Category: Health and fitness

Yoga with Nina

We chat to 26-year-old Nina Goks, a yoga teacher and naturopathic nutrition student from London, about her vegan journey, tattoo collection and living a yogi inspired life…

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When did your yoga and vegan journey begin? My yoga journey started before veganism! I began yoga over four years ago, I was trying to get healthier, eating a more conventionally healthy diet, running and doing HIIT training. I tried a yoga style workout and quickly began doing yoga more than any other exercise – I enjoyed the peace, strength, release and focus. Before yoga I was relatively mindless when I worked out, I’d just get through it to get it over with and yoga is precisely the opposite.

My awareness of healthier eating initiated thoughts about compassion. I cut out meat and was vegetarian for a few weeks, until I watched Earthlings – I haven’t looked at the world the same since. Compassion, non-harming, living a simple life and being conscious of your health, the wellbeing of the planet and all life are certainly aspects of both yoga and ethical veganism, so it was natural for them to come along hand in hand. Then they spilled out into every aspect of my life and I quit the career I’d been very unhappy in to indulge in yoga and nutrition!

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Sunmer rolls made by Nina

What drove you to make such a huge lifestyle change? I was inspired by several people on social media, I enjoyed following along with their journeys. I was really introduced to veganism on those platforms, it enticed me to do research for myself. I chose to actively pursue it because once you know better, you can do better! It was time to be proactive. I was also having a lot of health issues, some diagnosed, some unexplained and for the most part I’d just accepted them as part of my life. Now that seems wild to me, I didn’t ever associate eating so unhealthily with ill-health – bare in mind I was a total junk food addict prior to the few months before I went vegan.

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Smoothie bowl made by Nina

Has it made you think about your body and yourself differently? Of course! I began to view myself as someone worthy of mindful health, I saw my body as something capable rather than deteriorating. It’s not arrogant or selfish to acknowledge your worth, in fact it’s liberating.

What advice would you give to others wanting to make a change? Educate yourself, watch documentaries, reach out to the online community for support and inspiration. If it’s something you want, then be kind to yourself on the journey. It can have its trials and tribulations but nothing worth doing just falls into your lap, it’s OK to be fearful, to take criticism. If you give yourself the information you need then it’s a much more simple transition. Choosing a positive outlook on something really changes the outcome!

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Pina colada smoothie bowl made by Nina

What do you share in your YouTube videos, what can people expect to see? I didn’t have a specific intention in mind when I started my YouTube channel. I just wanted to document my travels and make videos around the relatively new and exciting lifestyle I am continuing to learn about. So you can expect veganism, yoga, travel, yogi/vegan lifestyle, natural health and minimalism and probably a lot of other totally random musings.

How has your style developed? You’ve started to take more of a minimalist direction, what inspired this? With tattoos, I used to be more into traditional, but I’ve definitely developed a love for neo-trad. Minimalism was sparked by aspects of a yogi life. Living simply and the understanding that you have enough and you are enough. My aim is to have what I need, buy from independent, conscious small businesses or second hand but still use what I have now until it needs to be replaced. We are such consumers, totally feeding into what’s sold to us, when you reign that in you start to appreciate what you do have and where it comes from. My style has definitely evolved to much more clean and simple, tropical and nature inspired, vegan and barefoot living!

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Can you tell us about your tattoos? Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? My tattoos are largely collected from female artists, but not all, especially anything I got in the past two years. Something about the experience of getting tattooed can become ritualistic. My husband, Goks, is a tattoo artist and his passion for tattooing expanded my own ideas about tattoos, I’d always wanted them, even though for a short time I said I wouldn’t have any that were visible.

That changed quickly, especially once I saw all the unbelievable artists out there. If you feel a connection with an artist, their work and their vibe, it totally changes your appreciation for the tattoo. Mine are really just things I was/am into, I’m not anal about what I get tattooed and often have my own ideas of what I want. I think there is a happy medium as far as meaning goes. If every single tattoo has to be sacred and super personal it could be hard to actually have ideas or be open to artist interpretation.

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When did you start teaching classes? How can people get involved? I’ve been teaching privately for a few months now, since I completed the start of my training. I’m in the midst of organising classes but I am available for private classes in south east London or within local areas. Information about events and classes can be found on my website and Instagram – new classes coming soon!

Cold Girl Fever: Katie Thirks

We chat to 27-year-old Leeds based blogger and zine creator Katie Thirks about her blog www.coldgirlfever.com, her tattoo collection, and why she created her now sold-out Love/Hate zine…

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How would you describe your style? My day-to-day style is pretty laid-back. I don’t really follow fashion trends consciously – I buy clothes and style my outfits depending on my mood. I can never plan outfits in advance because of this, so packing for holidays is always a nightmare. My priorities comfort and versatility – clothing that I can mix up – and good denim. Shoes are my weakness, I have around 50 pairs – you’ll mainly find me in Salt-Water sandals, Vans or 70s Chuck Taylor’s.

My tattoos are, for the most part, pretty American/Western traditional. That’s the style of tattooing I am drawn to. I like the aesthetics, the colours and the boldness. I have a lot of older traditional flash tattooed, such as my backpiece which is based on a Bert Grimm original, Sundance (or Raindance, depending on who you ask!). It’s always interesting to see how a tattooer will put their spin on an old piece of flash and make it their own.

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What do you think of social media as a platform, how do you feel about sharing your life in such a public space? I only really use Instagram, which I love. I have a Twitter and a private Facebook, but they don’t get used as much. I don’t agree with the stance that social media is bad for us, or narcissistic. I dislike that negative spin, it’s a very bitter outlook. In saying that, there can most definitely be a darker side to social media. I think it can be hard for some people to separate reality from the online world. Although, given that we document so much of our lives these days, it can be easy for the lines to be blurred. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, technology has enabled us to do so much and connect in more ways than ever before.

I’ve dealt with negativity online (which I’ve blogged about) and I do think, in some cases, social media can perhaps encourage unhealthy behaviour. For me personally, social media has allowed me to fulfil creative pursuits and promote them – Love/Hate, for example. My Instagram is a really useful tool for interacting with like-minded people and it gives me a voice, in some ways.

I think it’s time to accept that social media is as much real-life as, err… real-life. That being said, it’s important to not get too sucked in and be sure to live life away from a camera lens, enjoying the moment. I don’t put my entire life online, but I generally post highlights and nice things I get to do, nice places, my cat and, of course, selfies! Big selfie advocate over here – I love seeing women feeling confident and beautiful enough to document it.

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How did you start your blog, what inspired you? Making the decision to start blogging was an extension from my Instagram account, I guess. I have always dabbled in blogging in some way or another – I’ve had a MySpace, Live Journal and a Tumblr. I like sharing stories and experiences, I like connecting with people and I like writing. Blogging is something that feels natural for me. As someone who seems to have gone through a fair few challenges in my life, sometimes it’s difficult for me to express what I’m feeling or going through vocally (I’m working on that!) and I’ve always found writing a cathartic process. It helps me get my thoughts in order and is very therapeutic.

What can people expect to see on your blog? What do you write about? I write about personal topics – health, self-care, travelling. Talking about mental health is something I think is especially important. It was never an agenda of mine to write about mental health, but it just happened. When I write, it tends to be from the heart and spontaneous, and I rarely plan or schedule posts so again, depending on my mood or situation, it dictates the direction of what I write.

My blog has opened up some really helpful dialogue and I’ve had great conversations off the back of some of my posts. Ironically, keeping to a regular blogging schedule is something that I struggle with, thanks to my mental health, which can be erratic. I go through phases of productivity and it can be hard to not feel pressure. I have to remind myself that my blog is for me and try to keep it easygoing, rather than beat myself up for not posting anything for two months.

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What was your first tattoo, do you still love it? My first tattoo was a lesson in how not to get your first tattoo. I was 17 and it was Bob Tyrell flash off of the wall in a scratcher shop. It was a gothic heart with wings and I had it on my stomach. It’s since been covered by a much bigger Japanese piece by Fil Wood. Please don’t get your first, or any, tattoo in this way.

What drew you to the world of tattoos? My favourite uncle is heavily tattooed and pierced. Growing up I was in awe of him, his leather jacket and his motorbikes. We would go to a biker festival called The Rock & Blues with my parents and him, and it was always so much fun. I would stare at everybody’s tattoos and ask questions about them. I also used to draw on my skin and have stick-on transfers. I just love how tattoos look and the history behind them fascinates me. I am so glad that I learned a lesson and waited longer before I started getting ‘seriously’ tattooed with more visible work.

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Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? I don’t think tattoos have to have a deep, profound meaning, but I appreciate the notion that they can have a meaning. I have tattoos that are ‘for’ something or to preserve memories – a place, a pet, my husband’s name. When people have larger scale work and ongoing projects, I absolutely understand how it can become more of a spiritual journey for them. Being tattooed, no matter the size of a tattoo or the duration of a session, requires so much physical and mental energy and it’s going to change your body permanently.

Has having tattoos changed how you feel about yourself and your body? With each tattoo, I feel like I come into my own a bit more. I’ve always struggled with body image for various reasons and, as glib as it sounds, I’m so much more confident in my own skin now. I have plenty of space left, but I’m in no rush to fill up – it isn’t a race. For me, being tattooed is a process. I don’t have a master plan where everything is mapped out. I seek out artists I love when I travel and choose pieces based on factors such as the size and shape of the space it’s going to fill and how it will complement other tattoos surrounding it.

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Why did you decide to create a zine around women, tattoos and the reactions they encounter? What do you hope to achieve? My inspiration for the zine was basically my own experiences of having people let me know what they think of my tattoos. All. The. Time. I never invite people to comment (or to touch me), yet their need to express their opinion baffles me every time it happens, which is on a daily basis. In turn, I found myself having frequent conversations with other women about dealing with the same unwanted attention – catcalling, sexist remarks and negative comments from family and strangers in the street regarding our tattoos and bodies.

With the zine I simply wanted to create a space for tattooed women/trans/non-binary folks to share their experiences. I knew I wanted to bring together a range of stories and for it to be a collective effort. One woman’s story about street-harassment may shock us, but over 30 stories is even more powerful. The finished product almost feels celebratory – whenever I received a new submission, I would be beaming from ear-to-ear upon opening the email because of the beautiful photos people sent with their writing. I love nothing more than seeing women proudly show off their bodies and the choices they have made. By creating this project, I hope it lets other tattooed women know that A) it’s unacceptable behaviour and we have the right to stand up for ourselves and B) make people think twice before they interrogate or shame a tattooed woman.

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Was this zine drawn from your own experience? Have you struggled with what to wear because of other people? As much as I love my tattoos and don’t feel the need to seek approval from anybody, I am definitely affected by other people’s reactions to them. Whether this is my auntie telling me that when she sees a pretty girl in a dress who happens to have tattoos that she “looks trashy and has ruined her looks”, or the stranger in the cafe whispering loudly that I look “like a thug”, or the customer at work who touched my arms, telling me, “I like your tattoos – I mean I like all of you, if you know what I mean…”, the charity worker shouting for “the lady with the tattoos” to come for a chat in the middle of a busy street… It goes on.

I, and other women, have to navigate this intrusive and embarrassing behaviour daily. It’s constant. How can we not consider what we’ll wear each day, and the responses it will evoke from the general public? I noticed a theme with the stories – people said that things got worse in the summer, which is something I absolutely relate to. It broke my heart that, on top of all the usual obstacles women face, our choices and ownership of our bodies is still being brought into question with each summer dress or vest top that we wear.

Five Inspiring Film Characters with Disabilities

Inspired by this year’s Paralympics, hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward lists a few of his favourite film characters with disabilities.

Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 

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Charlize Theron certainly surprised me with her portrayal of a tough-as-nails war commander in this post-apocalyptic road rage. The fact that she’s missing an arm doesn’t stop her fighting tooth and claw to save some slave girls from the clutches of a vile warlord.

Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) 

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In every spy movie the villain needs a badass henchman and none come more badass than hench-woman Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella. Having replaced her missing legs with spikes, she slices up foes with a deadly combo of speed and acrobatics.

Stephanie in Rust and Bone (2012) 

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On a more serious note, Marion Cotillard gave a powerful performance as a killer whale trainer who loses both legs in a horrific accident. In this moving French drama, Stephanie strives for dignity with the help of her friend and lover Alain.

Phillippe in Untouchable (2011) 

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Another French drama for you now, in which an aristocrat becomes a quadriplegic and hires a reluctant young man from the projects to be his carer. His unprofessional but fun-loving new carer is a breath of fresh air in Philippe’s life.

Cherry Darling in Planet Terror (2007) 

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I felt I had to mention this character, since she’s the most iconic element of director Robert Rodriguez‘s zombie splatter-fest. Rose McGowan plays a stripper who loses a leg during a zombie attack and sticks a machine gun in its place to get her own back on those infected nasties. An aspiring attitude for a zombie epidemic at least.

Images from nerdist.com, comicvine.gamespot.com, cinematiccorner.blogspot.co.uk, Odysseypictures.co.uk and fanpop.com.

Interview with GaldaLou

26-year-old GaldaLou is a retail manager and SuicideGirl  from Leicester, England. We chatted to Galda about how she began modelling, her tattoo collection and how she has learned to love her body…

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When did you first become a SuicideGirl and what inspired you to do so?  I applied in August 2008, shot a few sets that weren’t bought, until early 2009 when I had my first set make Set Of The Day, and was made an actual SuicideGirl. At 15 I came across SuicideGirls. I was all of a sudden exposed to these women who were themselves. They seemed so confident and unafraid of being who they wanted to be, and at 15 I was desperately craving to find my place in the world. I made it my aim even at that young age that I would become one.

How have people reacted to our photos, or decision to become a suicide girl? My friends and family are overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve been with my boyfriend Russ since I was 17, and since the beginning he knew of my hopes to pursue things with SG.  He shot my initial application pictures for me, and even a couple of photo sets right at the beginning. My Mum actually follows me on Instagram and Twitter, she’s that supportive. Everyone at work also knows about my online life, which makes things so easy.

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What advice would you give to someone wanting to become one? Think long and hard about it. Whilst it’s been a huge part of my life for the last eight years, not everyone has such a supportive set of people around them. If you’re on a serious career path for example, being naked on the internet may well reflect badly on you.

Have you always liked your body? Have you always felt confident in yourself? Oh hell no. And I still have days where I hate myself! But you just have to keep in mind that it’s just a day, and tomorrow you’ll feel differently, and that every single person out there feels the same way about themselves. What I have always done is project confidence. It’s a fake it til you make it sort of thing I think.

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You used to follow a shake diet plan,  what motivated you to change your body in this way? Do you think this was a drastic way to do it? It was originally my doctor who put me onto the idea of doing Lighter Life a few years ago as I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and often ladies with PCOS struggle with losing weight due to a chemical imbalance. I lost four and half stone in four months. It was hardcore, the last straw was when I started to lose my hair, because my body didn’t have the energy to grow it anymore. At the time, I lost my identity. I felt completely separate from myself. Sure, the compliments were nice from everyone, but they were complimenting the act of weight loss because it’s what society expects them to do. I’ve put a lot of that original weight back on in those three years since, but now I feel much more comfortable with myself as a whole.

When did you realise you had PCOS? Does it make you see your body differently? I had some unfortunately symptoms at first, like pain and copious amounts of bleeding after sex. I was 20 and I went and saw my doctor about it, and after some investigations was diagnosed with PCOS. It explained recent weight gain, and made me look harder at my body. At first I resented it for being another thing wrong with a body I already didn’t like, and hated the fact it most likely took away my choice to ever get pregnant naturally and easily, and it really took a while for me to get my head around it all. Now, at 26, I’ve realised I’m more than happy collecting cats instead of having a baby, so the only thing I resent is still having to have disgustingly painful periods each month.

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You’ve had breast enlargement surgery, did this influence your decision to start modelling? I started modelling at 18, and didn’t have my breast enlargement until I was 23. I was always a little blinded by my boob hatred, and I found it really hard to look past them and see the good parts of the rest of me.

Have your tattoos helped you to feel more confident? Absolutely. I can’t wait for my legs to be well and truly covered so I no longer have to worry about my thread veins being on display. It’s nice to be able to choose what people see and don’t see about me, but most people’s snap decisions of me are usually based on my tattoos and hair, and I’m fully okay with that.

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What would you say to people who aren’t supportive of the SuicideGirls group? Or who think you share too much on Instagram?  We are all different and that’s glorious and to be celebrated. SG gets a lot of stick sometimes, and some of it’s fair and people’s opinions and some of it’s unfounded gossip, but for me it has provided massive amounts of opportunity, and more importantly, gained me some friends for life.

Do you think tattoos have to have a meaning? No. Whilst some of mine do, actually the vast majority of mine are simply there because I appreciate that tattooer’s artwork. I am practically a walking timeline of Jody Dawber’s work, having one from the beginning of her career, and still being tattooed by her now. I adore her artwork, and her as a person. I’ve other pieces from artists that I adore, but don’t have any deeper meaning other than I love their style.

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All photographs shot by Shannon Swift

“My own mark” – mastectomy tattoos

Diane de Jesús, 35, London, is owner of Piece O Cake Nutrition, a nutrition communications consulting and advisor for Personal Ink (P.ink) – an organisation to connect breast cancer survivors with tattoos artists. In this interview, Diane shares her own experience of breast cancer and how getting a tattoo made her feel about her mastectomy. 

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Photo of Diane by Lydia Perez DeJesus @momdetresshoots

Can you tell us about your  cancer diagnosis and treatment. At 29 years old, I was diagnosed with DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ, which is the earliest stage of breast cancer. I was told that while my life was not in immediate danger, the cancerous cells would have to be removed. Thus far, the medical community is unable to determine which DCIS cells will become invasive cancer and when. This combined with my very young age meant that we couldn’t just take a “watch and wait” approach. Also, my disease was so extensive, filling nearly my entire left breast. This meant I would have to have a mastectomy to remove the entire breast.

How did you feel about your body after the mastectomyI was thrilled to have such a good prognosis and to have such great doctors who provided me with excellent mastectomy and (silicone implant) reconstruction results. After recovery, I was grateful to very quickly dive back into my normal life: working by day, going to school at night (working toward my registered dietitian certification) and exercising regularly. I thought I was adjusting just fine. It wasn’t actually until after I got my tattoo that I realised how much I had been through emotionally and how I had been avoiding looking at my chest in the mirror. I had always done everything in my power to care for my health and my body had always reflected that. Suddenly, my body had betrayed me.

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By Roxx, owner of 2 Spirit Tattoo, San Francisco, California

Did you consider other options before deciding to get tattooed? No. I knew that I wanted to get a tattoo very early on, possibly even before having my mastectomy. While I researched what to expect from my surgeries and recovery, I came across stories and photos of women who were post-mastectomy and had chosen to cover their scars with tattoos. I wasn’t so much drawn to the idea of covering my own scar but of finding some way to encapsulate and honour all that my husband and I had been through and also to put my own mark, of my own choosing, on my body.

What made you decide to get that tattoo design? In some mastectomy cases, the nipple can be preserved but in most, the nipple and areola are removed with the rest of the breast tissue. This was the case for me. While I was discussing reconstruction options with my plastic surgeon, I was offered the option of nipple reconstruction many times. The idea of having a fake nipple constructed from the skin on my chest—a nipple that would never feel anything, respond to touch or temperature, or release breastmilk—just never resonated with me. Neither did the idea of having the image of a nipple and areola (even a fancy 3D one) tattooed onto my chest. What did resonate with me was something that Geralyn Lucas did, and wrote about, in her memoir of her experience with breast cancer. Geralyn also had a mastectomy with implant reconstruction but no nipple reconstruction. Instead, Geralyn had a tattoo placed on her chest, near her scar. As soon as I read about this, I knew it was what I needed to do and as I came across images of other women who’d done the same, I was motivated to find a way to make it happen. Of course, since I’d never been tattooed before, I didn’t know the first thing about selecting an artist, studio or design. I also didn’t realise the cost of tattoos.

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Photo by Gigi Stoll, Gigi Stoll Photography, New York

Did it transform what you thought about your body? Getting my mastectomy tattoo helped me to close the door on that chapter and finally move on. I was tattooed in October of 2013, three years to the day since I was told that cancerous cells had been found in my breast. After getting the tattoo, I could look in the mirror without averting my eyes from the sight of my chest. I found myself feeling more confident. I was myself again.

How do you feel about it now? I continue to be so grateful for my tattoo and for the woman who tattooed me: Roxx, owner of 2Spirit Tattoo in San Francisco, California. I also love that this tattoo continues to provide me with the opportunity to discuss breast cancer and reconstruction options with other breast cancer survivors and their support networks.

What advice would you give to other women who have breast cancer? Every single breast cancer experience is unique. It is overwhelming to receive a cancer diagnosis of any kind but I think that every person diagnosed can benefit from finding a way to listen to her (or his) body and making the decisions that are best for her/him. Also, it is unfortunate, but at some point you may find you really must be your own advocate. You will work with so many different individuals and sectors of the healthcare community who may have the best intentions of providing you with the best advice but this advice may not always be the advice that is best for you. This is easier done with a good support system. Having a spouse, family member or friend to come along to appointments or help with research, paperwork, phone calls, etc. is invaluable.

Can you give us some background about P.ink day… what it is and how others can get involved. P.ink (Personal Ink) is an organisation dedicated to educating breast cancer survivors about mastectomy tattoos as an alternative healing option, and connecting survivors with experienced tattoo artists who can help. One way we do this is through P.ink Day, an annual all-volunteer effort to connect tattoo artists and survivors for a day of healing with tattoos. What started with just 10 artists and 10 survivors at Saved Tattoo in Brooklyn, New York, for our first P.ink Day in 2013 has grown into a true grassroots movement, with 46 artists, 48 survivors and hundreds of volunteers across 13 locations in North America, as of October 2015. In total, we’ve facilitated nearly 100 incredible mastectomy tattoos via P.ink Day. P.ink Day occurs every 10 October and 2016 will be P.ink Day’s fourth year.

To learn more, visit the Personal Ink website at p-ink.org

Learning to Love my Body and my Stoma Bag

27-year-old Caz Caines, from Newbury, Berkshire is a make-up lover and compliance administrator. We chatted to Caz who is sharing her story about her stoma bag as a way of celebrating her body, spreading self love and helping others… 

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How did you feel when you first had the bag fitted? Can you tell us about why and how you came to have it? I have had my stoma [a pouch placed over the stomach to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon] for six years now. I was really poorly and admitted to hospital with a very swollen stomach, turns out my large intestine was so stretched and my organs were shutting down. When the surgeons opened me up my large intestine split. They had to operate and create a stoma, which I named Krang. I was so scared and upset but relieved. I woke up from surgery with the bag, totally unexpected and a big shock. After I got over the initial shock, I felt relieved because I knew that I’d feel better in myself, this could give me a new lease of life.

IMG_0705Did you always feel so confident? Nope, definitely not! I found that when I had surgery my body changed so much – I lost four stone while in hospital as I wasn’t allowed to eat for 10 days. I really started looking at it differently as I now had this ridiculously big scar with added poo bag on my stomach, not something you see everyday. So I felt a bit self conscious at first, that didn’t last long though. I started blogging soon after, speaking to other young people with stomas and really trying to encourage others to see themselves as the attractive, positive person they are or soon could be.

What advice would you give to others who struggle to feel good about themselves? You just gotta think this is the only life you’re gonna have so appreciate yourself and focus on the things you like. I love make-up and creating different looks with that, it really does make me feel better about myself. Get your nails done, put on your favourite music. Surround yourself with wonderful, hilarious people. My friends helped me out so much when I was poorly, they’re absolutely brilliant people. You always need that friend who will tell you to stop wallowing, I like people who are forward, you need people like that in your life.

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How do you try to celebrate your body? Is Instagram a way for you to do this? I just try and appreciate it the best I can, I’m not one to deny myself a pizza every week. Instagram can be a way, my recent bag picture did get a lot of positive comments and attention which is great, social media is crazy! I have spoken to more people who had bags, there is a big network of Ostomates on Instagram, more people are showing their bags off. I definitely have my down days and hangs up like everyone, I try not to let it get to me, I just need to remind myself that my bag saved my life so I should be bigging it up.

Why do you think sharing your story and spreading body positivity is important? Because there are so many people out there who probably feel a little lost after surgery, you really don’t feel 100% so I just want to show people, it’s cool, you’ll get back to feeling good again! You just gotta embrace what you have, even those without bags! You have one body, don’t listen to the magazines, you don’t have to be a certain way. I don’t want people who have bags to feel like they’re ugly, nor the people who don’t have them to think we are. I get messages from so many young people saying I’ve helped them feel more confident, it’s just so great, it’s nice knowing you’ve helped someone just by saying what you truly feel.

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How have tattoos helped? I had tattoos before surgery, I’ve always loved them. I do have a piece which I got last year by Jody Dawber – it is a lady with two sets of eyes, as if to say ‘don’t see yourself through other people’s eyes’. I wanted to get something that tied in with my message of body confidence and my bag as well as looking fabulous.
When I get a new tattoo it’s exciting, I get such a rush from seeing it go from paper to skin – I can’t stop looking at it once it’s been done and definitely can’t wait to show everyone this fantastic piece of art.

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What tattoo plans do you have? The plan has always been heavy coverage, I love the look. I was a stupid 18 year old and started on a sleeve which I now can’t stand and I’m working on blacking out. I want to get more work by Jody, she is definitely one of my favourite artists as her style is so cute and distinctive, it also helps that she’s so easy to talk to and would put anyone at ease. I would also love another Danielle Rose piece, her work is so stunning, it takes your breath away. I follow a few artists on IG, it is one of the easiest places to find new tattooers, so I have my eye on a few people currently – Craven Tattooer, Max Rathbone and Aimee Lou are a few I’m loving at the moment.

Interview with Dr. Faisal Rehman

45-year-old Dr. Faisal Rehman is a nephrologist (kidney specialist) and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. He also takes care of patients with kidney disease and contributes heavily to the education of hundreds of medical students, residents, and subspecialty fellows.

Here, Dr. Faisal Rehman tells us about his inspirational weight-loss journey inspired by his love for his family as well as his boxing, charity work and of course tattoos… 

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Photo taken by April-Lea Hutchinson

Growing up, I was a very skinny kid and I remained thin in my early 20s.  When I started medical school I began eating more and exercising less. I didn’t start to pile on the pounds until I graduated from medical school and got married. I  started neglecting my health, working long hours and eating fast food.  Pretty soon, I became supersized! In 2002, while completing my training in Nephrology, I had ballooned up to 242 pounds.

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Around the time, this picture was taken, I bought a new home for my young family that I couldn’t afford. I wanted to protect them if anything should happen to me, and I applied for life insurance. Unfortunately, my life insurance application was turned down because it was clear that I had type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This was  embarrassing for me, that as a physician I had allowed my own health to deteriorate. Almost immediately after the results,  I started eating properly, cut out all of the fast food and began eating sensible meals. I also started exercising, lifting weights and running and within six months I transformed myself into the picture below.

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I lost 70 pounds in eight months. My blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol normalised and I was approved for life insurance.  It was at this point, I started to participate in boxing classes.

Life was great until 2006 when my second daughter Nadiyah was diagnosed with Leukaemia at three years old. This was one of the most heartbreaking times in my life. I put all my focus on her recovery and treatment, my training stopped. I lost more weight because of stress and fear for my daughter’s health. Her chemotherapy treatments lasted for three years, at the end of 2008, she was in remission and doing great. This experience changed my perception of what was important in life.

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In 2009, I took charge of raising money for the Kidney Clinical Research Unit at our hospital. I organised a black tie night featuring a boxing tournament between amateur athletes from the USA and Canada.  I decided to fight on the night, in the hope that we would raise more money. So at the age of 38 I began training for my first fight. In sparring over the next several months I suffered a broken nose, hand injuries and concussions, but I got myself in top shape and was one of the featured fights at our charity night event called “Showdown in the Downtown”. Although I lost my first fight, it was an amazing night of fights and we raised $107,000 for charity.

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In 2011, when I turned 40, I decided that instead of painting on tattoos for my charity fights, I was going to get real tattoos. I wanted the tattoos to symbolise my warrior spirit. Inspired by the fighting spirit of boxer Miguel Cotto, who had amazing tribal tattoos, I started getting inked. Rich Lambe, owner of Stay True Tattoo in St. Thomas, Ontario tattooed my tribal and the wings on my back that symbolise speed and agility.

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Photo taken by April-Lea Hutchinson

While organising charity events and working, I ventured into the world of kick boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) as I wanted to challenge myself. I absolutely love it!

Through my work with my charity Showdown in the Downtown, we have now held a number of professional combat sport events as well as music concerts with acts like Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo and Jann Arden. Our last four events raised over $250,000. Over the last seven years we have raised over $1.4 million for kidney disease research, solid organ transplant research, cancer research and to combat poverty and homelessness.

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This year, I turn 45. I have never been in better shape and I am now proud of my body and  tattoos. I had some pictures taken of myself showing off my tattoos and my fit physique, mainly for my own memories and also to remind myself that it is never too late to embrace your body and to embrace the art you have placed on your body, as it is a reflection of your spirit. I am not sure if it was my own health scare or the scare I had with my daughter’s health that motivated me to change myself, but I suspect both of these events changed my outlook on life for the better. I am grateful that I have been able to help myself, my family and others through combat sport and through my charitable work. I am blessed.

Alana Macleod

22-year-old Alana Macleod, who creates beautifully coloured and patterned clothing is currently studying textiles in Bournemouth. We chatted to Alana about the process behind her designs, her tattoos and how, by sharing her own story, she hopes to help others struggling with eating disorders… 

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How would you describe your style, both how you dress and what you create? My style is very colour focussed, and is an exploration of variety of textures and shapes. In terms of my dress sense, I like to wear structural, interesting shapes, and with my textiles work I like to create these shapes with a combination of materials and embellishments. I feel as though my work and my style can often be very connected, as for me it is important that both express an element of fun, with the outcome never being too serious. I think fashion should be fun.
What influences your work and who inspires you? It sounds cliché but I really am inspired by things that I see around me, whether that’s an interesting place or a person. I think when you have been around textiles for so long, you automatically take inspiration from things and it’s hard to escape, so my influences can come from anything. I think Instagram is also such an amazing, inspiring platform; we can use it to discover people who interest us and are doing really cool things, and I think it’s so great to have that at our fingertips.

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Can you tell us about the process behind your designs? All my outcomes start with mass amounts of drawings and paintings, then there is a lot of cutting, sticking, photocopying, until I start to develop some ideas for prints or surfaces. I use a combination of screen print, digital print, embroidery, and hand embellishment; there isn’t really an order to doing this within my practice, things just kind of develop naturally and I just follow what I feel is working at the time. I always start with a plan when I am designing, but the creative process always changes.

Do you sell any of your designs? I’m currently not selling my work anywhere online, however I’m in the process of starting up an online store! I also take commissions if anybody is interested.

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When did you get your first tattoo? What was it and do you still love it? Well technically my first tattoo was a horrific hand poked diamond on my  which I had done at the age of 13! And I absolutely do not love it, neither did my mother at the time, ha. I waited to get my first professional tattoo at the age of 18, which were some bows on the back of my legs. I was going through quite a rockabilly phase at the time; looking back, they are definitely something I would not get now, but they also remind me of a certain time, and that’s why I will always like all of my tattoos regardless of whether my style has changed since.

What inspired you to start getting tattooed? Throughout school I had always experimented with a lot of styles and subcultures, all of which were quite alternative. I always wanted to stand out with my appearance as a teenager, and was always getting in trouble at school for it. I think my love of tattooing definitely developed from my urge to be different. I listened to a lot of punk music from a young age, and I always admired the musicians and the whole aesthetic. I also think that my creativity has had a big part in my interest within tattoos- art class was the only that I engaged in fully within school and college, and when I grew up and realised that I could display this creativity on my own body, it just made sense to me.

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Do tattoos influence or alter how you feel about your body? Have they helped you with feelings of self confidence? Yes definitely- when I have experienced difficult times with my body and my confidence, having my tattoos makes me still feel comfortable within my skin regardless. I’m much happier to show my body, or even look at my body, knowing that I have this collection of beautiful art, whereas previously I may have struggled to see any positives about myself.

On Instagram you’re quite open about your struggles with an eating disorder, why do you think it’s important to share your own experience? I think it’s really important because of how alone you can feel when you are caught up in an eating disorder, and I really want to remind people that they’re not alone. I remember when I was at a really awful point in my life, and I felt that nobody would understand and that my behaviour was so alien. I was seeking help from eating disorder ‘help’ forums, as I had nowhere to turn, but these websites are bad news and an awful trap that is even more difficult to get out of. I hope that speaking about my issues openly on Instagram will not only keep people away from these sites to seek reassurance, but will also let them know that the people that they follow and admire also have their own struggles and that it is a lot more common that they may have realised. I think the word bulimia has such a stigma and a misunderstanding around it, and there are a lot of misconceptions. I didn’t actually realise that I was bulimic for quite some time, I’d convinced myself that my over-exercise, restrictive diet and purging ‘bad’ foods was just me being healthy and normal. I’d love to help people realise that obsessive behaviours aren’t actually normal, and to help them become aware before they’re in too deep.

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Do you think social media has helped you or hindered you in your progress and self love journey? I have mixed feelings about social media and it’s impact on my eating disorder. In the early days, I think Instagram was definitely a contributor towards my obsession with my weight- I was feeling a lot of pressure to keep up my ‘healthy lifestyle’, which essentially was making me much more ill. However, when I eventually publicly opened up about my disorder, the amount of positive feedback and genuine kindness I received from everybody was so warming and lovely, and I think it’s amazing to have that kind of support network. I’ve been open about my struggles online for just under a year now, and it definitely has helped with my self-love since I started therapy. Some days I will be having a bad day with my body image, but to receive such lovely praise from people who have known my struggles is really special.

Have tattoos played a part in your recovery? I  say they have helped my recovery, but they have definitely made me still feel like ‘me’, when I’ve had low times where I’ve been unsure of who I am. During recovery I have gained some weight again, and my tattoos have helped me with loving myself still too. I can’t imagine to have not had them throughout this journey, they’re the one thing that have always given me another layer of confidence, and I’ve always been able to express myself through my tattoos.

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Do you have any future tattoo plans? I’m continuing with working on my legs next, I have some exciting plans to try and make them feel much more completed, ankle cuffs, some blacking out and some ornamental work within the things that I have already!

Tattooed Mama: Hannah Daisy

We chatted to full time mama 22-year-old Hannah Daisy from London about becoming a mum, how she sees her body differently now and her tattoos…

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Pregnancy is such an enlightening journey, there’s no way you can come out the other side and look at yourself in the same way. It was so uplifting for me, my body worked HARD, and I’ve come to respect it so much more. I’ve struggled with self esteem, I still do from time to time, but I try not to worry about the small things any more and just appreciate it as a whole. If I wanted to look like I hadn’t had a baby then I wouldn’t have had had one.

Honestly, my tattoos haven’t changed much at all since I was pregnant. I have got a stretch mark that’s gone straight through the bottom of the dagger, but it’s not noticeable, it all comes with the territory and I had anticipated some change, so no biggy!

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Every aspect of life has changed. I’m still trying to find that balance between being a mum and being my own person. Having a career and keeping up with hobbies have both been on hold since being pregnant and having Reuben, which has been the most frustrating thing, but I’m finally starting to weave them back into the mum schedule, we’ll get there eventually. The kid makes the rules right now!

Instagram was never meant to be more than a place to share photos for family and friends. My pregnancy started off a bit rocky and I wasn’t really sure how to cope. I’m normally one of those people who bottles everything up, but I started to talk about my experiences and converse with other women and it really helped, it became more of an outlet and played a huge part in me healing.

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I started @two.plus.roo so I didn’t end up bombarding everyone on my main account (@hannah.daisy) with endless bump updates intended for family and friends. I felt this huge urge to capture everything, I’m glad I did because it’s been such a magical journey so far. Finding this little corner of the internet where women really pull together as a community was a huge eye opener and I can only try to add to that.

I don’t think anyone is really qualified to give advise on pregnancy/motherhood, everyone has their own ways and it can get quite patronising, so I’d say have faith in your own instincts and don’t feel bad if you need to politely ask someone to back off. Keep a positive head on your shoulders, make some mama friends and enjoy every second!

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I miss being pregnant so much, I loved being pregnant. It’s a such a surreal feeling to be carrying a little human, when you think about it it’s almost alien isn’t it?! I’m really selfish and enjoyed being the closest one to him! I certainly don’t miss waking up every 20 minutes through the night though, that I could have done without.

Tattooing was something I took interest in quite early on in life, a lot of my other interests at that time were easily interwoven with tattooing so it was something I was bound to bump into at some point. My partner George tattoos, we both paint together and get tattooed, so it’s something that would be hard for me to avoid. My tattoos don’t have any great personal meanings or anything fancy like that, they’re just a collection of designs I like by people I’ve wanted to get tattooed by. George and I tend to spend the year saving and then travel to different parts of the world to get tattooed by some awesome artists. It’s allowed me to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t of crossed paths with, and it’s a great reason to travel. We have plans to travel and get tattooed a lot more this year, this time with Reuben in tow, I’m excited to show him the world this time round!

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Differently Abled Women Taking Back the Beach

Online women’s lifestyle website Refinery29 created a beautiful and inspiring photographic series titled ‘9 Stunning Photos Of Differently Abled Women Taking Back The Beach‘. The series showcases four stunning women who all have disabilities enjoying their bodies and holidays as well as the stories behind their bodies… 

Despite often facing additional logistical challenges, women who are differently abled “take back the beach” in their own way, whether that means making their way through the sand in a wheelchair, overcoming insecurities around removing prosthetic limbs in public, or simply asking for help when they need it.

And since we don’t see enough of these women in ads or on the pages of magazines, we decided to spend a day at the beach and the pool with four differently abled women and find out what their experiences are really like. Of course, these four stories don’t represent every single differently abled woman out there, but they’re definitely a start.

 

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Danielle Perez Age: 31 Location: Los Angeles, CA Job: Comedian

 

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Kristen Parisi Age: 31 Location: New York Job: Public relations executive

 

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Lacey Henderson Age: 26 Location: Phoenix, AZ Job: Professional long jumper for the U.S. Paralympics

 

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Caxmee Age: 26 Location: Brooklyn, NY (originally from Haiti) Job: Fellowship/program manager at the office of the mayor of New York City