Betsy Loves, Challenge Betsy, Health

I swam the Channel!

I did it. I totally 100% did it. I have swum the Channel (in a pool, over a month). Phew! Tomorrow, I will be sharing my wisdom regarding pool etiquette, a.k.a. Do not pee in the pool.

Now I have to find a new challenge. Thoughts? Suggestions? If I carry on with the swimming, I could escape from Alcatraz, say hallloooooo to Nessy or paddle in the Nile. Currently, I’m dabbling with the idea of picking a less intense swimming challenge and throwing in Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. I may live (or not!) to regret this…

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Challenge Betsy, Health

That time I swam the Channel (not really, but sort of!)

Sometimes it’s healthy to realise you have enough going on in your life to not add any more complications, and sometimes it’s a great idea to challenge yourself a little.

This month, I’m being challenged; and it’s proving tough. I’m a good(ish) swimmer. I never mastered butterfly, but I can hold my own in frontcrawl, breaststroke, and backcrawl; I once swam a mile in Lake Windermere to raise money for charity; I used to swim on various school teams. But that’s as far as I go.

A few weeks ago, Mr T’s brother (T3) told me he was thinking about swimming the Channel. ‘The Channel?’ I replied. ‘The actual Channel?’ I was reassured that ‘no’, not the actual Channel, but in fact, 22 miles in a swimming pool spread out over the period of three months.

Now I know I could NEVER swim the Channel. There are many reasons for this. Number one, big bodies of open water scare me; if I can’t see the bottom, I begin to have issues. Number two, sharks; don’t try to tell me they don’t come into the Channel because I know they do, ok? Number three, continuously swimming for 22 hours would probably kill me and I’m not that strong.

So, the actual Channel aside, I thought this sounded like a pretty cool challenge, except, in my infinite wisdom (and arrogance?…) I decided I’d do it in a month. So this means swimming a mile Monday to Friday in my local pool, which takes me about 45 minutes. I’m on Day Four, and I’m tired. So very tired. I also carry a lingering scent of chlorine.

One of the things keeping me going is this awesome app from Speedo where you can log in your challenge, and then it shows you your progress in the actual Channel; admittedly at the moment I’m bobbing depressingly close to Dover still, but I’ll get there!

Was it a great idea to challenge myself? Who knows, but I do know it’s going to be a very tough month!


Beauty, Culture, Fashion, Health

Apples and pears – do body shape ‘rules’ help or hinder us?

Rulers, inverted triangles, hourglasses. So many labels that are meant to help us (‘us’ being women; guys, you don’t have to deal with this crap) in our quest to look and feel better, but actually end up inhibiting and restricting us.

I’m a pear (or occasionally an hourglass if I’m feeling generous towards myself). Us pears are pretty popular, well, maybe not popular but prevalent. For a while, in an attempt to ‘dress better’, I sought out every fashion and style book out there. I would flip to the inevitable pages on ‘pears’, and then I would try to follow the rules diligently.

Just three of the books that grace my shelves include The Fashion File by Janie Bryant (costume designer on Mad Men), How to be Gorgeous by Nicky Hambleton-Jones (who used to front How to Look 10 Years Younger), and Lauren Conrad’s Style.

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Janie identifies four body types – apple, pear, ruler and hourglass. As a pear, my ‘objective’ is to ‘detract from the hips’; my ‘wardrobe staples’ are A-line or full skirts, flat-fronted trousers with wide legs, polonecks, wide-collared shirts, boat neck or strapless necklines, and bootleg jeans. This is all very well, but I really don’t feel comfortable in skirts and dresses, and I don’t want to wear bootlegs. In fact, most of my options sound unappealing.

Nicky H-J adds a fifth body type – strawberry – and once again, as a pear, I’m directed to tops with detail around the neckline, hip-length tunics, tuxedo jackets, high pointed court shoes, flat-fronted trousers, bootleg jeans; and told to avoid skinny jeans, boxy jackets, clingy dresses, and prints on my bottom half.

While Lauren doesn’t have a specific section on body types, she does write that if you want to downplay your thighs you should opt for an A-line skirt, and avoid skinny jeans, while you can balance out your hips with a wide top half or embrace the 1950s pin-up girl look. Now, I adore the pin-up girl look; it’s absolutely gorgeous, but it’s not me.

I suppose I should be grateful that most of these experts recommend the same items of clothing to wear, and the same ones to avoid; but instead, I find myself frustrated and more body-conscious than ever. Some of their suggestions I’m happy to take on board, but others I feel uncomfortable in. For me, bootleg jeans seem mumsy; I love my skinny jeans and pull on a pair every day. So, do I, in actual fact, look bloody awful? It’s a depressing thought.

Another piece of advice I stumbled upon recently was to identify your body shape (check), and then find a celebrity with the same shape. Usually this celebrity will not only have their body in its peak condition so you can get a realistic idea of how your ‘best’ would look, rather than trying to compare yourself to flat-chested pre-pubescent model, they will also have access to the best that the fashion world has to offer (and more importantly a personal stylist to show them how to wear everything) so you can see how trends might work on your own figure.

One pear-shaped celebrity is the above-mentioned Lauren Conrad. And she wears skinny jeans, and looks great, so that’s something to take heart from.


And then, I have Momma P, or, more specifically, Momma P when she was my age. Surely if she can look fabulous, then I (carrying 50% of her genes) can also look cracking? Huzzah, we have light at the end of the tunnel, but do we? Because both Lauren and 27 year old Momma P are a good 30-50lbs lighter than I am. And now, finally, we find out what it all really boils down to – are you fat, or are you skinny?

If you’re the latter, lucky you, because whatever your shape, you’ll be able to wear every single trend going and look wonderful; if, on the other hand, you’re chunky, you have to think twice before you put on that crop top. Or at least, that is what Western society has brainwashed people into believing – so what if a girl with beanpole legs looks ultra-skinny in her skinny jeans? Surely it’s better than that fat chick who’s ladled herself into the same jeans and has a muffin top and fat bulges all over the place? Right?…

At the end of the day, style rules for body shapes are invented for those of us with less than perfect figures, and even then, they’re only really helping us achieve a sort of patch-up job. I have the most enormous respect and envy for any woman (or man) who can embrace their body – thin or fat, apple or pear – and think f*** it, I’m going to wear that crop top, and I’m going to rock it. But I will never be that person because I’ve spent too long reading, absorbing and worshipping the ‘fat is bad, ugly, lazy and stupid’ myth, but only when applied to myself.

Beauty, Culture, Food, Health

Bikini bridges

Yesterday I briefly touched on body image syndromes like thigh gaps. What is a thigh gap? The clue’s in the name really – it’s being skinny enough that the very top of your inner thighs don’t meet in the middle. On some women, those who have a genetic predisposition, this looks perfectly normal, or other women, those who’ve desperately tried to achieve a gap which was never naturally meant to be there, it looks weird.

And now it appears that this year, as well as demanding non-touching thighs, women can add another fetishistic syndrome to their list – the bikini bridge. Less self-explanatory perhaps. Allow me to expand, it simply refers to the ‘bridge’ that is formed by your bikini bottoms (or knickers) when your hipbones jut out when you lie down. Now, whether you think this is attractive or not, and before you express your outrage or delight, let me tell you that this is a hoax.

A hoax, you say? Yes.

Someone thought it’d be funny to poke fun at the whole ‘thigh gap’ and general body infatuation, and they created an entirely new phenomenon which they posted to social media, where it went viral. Lo and behold, The Daily Mail (among many others) picked up the story, but crucially, they hadn’t realised it was a hoax (maybe because once again they’d failed to do their homework, or maybe because it appeared so likely a fad, who were they to question it?). They then ran with wild panicky abandon through the quagmire of body image and media representation; you could practically feel the excitement of the editors leeching off the internet at this new monstrosity to rage against.

Then the hoax was revealed, but there was no backtracking and for once I agree with the reasoning – hoax or not, it still represented a worrying fad, and, as The Daily Mail had so elegantly proved, not everyone would realise it was a hoax. Sure enough, #bikinibridge is now a thing; a popular thing.

Perhaps over the next few years and months, we’ll begin to see #xylophonechest – when you can see the upper ribcage clearly; #collarbonecanyon – when these bones protrude prominently; #ribstripes – when your lower ribs show through your sides giving you a ‘stripey’ look; and #cheekdips – for either your butt or your face, take your pick. Isn’t it an exciting age that our unborn daughters can look forward to?

Food, Health, Writing

That sinking feeling

I went to bed last night with the unpleasant, yet familiar, sinking feeling in my stomach that yet again I have failed to lose a stone in a week.

Obviously I’m exaggerating slightly but I am a very impatient person who’s also cursed with great enthusiasm at the offset which then declines quite quickly.

Perhaps I’m simply lacking in willpower and self discipline as some people have suggested, perhaps I simply don’t care enough to make the effort, perhaps I can blame the spare tire on my medically-proven sluggish metabolism, or perhaps there is another reason entirely.

Reason aside, almost every month I embark on a new plan of self-improvement with the main aim inevitably to shift at least a stone (except in my head I have visions of model-esque loveliness…). And every month, I find myself back at the same point. It’s all very depressing.

I’m a great lover of a fad, and will happily buy into whatever diet or fitness craze is currently doing the rounds. I’ve done the Dukan and Slimming World; I’ve followed James Duigan and Gwyneth Paltrow; I’ve fasted and Paul McKenna-ed; I’ve exercised to Tracey Anderson and even had a couple of personal trainers along the way, but the fact remains that at some point, some thing will knock me off course and I’ll go plummeting in the opposite direction.

I’ve very much an ‘all or nothing’ person so when I fall off the wagon, I do so into a sugary mattress of tubs of ice cream, family sized bars of chocolate, jars of Nutella, bags of Haribo and so on.

When I’m on the wagon, whichever one it may be, I am ‘living the dream’ and the perfect disciple, until, of course, suddenly I’m not.

There’ve been many reasons why I’ve lost my way. Sometimes it’s been a birthday or celebration when I’ve gorged myself and found it difficult to go back; other times it starts as a ‘treat’ which escalates; or it’s a deliberate FU to the current regime when I’m having a bad day; or an excuse because I’ve been productive and successful in other areas of my life.

Fairly recently I told Mr T that I find it almost impossible to be successful in more than one area of my life at the same time. He gave me a dubious look as I explained writing well meant I ‘rewarded or motivated’ myself with chocolate, while doing daily exercise meant I felt justified in reading and relaxing when I should be writing. His dubious look remained, but then, he has one of the most impressive (wait for it…) work ethics of anyone I know. I always feel lazy next to him.

Now let’s take me out of this entire situation for a moment. Losing weight sounds like it should be simple. Eat less + exercise more = weight loss. But it’s never that easy. For a start, one week people are demonising fat, the next it’s sugar. Some tell you to cut out carbs, others to eat for your blood type. It really is a minefield out there, and most people are gullible little sausages, happy to gobble up whatever new ‘nutritional’ advice is doing the rounds. And then you hear the depressing news that most ‘successful’ dieters weigh more three years after their weight loss than they did before they started! I ask you, where’s the incentive in that?!

I’m not asking for sympathy from this post. Let’s face it, that’s the last thing I need! But I’ve often found that writing down my actions helps me to understand them. Mostly though, after this, I’m feeling more confused and petulant than ever!

I’m about to book flights to go visit the fabulous Miss S in distant lands. I have five months to transform myself into a goddess. That’s do-able, right?…


Toilet roll dilemma

Picture the scene, if you will.

Ladies, you’ve just been to the toilet, had your wee, and now turn to the toilet roll holder, when – shock horror! – you discover that all that is there is the empty cardboard tube. If you’re lucky, there might be a few scraps of paper to salvage; otherwise, you’re left with four options.

Do you:

A) shake what your momma gave you? (Or, as I overheard in one toilet, ‘shake your lettuce’ – shudder)

B) make use of the cardboard inner?

C) cry out desperately hoping a neighbouring loo-user will take pity and pass you some paper underneath the door?

D) stay there forever?

Now, if this is all too much information, I apologise (sort of), but it’s a serious hazard that most ladies will have to face. I have chosen, and will undoubtedly choose again, option B. Every. Single. Time. (After having tried option C) As far as I’m concerned, it’s just as sanitary as the paper it used to hold, albeit a rather less comfortable experience.

And I now have proof that I’m not the only one.

I was watching Alan Carr’s Chatty Man, with Ellie Goulding as a guest, and she mentioned this very dilemma, and lo and behold, she’s an option B-er too. I feel incredibly heartened by this. And judging by the woops from the audience, more than a few of the females there also opt for this. Hallelujah! (Or should that be halleloojah? Don’t groan.)

Now, why am I even telling you this? Why am I sharing this particular toilet habit? I’m not entirely sure, except to say that, we’ve all been there, ladies. So next time, shake what your momma gave you, by all means, appeal desperately to your fellow toilet-goers, but failing all else, that cardboard tube will do nicely.

(Or, of course, you could be super duper organised and carry a pack of tissues in your handbag. If this is you, I salute you. You go, girlfriend. Can I have one, please?)