Posts filed under ‘body image

C U Next… Wednesday?

Before I started Obs & Gynae I was expecting to be thrown out of the consultation room a lot, or be told in the labour ward that the patient doesn’t want any students. Luckily this didn’t happen and the vast majority of women I saw were happy to have a student present. Come sprog time, I’d definitely consider having a student midwife or doctor present; I’m the type of person that does better with continuity (and lots of attention), and in the last delivery I followed, I was there from the beginning to the end: in that time, there were four midwives handing over.

It was also nice to feel useful for once (Protestant ethic, much?) whether it was helping out the anaesthetist (who very kindly did some one-on-one teaching with me), fetching towels, changing linen, doing basic observations, fanning down the mother (and father) during transition, dressing the baby, getting it latched on and making cups of tea. Some of my collegues were really offended by stuff like this – they wanted to see the labour and deliveries and how dare anyone ask a medical student to make a cup of tea – which I guess is fair enough if this isn’t the speciality you want, and you just want to get to grips with the basics. I like to feel useful, simple. My grandmother constantly told me as a child in Italian, “Do your schoolwork, do your homework, then come and help with the housework.” Maybe it’s less of the Protestant ethic and more of the Italian Catholic grandma factor.

Anyway, the reason I really wanted to post was that seeing a lot of women in that context made me realise that it was about time I stop using every excuse in the book in terms of keeping everything tidy in the vicinity. Before I met B, I used to live about 7 minutes away from Selfridges, and behind the store was a rather awesome beauty salon which did really good waxing. I’d see Otylia, a Polish lady in her 50s who could get me done in about 10 minutes while discussing matters concerning her boyfriend. After meeting B and moving to Sarf London rather quickly, out of sight and out of mind, I forgot about it. It came to August and I decided to venture into Clapham to find somewhere cheaper for the Hollywood treatment.

I found a salon and waited in the rather odd paper pants they had given me. To my naive horror, I then realised that the wax was going to be done with strips and not the hot wax I had been used to. Needless to say that pain was excruciating and the hair wasn’t coming away well enough, cue more wax and more stripping. The woman who was waxing me told me halfway through that she was very inexperienced with Brazilian waxing and that they offered the waxes as they knew they were very popular among women. Probably not the kind of thing you should tell a client. The wax itself took about 40 minutes, half of the hair was still there (putting my narcissistic hat on, after waxing I would always touch myself more, not even for masturbation, it just felt ever so nice.) by which time I resolved not to look at the damage for at least a fortnight. Suffice to say, it was enough to put me off having it done for a good [whisper] 2 years [/whisper]

Recently, I decided to have a little image makeover, starting with my cunt (not the kind of feature you’d see on Phil and Fern). A very lucky find bought me to Holborn where a very cheerful Essex girl defuzzed me in 10 minutes with minimal fuss and pain. I spent the rest of the evening at home with my hands down my pants. In addition to this,  I have been thinking about getting a vertical hood piercing, although I’m still umming and ahhing over it. It’s an area I consider to be pretty and pink – do I want a piece of metal going through there?


After a very painful recovery from last week’s gym session, I had mustered up the courage to go back to start with Turbulence Training for abs. Cept I had forgotten that my gym was closed this week to install new cardio equipment. Which is fair I guess, they had put in new weight equipment last year. Somehow I can’t see kettlebells on the agenda anytime soon. Think I may as well bite the bullet at and get some of my own.


Baking my own bread is proving dangerous. I’m making a wholemeal loaf later on, and made a lovely onion and pancetta focaccia on Tuesday. It had disappeared by Wednesday, and I can’t blame B or the flatmate for that.


Add comment February 19, 2009


The great thing about having had a brief flirtation with anxiety in the past is that going to medical school catapults you into really having to deal with it and ensure it doesn’t rear its ugly head again (especially in front of a patient – which hasn’t yet happened *sigh of relief*). Most people who are secure enough to admit it will state that the first clinical year is a steep learning curve; you’re in a hospital environment rather than the comfort of the lecture theatre, every few weeks you have to get used to new consultants and staff members on the ward. Years ago, I would have walked backwards through hot coals* in order to avoid using the telephone – so the first few times I had to walk up to a patient aka a perfect stranger in their hospital bed and ask if I could take their history and examine them, I was boiling a few eggs inside. 

Despite this, I’m doing ok. Year 3 came and went at lightning speed, and I’m already a third of the way through Year 4. Come the end of August, I start my final year. Again, I think I’m dealing with this, my subconscious on the other hand feels like a Lolcat on repeat: “WTF, WTF, WTF!”

For as long as I can remember having exams, I would always dream that my teeth were falling out. These dreams would become more frequent as exams or results came closer. The premise was pretty constant: I would be running my tongue over my teeth, and as soon as I got to an incisor on the left hand side, it would move akin to a child moving a loose tooth with their tongue. After that, it was a mixed bag. Sometimes I would lose all my teeth, sometimes I would force the tooth back into my gums and pretend it was fine, only to find it loose again on chewing food. On one occasion I went to a dentist, but refused to be examined by them due to their lack of anaesthetic (and clean instruments). Two months ago I had a dream that I pulled out an adult tooth, leaving a patch of gum. Three nights ago I flicked my tongue over that area and the tender gap remained.

A quick consultation with Dr Internet and there are about 20 explainations for the tooth-loss dream sequence. If I was to take it seriously and pick what seems to fit me best; my take on it is that I have worries about change and transition. And with the breakneck speed that my final 2 years seem to be going at, I suppose I have to get used to the sweet relief of waking up to find the pearly whites all intact.


* I think I do want to walk on hot coals, but my motivations are different.

Add comment January 10, 2009

Too big for words!

Poor Madonna. Not the best time to be her is it? Naturally as a woman, the onus falls on her and her lifestyle ultimately being responsible for her marriage breakdown, whether it’s her religious views, career or even her physique! She joins the ranks of Angelina (home wrecker), Posh (too focused on her career than husband) and Heather (gold digger).

I didn’t intend on talking about her upcoming divorce, but I thought I would home in on something that has started to grate my nerves in recent months. I’m always happy to talk to women – including perfect strangers about weight training as I think it has so many benefits as well as making one look quite buff when naked, but no sooner mention the word dumbbell and out comes the almost conditioned response:

“But I don’t want to look like Madonna!”

I guess what they mean when they say this is that they do not want a physique like Madonna. Which is fair enough, she’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. What baffles me is the assumption that by lifting something heavier than a pencil, one will end up pumped like Arnie. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both ignorance and fear; somehow we’re programmed to believe in many walks of life you can get something for nothing. This however, doesn’t work in the gym unless you’re abusing various substances.

My point is, to build a body like Madonna; you have to train like Madonna, you have to eat like Madonna, you have to rest like Madonna, you have to work like Madonna. If you train like you’re bumbling along nicely on the cross-trainer while reading Heat magazine then go home via Subway, don’t be too surprised when you don’t look like the fitness model you wanted to be in 6 weeks.

Building a muscular physique can be incredibly difficult as a woman. It takes time, dedication, focus and some sweaty bloody hard work. Coming into the gym, lifting a 1kg dumbbell and then going home holding a handbag heavier than anything you’ve worked out with doesn’t make sense to me, but challenge any of these people, and there appears to be an assumption that they’re somehow so special that they work differently to all physiological processes and will pack the muscle on. Perhaps I’m being quite harsh as I knew sweet sod all about weights before I started, but there comes a time where the logical processes need to be shifted up a gear.

Being ‘too big’ is a spectrum anyway. What is ‘too big’? Some people consider Madonna too big, some will say she’s too small. Musculature comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution that will please everyone (not that it’s the purpose to anyway). Some people dedicate an awful lot of time and energy to become the way they look, and even if you don’t like the way they do, perhaps it’s worth applauding their commitment than a putdown of, “Eww, I don’t want to look like that!” Maybe once we start appreciating how difficult it can be then the mass panic of, “I don’t want to look like Madonna!” will stop. Or maybe not.

Recommended reading:

Gubernatrix: Why do women still avoid the free weights room?

Gubernatrix: Why lift weights

Stumptuous: Lies in the gym

Stumptuous: Other reasons to lift weights

Skwigg: Define bulky

Add comment October 22, 2008

What is healthy anyway?

I like to think I live a reasonably good lifestyle, but I think the constant bombardment of messages telling us to be healthy could potentially be… well, unhealthy. I think the UK has a bipolar relationship with food, and the pendulum is about to swing in a direction that could cultivate a potentially damaging relationship with it, moreso than there already is at least. I have a lot of respect for Jamie Oliver trying to encourage people to learn how to cook, but I think the TV chefs of the world have done things the wrong way round.

I noticed a lot of this healthy eating drive gained a lot of momentum when there was talk on television shows of buying eggs from happy chickens and eating meat only from animals have been raised in the utmost optimal of conditions, and to do otherwise was tantamount to animal abuse. This message had been lingering in the background for a while, but it has only come into the spotlight in the past year or so. If people who had no idea how to cook and were living on take-aways everynight – had they been taught the absolute basics first, learning to cook and more importantly, enjoying it – then critiquing where our food comes from and how it’s produced would have come later. Give a man a fish yadda yadda yadda. I just don’t see the point of telling someone the beauty of a hardback when they can’t read, then bollocking them when they choose to watch TV instead.

I don’t want to get into a debate on the socio-economics over mass production of meat, the giant supermarkets or free range eggs, I think I wanted to draw on a point that I mentioned ages of blog posts ago, and that was how we seem to moralise our behaviour in food choices. I was at my mum’s place a few weeks ago, and offered her a couple of biscuits I had made. “Oooh, I don’t know if I should, that would be very naughty!” Now if my mum’s diet consisted of processed foods, high in sugar and modified fats etc, perhaps I would have understood. But my mum eats a variety of lean meats, fish, fruit and vegetables grown in her garden, pulses and wholewheat products. Yet still she has conditioned herself to behave like a mischievous child when presented with something that falls out of her perception of ‘healthy’. Something ain’t right with that.

Not that I blame her, or my friends who do it either. Women especially are told about the consequences of giving into ‘tempation’ and how ‘naughty’ certain foodstuffs are. Diet products are now gearing towards a snack shaped hole in the market, not content with giving people crappy tasting meals, now they have to worry about chowing down (and spending money on) crappy tasting snacks – as if the desire to snack is inherently bad – I think it’s perfectly ok and normal to have a snack between meals – listening to your body saying, “Hello, some food in here please!” is a step in the right direction.

So behaviour towards food isn’t necessarily in great shape, yet now we’re being told to step up a gear in the healthy stakes, being kindly shown on packaging what the nutritional breakdown is – in traffic light form, how quaint – and how to feed our family good meals on budgets etc. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a huge preoccupation, bordering on obsession. Don’t believe me? Have a discussion with the mother of a toddler about Petit Felous, a controversy that I never knew existed.

I watched Dana, the 8 year old anorexic last night, and while her story is an extreme one, it shows how thought processes can go wrong, despite the ‘healthy’ messages around us. For some of the people she was being treated at the clinic at, it started with cutting out chocolates, sweets etc entirely, then changes eventually lead to things like jumping up and down on the spot for exercise when exercise equipment was taken away. One of the women who runs the clinic said people are now being saturated with messages about healthy this, low-fat that, no carb this, that we potentially run the risk of damaging generations to come.

I’m not trying to put forth the message that it’s a big slippery slope; what I’m trying to ask is: is a diet and lifestyle that ticks all the right boxes always going to be healthy? We perceive what is healthy on different levels too, so it’s difficult to set a standard, but my bottom line is that a healthy attitude towards food, exercise etc is sometimes more important than what’s going in. If you’re eating well most of the time, and you want to have a slice of chocolate cake once in a while, for goodness sake, have it! You will not gain 5lbs overnight for a single slice! It does not make you bad, it should not be a temptation, you don’t have to modify recipes to make your favourite thing, ‘healthy’. Let them eat cake!

Add comment October 3, 2008

Kink of another kind

For as long as I can remember, I have had an odd relationship with my hair. I was in my teens when the ‘Rachel’ haircut came about, and after that I was fully conscious of the fact that I invested a huge amount of time and energy (+ £££) to getting my hair straight and keeping it that way. When ceramic straighteners came along, it felt like a Road to Demascus moment and I was happy for years. It all comes at a price however, and my hair has been prone to the damage from the heat, and it wouldn’t be unusual to have handfuls of hair come out in the shower.

I remember visiting a hairdresser years ago and she asked me if I wanted my hair styled straight, or curly. I was flattered at the fact that she was willing to spend masses of time trying to make my hair curl, but I had places to be. She gave me an odd look and said, “You do realise that your hair is naturally curly?” Well yes, I’m sure that would explain the poofy-frizz I get when a drop of moisture comes my way, but I wasn’t really interested at the time.

Recently I had been thinking about changing my hairstyle as I was getting a bit bored with it, then I read on Skwigg’s blog that she had started using the Curly Girl method and that her hair was a lot happier for it. I’m always wary about things that seem a little too crunchy for my liking, but given the condition my hair was in, and the desire for change I decided to give it a go.

I did a conditioner only wash, slapped on an intense conditioning treatment, added gel and leave-in conditioner, then plopped for 20 minutes (a perfect time to get the apple pie I had made out of the oven and devour it with lashings of cold custard).

I took the t-shirt off my head and was shocked at how curly my hair was. I left it to try for the rest of the day and marvelled at the pretty waves that had formed. It is far from perfect though. Despite the conditioner orgy, parts of it feel very dry, and I think it will take a few weeks to get used to the different regieme. I think it’ll also take my scalp some time in getting used to not being stripped (I used to feel and hear my hair ‘squeek’) so I’m expecting a rebellious grease-fest.

I have my doubts at going ‘poo-free’, I expect I will do some form of cleansing every once in a while, but for now I’m interested to see how things pan out. By the time I do my OSCE (in 10 weeks and 1 day, not that I’m counting) I hope to have waves that look like this

Add comment September 28, 2008

Fat in a jug, please!

Aside from my subscription to Women’s Health magazine, I try to steer clear of women’s magazines. I wouldn’t call them magazines as such, more like insecurity and consumerism in 100 glossy pages (yes you are fat and your boyfriend wants to cheat on you). The geek in me always preferred the New Scientist, Economist and the student BMJ.

On the front of a glossy this week, I saw a front page picture of various celebrities, discussing the eternal struggle for them to keep their weight down in light of releasing numerous fitness DVDs. Their body mass goes up and down like a yoyo. 2 inches across from was the following, “The milkshake diet. We tried it, it works!”

Do you think the irony came and stabbed the editors between the eyes?

Add comment July 20, 2008

In brief

I have 192 friends on f*cebook (how that happened, I don’t know). In reality, I count the number of friends I have on one hand. I have a lot of people I count as close aquaintances, and I like them very much. But I wouldn’t tell them my innermost thoughts and desires. I couldn’t call them at 3am, asking if I could come and stay at their place because I was having an anxiety attack (happened to me once, although I was the recipient of the call). I couldn’t tell them that I love them very much because I don’t, and I love my friends.


My boyfriend wants to try freezing the strawberry coconut puddings we make. This could be interesting.


I start Turbulence Training this week! I’m so excited about starting up a new programme. I’ve heard so many good things about it and I’m itching to get back to the gym.


My body has been craving salt and dried fruit recently. My boyfriend has been craving salt too, which is odd, maybe there’s something up with the water.


I spent most of the afternoon naked. For the first time in my life, I actually like my breasts so I’m overcompensating for the years of self-loathing and numerous consults with plastic surgeons*

*thank fuck for paternalistic style medicine in this instance. Back then, I would have walked the world backwards in high heels through sand if there was a chance to get my breasts reduced.


Everything falling into place, I will be a doctor in 2 years. This scares me in so many ways, I can’t even begin to put it into words. I try to think back on events where I was scared and got over it, like setting up equiptment for deadlifting the first time, but I guess it’s the feeling of responsibility more than anything else. The first time I set up a cannula for a patient I felt a little blown away afterwards.


I could really do with some raspberries right now.

Add comment May 25, 2008

Chewing the fat

I was reading the blog on Stumptuous the other day, and I came across this study which claims that an adults number of adipose (fat) cells stays fairly constant throughout adult life.

I found this oddly alarming and reassuring. Alarming in the sense that the mental images of the fat mysteriously vanishing from my body in droves was false, but reassuring that I’m still the same old me, just with smaller cells in some aspects.

2 comments May 16, 2008

The Shit List: Pink

Many awesome things come in patch form. Nicotine patches, contraceptive patches, patchwork quilts… one thing I shall not be adding to the list, is the Pink Patch. Holy pseudoscientific patronising crapola Batman!

Yes, it’s a ‘weight loss’ patch. Unless that patch has sharp jagged edges and works by cutting off pieces of your body, I remain sceptical.

First, look at the website. It looks like a bottle of Pepto Bismol vomited all over it. Oh charming, there’s lots of PINK, you know – for girls! And the patch is pink too! How cute!

So what are they claiming to do, besides leaving the viewer with repetitive strain injury from all the eyerolling?

Want to lose thoe problem pounds?

Want to make your skinny jeans your regular jeans?

Then get Skinny witt the New Pink Diet Patch! (yes, the text was pink)

Note the capitalisation on the word Skinny. Nice!

Next comes the alliteration. I think someone did GSCE English!

  • FAST — You’ll start to burn more fat instantly! Proven to be the quickest way to infuse your body with all-natural weight loss ingredients for amazing results!
  • FRESH — Revitalise your body with the energy of the Pink Patch! With the weight coming off, you’ll feel recharged not to mention how amazing you’ll look!
  • FREE-SPIRITED — Don’t give up your social life and become a slave to the gym to achieve that perfect body. Simply put on the Pink Patch and take off that stubborn stone – it’s that easy.
  • Ah, we’re in the natural = good realm. Don’t worry, the ingredients are natural! It’s not like you’re one of those fools who takes horrible fake big-pharma evil type yellow suppliments like Spike (erm…), it’s natural! All natural ingredients, bunged together on an adhesive pink patch. How zen, earthy and natural! Fresh? Erm, well, I guess that could work. To be honest, nothing beats the fresh feeling of cool water running down your hot, sweaty body after some fartlek. Nothing beats the horrible feeling of discovering you forgot to bring an additional set of underwear, so on with the sweaty set. My personal favourite comes with the promise of being free spirited. Aren’t we lucky? Remember the last time we were told we could be all free spirited and womanly? Less of the pink and more of the crimson gushing. We get to bung cotton mice-shaped objects into our vaginas when they bleed, but it’s ok because the free-spirit inside you now can go and rollerblade by the beach in white shorts!

    So where’s the science? Well, according to the brain cells (and I use the term loosely) at pinky towers one of the active ingredients is a substance called: Fucus Vesiculosus or Bladder wrack:

    hard to pronounce, but it’s a girl’s best friend!

    Aww, don’t worry your pretty little head about it! Just slap it on and ask no question! Just a little bit of information about Bladderwrack. It should not be taken by people suffering from hyperthyroidism, cardiac problems, pregnancy and lactation. So much for the ‘no side-effects’, not really a girl’s best friend if that girl happens to have endocrine problems or is breastfeeding.

    After trawling through pink hell you get to the bottom where the No Shit element comes into force:

    All successful weight loss programs should include a sensible meal plan and an exercise program to be completely effective.

    Best part of all? The ‘free’ 6 day trial is actually signing you up for a Direct Debit payment of £35 a month. Naughty, naughty.


    3 comments May 15, 2008

    In brief

    * 4 hours of dancing to hard house non-stop does not a happy back make. There appears to be some DOMS in the area, but how it happened; I’m not entirely sure.

    * I was looking at my abdomen in the mirror the other night and was fretting at the apparent ‘roll’ of fat that didn’t seem to be shifting, only getting bigger. Upon asking the boy for his opinion, he said, “That isn’t fat, that’s your 2-pack.” I was a little stunned, but pleasantly surprised. More on this at a later date.

    * In celebrating the most awesome weather today, I made a variant of GN’s strawberry coconut pudding; only I used peaches and bananas. It was a good decision, creamy, sweet and a refreshing end to the day. A little uplifting trance was the cherry on the cake.

    Add comment May 6, 2008

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