Thursday, 22 August 2013

The True Cost of Looking Good

How much of our lives are we spending on looking good?

Well, according to this news article, 244 days of our lifetimes and £166,495 on average!

That is an awful lot of time spent preening, and some might question whether it’s the best use of just shy of a year. But I think people often grossly underestimate the importance physical appearance plays in our lives, even if we don’t want to admit it.

Due to the way the human brain is structured, and the way its set up to process large volumes of information and interpret that quickly, not taking care of your looks can cost you dearly.

However evolved and enlightened we like to think we are, there are instinctive, animal parts of the brain that still associate beauty with virtue. Studies have shown that women who tend to their appearance are more likely to be promoted at work and even to be given a lighter sentence in a court of law, not to mention all the innumerable small forms of preferential treatment you can amass during a day.

And although most intelligent women would protest that they don’t use their looks to get ahead, who can honestly say they’ve never tried to bat a mascara’ed lash to get out of a parking ticket, or tugged down their neckline to get served first at the bar? Our appearances are intrinsically linked to who we are and how the world interacts with us, however much we’d all like to deny it. And the figures back this up:

On average over a lifetime, a woman will :

    Try 572 new hair and make-up styles
    Have 298 wardrobe overhauls
    Attempt an average of 1,503 exercise regimes and 228 new diets

What you will spend on average on ‘self-improvement’ in a lifetime:

    Under 25 -£165,607
    25-34 - £131,829
    35- 44 - £109,401
    45-54 - £93,109

It is encouraging to note that self-improvement hasn’t just been classed as image related here -  the figures above also include 17 days of training courses, and £5967 or 16 days learning new skills or broadening cultural horizons.

And geography also plays its part – women in the East Midlands (coincidentially, this is where I live), spend the most on self-improvement at an average of £150,660 followed by ladies in London £143,807, while the least spend goes to girls in the South West (trailing behind at an average of £75,466).

So what do you think? Is the investment in money and time worth it? Should we all be aiming for perfection or do we need to learn to relax and accept ourselves as we are?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

You Cheat! My 12 Night Out Dirty Little Secrets

Fake it ‘til you make it is my philosophy for life in general and never is that more true than when I go out. I love turning up the glamour to 11 and spending real ‘me time’ pampering and preening. Its an indulgence, it’s a hobby, and it’s a ritual that really puts me in the mood to enjoy myself and socialise.

I know it’s a bit shallow, and I’m certainly not suggesting it’s something I do every day, but I do love to spend a full afternoon getting ready if I have the time. Prep starts days before by scouting the net or glossy magazines for inspiration for my outfit and hair and make-up. On the day, if I have time, I enjoy having a big old bubble bath laden with sweet-smelling oils and skin-softening potions and with skincare, make-up, dressing and having a few ‘pre-game’ drinks, I can quite easily while away a few hours!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of real vs artificial beauty (see my ‘Morningface’ post for more on this). A lot of people have very strong views on this, ranging from actual cosmetic surgery to ‘non-invasive’ procedures, to all the little enhancements women can call upon to beautify their appearance.

How much is too much? Is it ‘fair’ to get a leg-up on mother nature? Is it all ‘false advertising’? My personal view is that I’ll take anything I can get, and if I could actually afford Botox/ wasn’t deathly afraid of needles, I'd be doing it now! But I don’t want to look ‘plastic’, I just want to look like a better, more radiant version of myself. So I look for products that can cheat me a movie-star glow without going over the top (and on a distinctly un-movie-star-like budget, as well!). I decided it might be fun to tot up all the ‘false’ things that I do before going out and the amount surprised even me…

Freshlook Colorblends

I don’t wear these every time I go out, but depending on the look I’m going for, or how adventurous I’m feeling, I like to use coloured contact lenses to change up my naturally amber eyes. Again, subtlety is key, so my favourite shade is Stirling Grey. If I’m feeling a bit wilder, I’ll wear True Sapphire. These lenses are so comfortable and easy to wear, and are widely believed to be the most natural looking coloured lenses. I certainly don’t think they look obviously fake. If people don’t know me, and I tell them I’ve got brown eyes naturally, they tend to be surprised. If you looked really close up, in good daylight, yeah you can probably tell, but for an evening out, they’re very passable. I just like the combination of blue eyes and dark hair – my dad’s side of the family all has this, and my husband. It’s fun to fake it sometimes!

Jessical Gel nail extensions


A lot of women are guilty of this one! This is the beauty fakery I’m least likely to give up. I’m a nail biter and always have been. I do it in moments of absent-mindedness, so its really hard to control. My nails are quite brittle and even if I do manage to get the length naturally, they quickly split and break. So, with a few weeks break during the summer and winter, I mostly wear gel or acrylic extensions. Because my job involved a lot of typing, I always keep the length short, and I also have them shaped oval, which I feel doesn’t look as fake as squared off.  I don’t do those horrible, Katie Price-style day-glo white tips either, preferring a low-key neutral or a funky colour. The polish stays on far longer, and I can do what I like without worrying about them chipping or breaking. This is one that I wouldn’t give up without a fight!

Scholl Party Feet Gel Cushions

Unsure whether this counts as fakery, but decided to include it anyway. Some women walk best in heels and can’t be out of them, but for me, heels have never been a first choice. For a start, I walk about as gracefully as bambi on ice in them, and even had to teach myself how to walk in heels using this handy YouTube video!  Hate having uncomfortable footwear, mainly because I love to dance. So, in addition to my mission to find ‘holy grail’ stilettos (sexy and comfortable), I always make use of these gel cushions to pad my shoes out and give me super feet that can dance all night!

Medex Easy White Brush On Tooth Whitener

I do whiten my teeth on a semi-regular basis using a hydrogen gel and bluelight kit. But when I want an extra boost, for a night out, I’ve discovered this amazing paint-on enamel. You brush it onto your teeth and it creates sort of a temporary veneer that comes off when you brush your teeth. It works really well, especially if you want to wear a bright or warm-toned lipstick that can make even white teeth look on the yellowish side. I wouldn’t really consider actual veneers, because a)they look ridiculous and very fake and b) I have zero desire to have my real teeth filed down to little stumps! Yuk. But this product allows you to get that ultra-white finish for a special occasion, without being stuck with day-glo teeth that look ridiculous in daylight. I think this is an acceptable form of fakery, as its still your real smile!

Halo Clip-in Hair Extensions

Everyone wants thick, lustrous Cheryl Cole hair. But here’s the thing: no-one has that hair, not even Cheryl Cole herself. It’s well-known that she wears hair extensions, despite her deal advertising volumising haircare products. Sure, they help and I use them too, but if you really want volume, extensions are the easiest and best route. So always make sure my clip-ins go on when I’m going out. I do not like those obviously fake rapunzel locks though -  remember, I’m all about the stealth fakery -  so I only use extensions the same length and shade as my own hair to add a little volume. Remy hair- or real hair- is the better choice as you can wash, straighten, curl and dye them the same as your own tresses.

Eyelure Naturalites False Lashes

 I’m a well documented false lash addict, and have even worked out how to wear them during the day without looking fake (although I must stress, I certainly don’t wear them everyday). I like my eyes to look like a mascara advert. Improbable, but not impossible! So that very false, glamour model look is something I really try hard to avoid. I’ve tried a lot of brands, and hands down, the Eyelure Naturalites range (or Ultra Naturals for day or an even more light touch) are the best for achieving a look that’s perfect, but still within the laws of physics! They have a clear band and a mix of lash fibre colours to blend in with your own lashes. Great for amping up your flutter without looking like a fraud.

Cleavage Cupcakes Gel bra inserts

I have small-to-average boobs. This fact used to bother me a lot as an insecure teen, but now I’m more than fine with the fact- in fact, I’m even relieved. I think its actually very hard to look a) ‘fashion’ b)elegant or c) businesslike with a large chest, so I’m very happy with my smaller bust. But sometimes you don’t care about any of those, you just want a bit of raw sex appeal, and  luckily with the help of fakery, and impressive chest can be yours. Again, its not something I do every time I go out, but if my outfit could benefit from a bit of va-va-voom in the cleavage department, I’ll often pop in a pair of chicken fillets. For an especially mesmerising bosom, you can commit the triple fakery of a padded, push-up bra a size smaller than you normally wear, chicken fillets and a bit of contouring bronzer. And woah mama. I even once had a guy (charmingly enough) ask me if mine were fake on a night out when I’d tripled faked it (and could answer yes truthfully). But clearly you don’t need to invest in plastic surgery to get that effect. The best part? Not being stuck with them afterwards!

Sally Hansen Lip Inflation or Soap and Glory Sexy Motherpucker

This gloss really works to plump up your lips in a hurry, and give you a beestung pout. My lips aren't too thin, but I must admit, I do really like the artificially plumped pout look. I know lots of people think stars like Lindsay Lohan (if she can still be called that at this point!) have a 'trout pout', but I sort of like that overplumped look. But I'm not big on having someone stick a needle in there, so this gloss helps me cheat! A quick slick looks really good.

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

I'm a massive fan of this product. If its too hot for tights (and let's face it, in a club or a bar, its usually going to be), this little miracle product is like foundation for your legs and hides a multitude of sins, thread veins, stubble marks, bruises etc, to let you achieve that flawless glow. Combine it with a little shimmer powder stroked down the shin bones and boom! perfect pins can be yours too. Its a small thing that no-one would really notice on it's own, but it really contributes to achieving a perfect look.

L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Wash-Off Instant Tan

I've only just gotten into fake tan. I've ignored it for years, not wanting to be orange. I have golden skin anyway, but that doesn't mean a few harsh winters can't turn me deathly pale! But what really got me into fake tan all of a sudden is actually a desire to make my thighs look slimmer and a desire to become Millie Mackintosh combined. All of a sudden I found myself buying lots of different tanners! I do use Garnier Summerbody, to build up a gradual glow, and then to ramp it up for a night out, this stuff is great to give a one-night-only hit of colour to my pasty limbs. Love it!


I like big hair Always have done, always will. And so I rely on a few things- namely Clynol Play hair powder, my Denman dressing brush and a damn good hairspray, plus a volumising mousse- to really lock in some va-va-voom for the night. But the best way to get lasting volume that doesn't require hours of painful combing out when you roll home in the early hours? I use Bump-Its, little plastic arches that help me to get volume in the crown or a bump in my fringe. I love them, even though they're a bit gimmicky. 60's Barbarella hair will always rule in my heart!


I would not consider a night out without my Spanx, and the same is true of many a Hollywood star and/or Kardashian sister. There's no replacement for gym and diet of course, and nothing is going to drastically change your silhouette, but even if you are slim, there's something about control underwear that just smooths out all those stubborn lumps and bumps and makes you ultra-confident in a slinky frock. Of course, being married, it doesn't bother me to parade around in my Bridget Joneses in front of the husband, but if you are single, it could be a bit more problematic if you get lucky in your beige high-waisters! I wouldn't feel happy going out without my control undies, and I have an extensive wardrobe of styles. Seriously, I do. Briefs, seamless boy shorts, bottom shaping, strapless shifts.

So those are my dirty little cheat secrets that means that when I'm out and about, what you see isn't quite what you get!

What are your top cheats to fake flawless? Let me know!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The 5:2 Diet - 3 Weeks In

Hello Dolls

It's been a couple of weeks since I've updated on my progress on the 5:2 Diet. There have been highs and lows in the past couple of weeks, but the most amazing part is that I've actually managed to stick to it for three weeks, which is a personal best of mine for any diet, ever. I hope I can keep going until my holiday in September!

So, how has it been? Well, some days have been really tough. Going to bed with an empty stomach is never any fun. But overall the fasting days have been getting easier. My last fasting day was brilliant. I only had an apple (and a lot of zero-calories fluids, usually water or hot water with lemon juice, some black coffee and the odd peppermint tea), and then beans on wholemeal toast all day, but I wasn't really hungry. I felt light and buzzy, full of energy, and none of that post-lunch slump I usually get.

After week one, I found I had lost a pound in weight and I was delighted. I did military bootcamp and no carbs for a MONTH before my wedding and only lost a pound total, so a pound in a week felt amazing and really spurred me on.

However, at the end of week two, I discovered I hadn't lost anything further. I was really gutted, after I'd been so good sticking to it. My body is awful. It clings stubbornly onto every pound. My weight never fluctuates, and even staving myself two days a week appears to have had no change. I was extremely down after that. But my husband was quick to tell me that weight loss is not an exact science, especially when you don't have lots to lose, which consoled me a bit. My colleagues who first switched me onto the diet told me the weight loss can plateau - but after just one pound? That's frankly a bit disappointing.

I am frustrated and this is where I'd normally give up. But this time, I've decided to hit back harder. As of this week, I am:
  • Switching to 4:3 as a ratio, at least until I see something start to happen
  • Not weighing myself anymore until before my holiday
I still feel good within myself, even though I haven't lost anything more, so I'm going to carry on for the time being. I feel like this diet is actually strengthening my willpower - I did read somewhere once that the best way to get more of it is actually to use some, like a muscle- and its also helping me to be more aware of what goes into my body, and to appreciate what I do eat. So for now, I'm soldiering on! This could be a long-term form of weight control for me, who knows. Wish me luck!
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