may be confined to rules but they benefit everyone. Read an established news source and stop screaming fake news. If it was that easy to make up a story, I’d be out of a job.

#tenyearchallenge

The ten year challenge is the fad/craze/hype doing the rounds on the internet at the moment. It encourages everyone, including myself delve into the 2009 archives and see how much we have changed.

Back in 2009 I was in my final year at school and to everyone I probably looked like a normal girl, fairly bright, a fair few friends, revising hard for those all important GCSE grades (that I have not used or shown anyone for ten years but whatever), the point is I looked fairly normal.

The truth however is a much different story. In 2009 I lived with my mum, and my dog spot in a house a few miles away from my school meaning that I had to get the bus, which was absolutely fine. I used to like sitting and listening to music and just having a bit of time to relax before school.

I also really loved drama and performing, and would concentrate a tremendous amount of time learning my lines for plays and monologues to ensure I got a good grade.

But I also seemed to attract a lot of drama as well and there was always something kicking off and I always felt like I was at the centre of it.
I got called a liar for the most of year 11 for a couple of reasons, both of which were not lies, but on the off-chance they find this blog I won’t mention.

Also at the time as a family we were struggling with finances, nothing to be ashamed of but it was hard watching my mum feel like she was letting me down when in actual fact she was shaping my future and showing me how to be strong and independent and that there was always a way out of difficult situations.

But I was sad, and I felt as though there wasn’t many people I could depend on to truly be there for me, and I started to build up my defences.

After school finished, on my first day of college,  my step mum died and that hit me hard too. I kept it all inside and later in my first year of college my other grandad died.

It was some time in this year that my mum found a series of notes that I’d stuffed in a hot water bottle cover that I wrote to her in case anything happened to me.

I don’t think I ever planned to do anything but I thought if one day, if it all got too much and something took over me,  I didn’t want her to be left with no explanations.

She was devastated that I felt so bad, but it was such a turning point in my life because I felt as though a weight had been lifted and I wasn’t storing those sad thoughts in my bedroom anymore. They were in the open and they didn’t seem so world consuming.
People give teenagers such a hard time saying that they haven’t had any life experience, or that they don’t know what feeling bad is because how could they possibly feel bad when all they do is go to school, but what adults fail to remember, what even I fail to remember is that at that age you are just piecing your life together.

You are trying to work out how to deal with rejection, criticism, your body changing, outgrowing friends, breaking up with boyfriends, breaking up with girlfriends, getting crappy grades, revising and having a social life. It’s really hard and unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

Roll on ten years and I am twenty-five, moved out of my home town to live with my absolutely amazing boyfriend and working as a full-time journalist.


Things that are the same as when I was 15:

  • Still get spots… don’t know how that’s fair.
  • Still enjoy All Time Low/ YouMeAtSix/ Kids In Glass Houses.
  • Still get sad when I fall out with a friend (although it happens a lot more infrequently now),
  • Still have dark days but not that dark, I’d call 15-year-old me’s dark days black, and mine are more of the colour when you go to the toilet but you haven’t drunk enough water. (Yum).

 

Things that seem alien to me now:

  • Couldn’t give a stuff if someone thinks I’m a liar, people write fake news on my stories everyday… do not care, still get paid thanks.
  • Getting upset over MSN.
  • Not talking to my friends about my feelings.
  • Having more than ten close friends, it’s just not plausible with a full-time job.

 

Anyway here is my way overdue ten year challenge photo, it’s so great that it got put on my 16th birthday cake.

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Meltdowns Don’t Always Mean Mental Health Issues

Amanda Bynes has #broketheinternet with her recent interview in Paper magazine and I will be the first to say fair play to her!

When I was younger I was never really that big of a fan of her but I always ended up watching her films which to me is a sign of an actress who knows what she is doing.

She also brought Channing Tatum into our lives and for that, we are eternally grateful.
But when she had her rather public drug-induced meltdown she was right in what she said in her interview.

“It definitely isn’t fun when people diagnose you with what they think you are,” Bynes says, in reference to countless headlines over the years that attempted to put a psychological label to her behaviour. “That was always really bothersome to me. If you deny anything and tell them what it actually is, they don’t believe you. Truly, for me, [my behaviour] was drug-induced, and whenever I got off of [drugs], I was always back to normal.”

I know that for some people, mental health issues mean they are more likely to turn to substance abuse, whether that be drink or drugs, but people with no mental health issues also use those substances.

I can honestly say that there have been occasions where I have had too much to drink and acted completely out of character but I don’t think it needs diagnosing as a mental health issue.

During those times, I have reflected on what I have done, apologised to anyone affected and made the conscious decision to not get that drunk again.

And in all honestly, days, weeks, months down the line sometimes I do get that drunk again.

Now before anyone twists my words there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a mental illness and I think it is brilliant how much more open we are with talking about them but I think with that openness comes a crowd of people who love labelling and analysing symptoms that really aren’t there.

Sometimes it is more harmful to continually tell someone that they have a psychological problem then them actually having a psychological problem.  I think a few people nowadays feel there has to be a reason for every unusual or strange act but sometimes you can just have a bad day.

In her interview, Amanda apologised for the tweets that she sent out to a range of celebrities and wishes she could go back in time but she can’t and I think we could all take a leaf out of her book.

Sometimes we do act out of character. Sometimes we do drink too much and get into petty fights or great big fights. Sometimes it has nothing to do with drink and you can severely misjudge a situation, or act irrationally, but in those moments, if it’s possible, apologise and move on.
I think Amanda showed a lot of courage owning up to her shortcomings and apologising for them and it’s really made me more determined than ever to do that myself (or hopefully just not act out of character for the foreseeable future).