Mental Health Awareness Week: Self-Love

As I mentioned in my previous post, my campaign for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is centred around self-love. Today I’m tackling the subject of body positivity.

At 17, I developed a rather unique eating disorder – it was a mixture of starving myself and binge eating. I used to wake up at 5pm just before my parents got home from work, eat 3 packets of crisps and loads chocolate, have a couple cans of fizzy drink and then wait for them to come home. Because I’d be awfully bloated from this binge eating, I never used to be able to eat dinner properly in the evenings with my parents, so I’d normally end up crying at the dinner table because I was sad about the eating junk food earlier in the day. It was a vicious cycle – wake up late, binge eat unhealthy food and then cry about it after. 

I started to lose weight rapidly and my parents delicately suggested it might be time for me to seek help with my weight and food issues. After undergoing intense psychotherapy for about a year, I grew to understand that I was essentially punishing my body for battling against itself after I had my gallbladder taken out at 16. Because I struggled to recover from the surgery in time to sit my a-levels, I performed rather catastrophically in my first year of college. Thus, to retain some sense of control over my life, I decided to limit what I ate in order to control my weight. When I started seeing quick results from this awful diet of mine, I ran with it because it gave me a sense of achievement. The way I looked at it back then was, “maybe I failed my a-levels, but at least I’m one step closer to being a side 8.” I had a terribly unhealthy and negative relationship with my body which in turn affected my mental well-being detrimentally. 

7 years later and I finally have a better relationship with my body. My eating habits have dramatically improved – I’m eating minimum 2 meals a day instead of 1! Breakfast is still a sticking point for me as I hate eating when I wake up in the mornings but I’m always eating something during the day, every other hour or so at least! I’ve learnt to accept that whilst I’m battling health issues with my body at present, and having done so since 16, I shouldn’t be punishing my body for its struggles. I should be celebrating my physical and mental achievements. Going through the pain, the surgeries, the countless procedures that I have over the years has made me a stronger person. It sounds incredibly cliche but it took being sick to appreciate how healthy I am now. 

Since I started personal training in the gym, I’m also painfully aware of the bad habits that can be picked up from excessive and obsessive exercise. My personal trainer kept me in check every now and then, even in lockdown, to keep me motivated to exercise whenever my body allowed me to, and maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle has always been at the heart of our training together. Everyday I’m trying to ensure I don’t go overboard with my exercise routines – I give myself rest days every other day to ensure my body isn’t being worked into overdrive. With my current condition and the painful periods during that time of the month, I’m unable to move from my sofa let alone work out so I make sure I give myself a week’s rest, too. 

My personal training sessions have taught me that it’s not about looking my best, it’s fundamentally about feeling my best. Whatever my reflection shows me in the mirror doesn’t compare to what I think of myself from the inside. In an era defined by social media which essentially only reflects the best moments of people’s lives which they choose to share, we find ourselves subconsciously comparing our progress to one another. With the rise of fitness content creators comes a dangerous need to look as good as they do, to eat as clean as they do, and to work as hard as they do at maintaining a conventionally attractive physique created by society, yet deemed perfect by our own selves. Even I find myself wishing I was as toned as a Gymshark model but I have to remind myself that I am not an athlete – I have not been training rigorously. Any progress I make should be celebrated, not belittled in comparison to that of others online. We spend so much time thinking about how we can improve our appearances when our focus should be on improving our state of mind, our perceptions of ourselves. I have good days and bad days just like everyone else, but I’m grateful to be surrounded by so many people who are such positive sources of light and encouragement in my life. They celebrate my successes, support my achievements and promise me a safe place to land if I ever fall into the trap of feeling low. 

Your self-worth is defined only by how you see yourself, and the relationship you have with your body. If you want to exercise 7 times a week, you can but you don’t have to. If you want to eat healthy food everyday of the week you can, but again, you don’t need to. Listen to your body and work out what’s best for your mind. Our bodies are essentially vessels for the mind and we ought to treat both with simultaneous care, love and respect. 

A x

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2017!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2017!

2016 has brought us a whirlwind of emotions. It’s felt like a bloody long year too!

From restarting my degree at the university of my dreams, to meeting some of the truly wonderful people I now hold dear to me, it’s been a crazy year that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s also taught me how important it is to keep your loved ones close: to cherish every second you have with them, because life is far too unpredictable and we just cannot know when our time on this earth will be over.

Strangers have become best friends. Best friends have become family. Family ties have grown stronger (in some cases, mind!) 2016 has been a year of life lessons, too. I’ve learnt that people will come in and out of your life, but those who are supposed to be in it will come back to you eventually. Those who don’t come back, well, for the briefest moments, they were in your life for a reason. All we can do is learn from what they’ve taught us, and move on with what they’ve left behind. Life is too unpredictable to hold grudges and negativity against those we once cared for.

I look forward to a year of positivity ahead of me. As cliche as it sounds, I’m very much looking forward to leaving negativity behind me in 2016, and moving forward with those who stuck by me relentlessly this year, bringing me nothing but happiness and filling my life with love.

Happy 2017! Let’s make it a good one.

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” – Unknown

A x

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Today marks a very special day dedicated to the heroic fathers who do so much for their children! Sadly, I spent majority of this day wrapped in a blanket as a result of being unwell, and it didn’t go to plan at all. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to making up for it when I’m feeling a little better.

These past few years have been particularly difficult and my dad has been one of the very few people to stand by me through thick and thin. With his tireless efforts to make me feel better, make me laugh and support me, I couldn’t have asked for a better father. He goes well out of his way and beyond to make my life a little more bearable and easier. From picking me up from the station at ridiculous hours of the night, to dropping me off to work at 3am when I used to work at the airport, it’s insane how he’s managed to put up with me! Yet he continues to do so, showering me with love and support endlessly.

Dad, I don’t give you enough credit for what you do for me, and for our family. You’re one of the most incredible men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and loving, and I most certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without you, and all the sacrifices you’ve made. Everyday, I grow more proud of you as a father, as a businessman and as a person.

Thank you for doing what you do. For loving me, for supporting me, for sitting down at 1am to discuss world politics and world peace with me. You’ve provided me with so much in life that I never thank you for, but will forever be grateful for.

All my love,

Anisah

Last Day at Work!

My last day working for menswear has flown past and I’m left feeling rather nostalgic and a little at loss with what to do with myself. I remember the day I had my interview with my department manager and leaving the interview feeling absolutely terrified. Since then, I’ve massively grown as a person, in strength and in determination. Not without a few obstacles on the way, however! Nevertheless, it’s been a wild ride and one I’ll cherish for a long time.

Working for a high-demand fashion retail company isn’t easy when you’re literally running around the shop-floor all day. The one thing I was guaranteed was a decent night’s sleep after an 8 hour shift. Working for menswear was also an entirely new and exciting experience for me; I’ve learnt to style men for occasions (kinda still getting my head around that one) and help co-oordinate outfits both merchandising-wise and for customers. With regionals coming down every couple of weeks, this job has been simultaneously the most stressful and enjoyable retail experience.

The customers were a challenge, I’ll happily admit that. With men shouting at me for not smiling at them, throwing clothes on me, demanding I run up 3 flights of stairs to find them a jacket etc, it was exhausting. When customers didn’t speak a word of English, they’d start getting furious with me for not understanding them. Also, from called an “asian persuasion” to being insulted and harassed for refusing to give me phone number/ my name, I can only look back and laugh at the nature of half the arguments there’s been in menswear.

However, this job couldn’t have been as wonderful as it has been without the people I’ve met and grown to love over the course of the few months I was there. From the cashiers to the stockroom assistants to the security guards, it felt like one big family and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I learnt the art of sass from my floor manager and how to control my tongue when men became particularly aggressive towards me and my merchandiser taught me everything I needed/ wanted to learn about merchandising – something incredibly invaluable. Their relentless support and encouragement made the experience evermore enjoyable – without it, I don’t know where I’d be. It was an absolute pleasure working with such wonderful ladies. And finally, my boss. I don’t think I have ever got on so well with a manager before. Our relationship was an odd one, though – one minute we’d be laughing, the next minute screaming in each other’s faces, at times literally hitting each other. I think 90% of that stemmed from my inability to understand what he was saying most of the time, but I’m immensely grateful to have worked for a really amazing guy. He transformed me from the timid little 19 year old at the interview into a no-shit-taking, thick skinned 20 year old. The love and respect I have for him I cannot put into words. All I can say is thank you. For absolutely everything, but most importantly for taking a chance on me and making me cry/laugh at the same time.

I looked forward to coming into work these last four months, so thank you to everyone at Croydon for giving me memories I’ll cherish and friends for life. It won’t be the same not coming down those escalators and seeing your faces again!

All my love,

Anisah x

Out With a Bang: Farewell 2015!

2015 has been the toughest hurdle to jump over; everything was thrown at me with so little time to prepare for it and I can’t bring myself to accept that I’ve survived it. (Just about)

The year began with hospitalisation and a new health condition: pancreatitis. Over the course of 7 months this developed into Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction. (SOD) Now, my doctors are so baffled by my health conditions, they’ve put me under the care of another surgeon. So that’s put me under the care of two surgeons, a gastroenterologist, a pancreatic specialist and a laparoscopic surgeon over three years. I really do get around. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I am pain free and have been since being discharged from hospital at the end of November. I’m hoping it’ll stay that way, too.

I also said goodbye to people I thought I couldn’t live without. I embraced new friendships and was reminded what love felt like. Ultimately, I loved and I lost. 87% sure that’s a song lyric.

I exceeded every expectation I, and many others, had of my success both academically and personally. I was nominated for four blog awards in the space of one year, with 12,600 views and 7,200 people clicking onto my blog around the globe. Oh, and now 2 blogs to my name. I managed to bag myself a 2:1 in my first year at university despite being hospitalised 11 times during the year. Flippin’ crazy.

Finally, I am blissfully and disgustingly happy. Being surrounded by wonderful parents who’ve supported me since forever has been the only thing to keep me going: their invaluable advice and commitment to my happiness has been something I’ll never take for granted. For the rest of my time on this planet, I’ll never be able to thank them enough for everything they’ve sacrificed and done for me. I love you both incomprehensible amounts and hope I’ve done you proud so far. The friends who’ve stuck by me during my best and worst hours are all godsends I’ll be forever grateful for, too.  I stumbled across a job which I’ve fallen utterly in love with: my manager is the nicest (and sassiest) human being I’ve ever had the pleasure of working for and the people I work with give me nothing but joy every day. Everything has fallen into place.

I’m incredibly lucky to be alive, as healthy as I can be and to have everyone I love around me. Thank you to everyone who joined me on the journey I took this year and to everyone who stuck by me. I’ve learnt the hard way that those who are destined to be in your life will always be a part of it, and you, and will find a way back to you no matter what. Those who never had the intention of sticking around, or who walked away – well, they’re a lesson learnt for the future.

Here’s to a great 2016. And never looking back.

Anisah x

“Work Smarter, Not Harder.”

Sigh.

I was on Facebook not too long ago and came across someone saying this. Multiple times. And I began to get increasingly frustrated with its context.

In this age of crash dieting, juice diets and fitness fads, there’s a slight issue which continues to crop up on my social media accounts and hits a nerve. Recently, I was told about a new “way to lose weight.” I’m not going to name the company but their suggested method of losing weight is to take their “capsules” which supposedly contain “30 kinds of fruits, berries and vegetables” that you take daily. Instead of eating food during the day, they advise you to drink their milkshakes which are also “plant based and a healthy alternative to food.”

In other words, you pop two pills and drink milkshakes all day so the weight will drop.

I have never tried diet pills and I most certainly don’t intend to, so I cannot personally admit or deny their effectiveness. However, I have read reports by scientists, health experts and a personal trainer who have all agreed that this system does NOT work. You are essentially starving your body of necessary food groups such as fat and carbohydrates in order to shed a couple of pounds. The worse aspect; the pounds aren’t actually shed at all, but put back on once you eat normally.

In 2014 I developed an eating disorder. I stopped eating completely, lost so much weight that the doctors became concerned and recommended a complete lifestyle change.I also required therapy to work through and come to terms with what I was suffering with – I’ve underlined the word because going through something as damaging as an eating disorder never really leaves you. It remains in the back of your mind as a constant reminder of what once was: in some ways, it still haunts me. When I look at pictures of myself on holiday, I grimace at the bones sticking out. It’s one of the worst things anyone can go through.

That is why I’m so against diet pills and more specifically, the idea of someone starving themselves to lose weight. Furthermore, over the last year or so, I’ve managed to turn my life around despite all the health conditions I’ve run into along the way. Like most people, I work my absolute hardest to be a healthy weight and a healthy person in general. They do say that if you’re not soaked in sweat, you’re not doing it right! There’s simply no easy way to lose weight.

The company I referred to above work as promoters for their products; their employees talk about the benefits of their products and how becoming a part of their team is the best thing you can do. Ultimately, they’re working from home (ideal, right?) by selling products to desperate women predominantly. They also get paid a HELL of a lot for conning customers. This is where I saw the titled remark of working smarter rather than harder, and thus is the point of my article.

Duping customers is not in my nature and certainly won’t open as many doors as my current job has. Starving my body will not make me as healthy as doing exercise and eating healthy will.

A x