Sussex Style Beauty Editorial

I’ve been terribly quiet lately, and I thought it was finally time to explain why. A couple of weeks ago, I was appointed Beauty Editor for a new glossy magazine called Sussex Style. I won’t bombard you with info on it as most of you will have already heard about it, and I don’t want to be a walking, talking ad, so I’ll just say that it’s going to be high end, aesthetically driven, stocked all around the South East, and ultimately something that this county needs!

Anyway, with my deadline looming large like a…large loomy thing, I had to set to work quickly. I’d decided that I wanted to aim high with my beauty pages. Instead of featuring products alone, I chose to create an actual beauty editorial. Now, this was one of those cases where I’d blindly opted to do something without actually knowing whether or not it was feasible, but I’d set my bar and I was determined to reach it.

I soon realised just what I’d let myself in for. First, there were the creative decisions to be made: what kind of looks was I going to go for? I began to compile moodboards, both in real life and on the dreaded Pinterest (I continue to be the only girl in the world who despises the wretched thing). That was the easy bit. Next, I had to assemble a team to help me get my ideas from the ol’ noggin to the page. I have to thank the Twitter community here, because it just wouldn’t have been possible without them. Within a few hours of tweeting I was overwhelmed with talented photographers, makeup artists and hairstylists.

Next, I talked to the people who’d been suggested, and we started to work out teams, and dates. I was extremely lucky to snag a makeup artist called Marie-Isabel Kennedy, aka Maz. Not only a ridiculously talented young lady, but she also pulled a team together as she recommended a wonderful photographer called Parisa Walklett, and also an absolutely fantastic hairstylist called Stephanie Hayes. From there, it was all systems go – I put together a brief, we started to arrange dates, and then it was time to cast a model.

This actually turned out to be the most stressful part of the operation. Up until this point, things had gone alarmingly smoothly – the team had fallen into place, we had Parisa’s studio all sorted out, the looks were signed off on, and jewellery had been sorted (more on that shortly). As we were working on such a tight time scale, it was extremely difficult to sort out a model, so I spent a rather stressful day frantically emailing and phoning all the big agencies, throwing myself on their mercy. Tell you what, it’s no joke when they talk about how young models are; heaps of the girls I requested were at school on the day of the shoot!

On Friday afternoon at 5.25pm, with the shoot on Monday, Select Model Management came up trumps with a gorgeous girl called Hannah Murrell. Hannah had the most perfect face for the shoot, and we were delighted to book her. When the booking was confirmed, I’m not ashamed to say that I leapt out of my chair, punched the air a lot and ran backwards and forwards shouting ‘YES!!! YEEEEES!!!!’ like a fool. Because what good is a crack hair and makeup team, a brilliant photographer and gorgeous jewellery without a model?!

On Monday morning I headed up to London to pick up the jewellery. I was incredibly happy with how lucky we’d been on the jewellery front. I’d put out a twitter call for some high end, quirky pieces, and while I had a good response, nothing quite fitted the bill until I got a tweet from the lovely folks behind Jolita Jewellery. Founded by Algis Abromaitis (the designer) and his sister Jolita (the marketing/press/PR guru), their pieces fit my brief perfectly, and I spent a happy hour browsing their site and pulling options out. Jolita was delightful to deal with and made my job extremely easy, and was hugely accommodating; I’d recommend them strongly to any stylists or anyone putting shoots together.

I picked up my precious cargo from the lovely Jolita, and headed out to Finsbury Park to Paris’ studio, where I met Hannah, Maz, Steph, Paris, and the adorable Henry, a French Bulldog/shih tzu cross. I’ll leave you all to put those two breeds together…We listened to a lot of music, ate a LOT of biscuits, fawned over Henry, drooled over the jewellery, and I got to watch some extremely talented people in action. The whole thing was a dream come true, and I genuinely kept expecting to wake up at any point.

I’d like to take this chance to thank my MD at Sussex Style, Sean, for giving me free rein; my amazing team of Paris, Maz and Steph, the wonderful Jolita Jewellery, the awesome Hannah, and all the tweeters who helped me out on a VERY tight deadline. That photoshoot was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I feel so proud of it. Not to get all soppy, but the whole thing meant so much to me, and I feel like I’m finally doing the things that I dreamed of doing as a teenager. I still can’t quite believe it’s all happened!

Sussex Style magazine will be coming out in November, and in the meantime hop over to the Facebook page or the Twitter account @SussexStyleMag to keep up to date with the latest news!

Vegan Challenge: Day One

Don’t worry guys, I’m not going to post every day! But I thought it’d be interesting to do some key days – like the very first. So here’s a round up of day one (yesterday)…

Breakfast

As I said in my original post, I’ve eaten vegan for some substantial periods before, so wasn’t totally freaked out, and I didn’t go out and buy heaps of new, faintly disgusting food. But breakfast proved a real issue. I wanted something filling but healthy. I Googled ‘vegan breakfasts’ to no avail. Things seemed to mostly fall into the camp of: 1. I’ve gone out and bought a ton of vegan meat substitutes and crammed them into a sandwich, or 2. Screw the meat substitutes, I’m going to overcompensate by making a ridiculously unhealthy sounding breakfast that actually looks like pudding.

Seriously. Within minutes I had pages of BREAKFAST CAKES at my fingertips, and even a flipping COBBLER. Look here. While I’m sure these are probably healthier than an actual normal cake, and while I can often be wholeheartedly in favour of cakes at breakfast, I’m trying to eat well here. How about, you know, some actual veg? Or fruit? Anything?? What’s the point in me eating vegan if I’m just going to eat ‘blueberry waffles with lemon icing’ for brekkers. No, ta. Also, ‘tofu scramble’? Save me, Jebus! So I had a big dilemma. I was going to do porridge with cinnamon and fresh apple, but we had no apple (fun anecdote, you can use it if you want. Ahem). Instead, I opted for porridge with fresh raspberries on top, and cinnamon. It wasn’t imaginative, but thankfully it also wasn’t a CAKE.

Snacks

Part of my plan was to try and eat 5-6 small meals a day, which I was mega excited about. Actually working out what to eat for snack food was a little harder. On a normal day, I’d probably have some toast, and over the weekend I got into the bad habit of having baklava. As I said, I haven’t actually bothered going shopping yet, so I’m stuck with what I’ve got in the house. For my morning snack, I opted for carrot sticks with a squeeze of lemon, walnuts, and olives. This is scintillating stuff, eh? By the time I’d planned to eat my afternoon snack, I found I wasn’t remotely hungry. It was insane. I felt like I’d had more than enough food, so I just had a pear and cut my losses.

Lunch

I unashamedly love Gwyneth Paltrow and proudly have her cookbook. It’s a beautiful thing, and the recipes I’ve made so far are delicious. It also isn’t like the vegan recipes I tend to complain about, all nice and fresh ingredients as opposed to some overprocessed lumps of glutinous tofu. Sorry for hating on the tofu, I’ve had some that I’ve liked in the past, but on the whole it can be a bit grim. Anywho, I opted for Gwyneth’s ‘Tortilla Soup’, because anything with chilli, tomato, garlic and lime in it is always going to be a winner for me. It was nice and easy to make, and smelled delicious while I was cooking it. I made enough to conserve some for tomorrow lunch, so saved myself a bit of time as well.

Dinner

I decided to do a couple of recipes I learnt when I did a detox cookery class last year, as they’re tried and tested. Courgettes in chermoula marinade, and baked sweet potatoes with spices. For some reason, I feel like I shouldn’t be having olive oil, but I have to use SOME otherwise I’ll die. Well, I won’t die, but I’ll be bored, and it’ll be nearly impossible to cook anything. I used coconut oil for my sweet potatoes (not much, a little goes a long way), and part olive oil part warm water for my chermoula marinade. Chermoula is so yummy, a combination of coriander and lemon, lime, garlic, chilli, paprika, cumin…so so good. I had it with some peas and tomato sauce, using the leftover plum tomatoes from lunch. My sweet potatoes were delish, I used cinnamon, paprika, cloves, and garlic to flavour them, and they were the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.

Thoughts

Today wasn’t hard. At all. I spent more time in the kitchen than I usually would, but I love taking time to prepare food. Even after just a day, I feel really good (psychosomatic!), and feel like the food I ate was just much more delicious than a lot of things I’d usually have. For this vegan diet, I’m cutting out so many things that I’d usually lazily rely on for ‘comfort’ or texture like cheese or butter. Instead I’m working really hard on flavours, using more garlic and spices to make sure everything tastes as good as possible. I do miss cheese though. Sob. But weirdly, I felt more full than I have in ages – quite a feat considering I had a five course meal on Saturday and a three course meal on Sunday. I already feel much more energetic and focussed. We’ll see if that continues…

Vegan Challenge

Why hello there, readers, fancy seeing you here.

Thought I’d do a little challenge post, because you all know how I love my challenges. I’ve also mentioned how much I love Cassey of http://www.blogilates.com. Cassey is about to embark on a two week vegan eating challenge. I’ve been wanting to eat a little more healthily, as I still don’t quite have all my energy back after the flu thingy I had. I’m a vegetarian, and I’ve gone vegan before and found it very rewarding, if a little too restrictive. I don’t think our country is really quite there yet in terms of appealing, healthy food. There are some great places in London, and others such as Terre a Terre in Brighton (seriously, EVERYONE should eat there once, veggie or not), but I absolutely detest going into a ‘vegetarian restaurant’. Images of lentils and sour goats cheese tend to flicker into my mind, unpleasantly.

I absolutely love food. I love trying new things, and I sometimes get a little miserable that vegetarian eating and great food still don’t appear to go hand in hand. I’m fed up of going to a restaurant and seeing risotto or goat’s cheese tart on the menu. Just because I don’t eat meat, doesn’t mean I’ve lost my taste buds/imagination! I’m a lifelong veggie, and it makes me sad to feel that there’s still a big stigma attached to it. That’s why I’m a big fan of Thai or Japanese food: heaps of flavour and more options. I’m pretty far from your stereotypical veggie, and I have no wish to eat in a stereotypical vegetarian restaurant with crappy art on the walls and unappetising food. I don’t want to have to choose a third rate dish from a menu because the chef decided vegetarians are inferior in some way. I’m totally getting off track here, but this is important to me, goddammit!

Anyway, I’m 100% vegetarian all the time, but when I go vegan I try to be as creative as possible. Everything needs to be carefully considered, flavours enhanced, pleasing to the senses. I’m going to do it for two weeks, starting tomorrow, just to sort out some of the dodgy eating habits I’ve fallen into, and then I’ll assess how I feel afterwards. Because it’s difficult to get all the calories you need, I’ll be eating a LOT (air punch) and about 5-6 small meals a day. I’m going to avoid processed foods and sugars, and try and come up with delicious, healthy meals. I’m sitting here now with a stack of cookbooks and ploughing through them! Cassey of Blogilates.com is going to be putting up her own meal plan, but I’ll probably just devise my own to suit my own tastes. *Cough* NO TOFU *cough*.

So that’s me and my next two weeks sorted. Bit alarmed at not having alcohol – I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to break that next weekend for a night out, but otherwise, it should be interesting. I’ll keep you all posted, and if anyone fancies joining in, shout me up on Twitter @ameliafsimmons. Also, if you know any restaurants which serve great vegetarian food, I’d really love to hear about them.

Rococo Nails

I swear, all my posts this week are just going to come under the broad category of ‘cheering myself up’. I’m still ill, I’m tired, I have a little bit of my voice back but not a lot, and I’ve graduated from Gossip Girl to America’s Next Top Model. I’m unbelievably bored. I was hoping to use today either to do some fun projects or to crack on with the mountain of work I have, and instead I’m just useless, utterly utterly useless.

What can you do when you barely have the energy to walk up the stairs? Well, I decided to paint my nails. I’ve had a bit of a bare nails moment going on for the last few weeks, because I wanted to give my nails a break from the endless parade of colours I’d been abusing them with since Fashion Week. I’d got really bored of uniform nails, and for one week I even had every nail a different colour. I liked the way it looked, but it wasn’t exactly ideal for when I needed to do a quick touch up of my nails on the train. But I fancied doing something a little different today.

Probably my favourite colour combination is blue and gold. If you haven’t picked up on my Marie Antoinette/Versailles obsession yet, I’ll just reiterate it for you once again. I think it’s such a beautiful combination, and I liked the idea of recreating this on my nails. It makes me think of pale Spring skies and shards of sunlight, or the way the Autumn sun shines through leaves, illuminating them. I purchased the Rococo gold leaf lacquer from Space NK in Tunbridge Wells a couple of years ago, and despite an initial phase of wearing it frequently, I’ve kind of left it alone. It’s got formaldehyde in, which smells quite a bit and makes me feel like Damien Hirst. But today I needed serious perking up, and so out it came. I hope you like the results. What’s your favourite nail varnish/colour combination?


Healthy Living: End of week 2

It’s been a long week. Not in any way related to my new lifestyle, just a typically long, slightly chilly, end of November/start of December week. So, how are things in healthy land?

Exercise

Going well so far. Like I said last week, the early stages of starting any new regime are always easy, because you see results very quickly. The Pilates videos I’ve been doing (from Blogilates.com) are becoming a bit easier – I can push through for more reps, and I can just go for longer in general, so both my strength and stamina are improving. I’m working out for 6 days a week – fairly demanding, but while I’m doing a kick start, I want to really push myself. I’m doing a kind of ’90 day challenge’, and after that’s over I’ll settle into a more socially acceptable regime.

I also decided to buy a set of 3 Tracy Anderson DVDs from Ebay. I’ve followed a few of her webisodes and I like her teaching style. People seem to absolutely love her or hate her, and I’ve read a lot of angry comment-leavers denouncing her as a ‘fraud’….slightly alarming. I’ll be writing a more in depth review once I’ve got my DVDs and sampled them properly.

Eating

Slightly more tricky has been the diet quandary. I’ve never had issues with being careful with my eating, but the problem has been knowing when to stop. I make tiny alterations and keep doing so until I’m segueing from a normal healthy diet into just eating some rocket leaves with nothing on them and calling it ‘lunch’. This week has been interesting, but red flags have gone up. I started with cutting out caffeine and most sugar two weeks ago, then this week I’ve cut out wheat, and more or less cut out dairy. The temptation is always for me to stop replacing things with healthier options and just keep restricting myself.

I’m trying not to do that, as I want this to be something sustainable. So I’ve created rules. I’ve told myself that if I really want to have something, I’m allowed it. I have to eat 5-6 small meals a day, and I’m not allowed to go under 1200 calories a day. And so far, it’s actually been working. I’m not skipping meals and my blood sugar level is remaining stable because I eat every couple of hours. Skipping meals is another danger zone for me – I went for over 3 months in late 2009 when I didn’t eat lunch, ever. Just a small breakfast and dinner. It’s bad habits like this that I’m trying to unlearn. It sounds naff and totally hippie-ish, but I’m trying to learn to respect my body.

I went to a detox cookery course in Kensington on Thursday, and I learnt a lot about nutrition and how best to get it from the food you eat. For example, we learnt that pouring coconut milk over a fruit salad helps to prevent the sugariness of very sweet fruit hitting your bloodstream. And we also learnt that Coconut oil (or butter) is a fantastic ingredient that the body uses as energy instead of fat. Everything we ate had tonnes of garlic and herbs in, and most things we ate were either raw or cooked at very low temperatures. I learnt that kale, broccoli and herbs like coriander actually give your body calcium! If you’re interested, the company were called Nosh Detox and you can visit their site at http://www.noshdetox.com.

Anyway, I was pretty inspired by it, and cooked the whole three course meal at home on Friday night. So to sum up, I’ve learnt a lot this week, but I’ve also spotted problematic areas. I just want to prove to myself that I can eat a healthy diet without a) becoming obsessive or b) cutting out meals. I’ve also learnt that I respond well to solid rules, as long as they’re healthy. So here are my rules:

  1. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
  2. Eat at least 5 portions of fruit/veg
  3. Eat 5-6 small meals a day
  4. Don’t skip any meals
  5. Never go below 1200 calories
  6. No caffeine, sugar or white bread/pasta
  7. Limit dairy
  8. Be good 80% of the time but if I really want it, have it
  9. 30 minutes muscular structure and 30 minutes cardio every day
  10. Only weigh myself once a week, if that – weight is not the important thing

And there we have it folks, the end of my week two of healthy living. Why don’t you check this to see how I got in such a horrible state in the first place: http://ameliaflorencesimmons.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/how-advertising-destroyed-my-health/

Also, happy December everyone! I’m already feeling festive!

How advertising destroyed my health

Or, why I needed a detox. Or, how healthier living is changing my life.

Now, before you read on thinking this is going to be some screaming polemic on the advertising industry, and the combination of junk food advertising and skinny models being shoved down our bloated throats, it isn’t. This is about how working in an ad agency turned me from a relatively healthy girl to something of a wreck in just six months. I’ve talked about advertising, because that’s what I worked in, but this could apply to any desk-based, stress-heavy office job.

The office environment attacked me in a fair few ways, pretty comprehensively, despite the fact that I was only there for a mere 6 months. I’m not one to talk about my health, because up until this year, I’d never had any problems. Maybe I’m allergic to work? Or just offices? Anyway. Here’s how and what got ruined, and the pitfalls of office life. Read on, Macduff:

My immune system – always pretty healthy and quick to fend off a cold, I found myself in an office full of people, with either heating or air conditioning depositing our germs all over the place. Ironically enough, I didn’t take one sick day while I was there, but the minute I stopped, I had a three month cold. Lovely. It was like my body had stored up every single bug that every single person had carried, and kindly gifted me with them in succession. Like an advent calendar with flu behind the doors instead of chocolate.

My tastebuds – I’ve always been someone who could take or leave chocolate. By that I mean that I don’t really like the stuff that much, but I end up eating it because…well, isn’t that what women do? Social conditioning at its best, folks. For a couple of months I was fine. I avoided sugar. Then one day, a charity tuck box appeared. It took me a few weeks to cave. One morning, I was faced with a long, heavy day. I needed something to get me through, so I bought a chocolate bar for a boost (not an actual Boost, they’re yucky.) The day after next, I did it again. Soon, I was eating 2-3 chocolate bars a day, because I now felt deprived if I didn’t have one. My blood sugar level became a rollercoaster.

My energy levels – If you’ve worked in an office, you’ll know that it’s nearly impossible to resist the lure of the tea or coffee run. Because we had a moderately sized team all sitting together, someone would ALWAYS be getting a caffeine based drink. I always felt too embarrassed to ask someone to pop a herbal tea bag in some hot water for me, and also, I just wanted the kick. Because I’d drink a cup, perk up, flag, and need another. On and on. Cup after cup, all day long. Not good if you want Zadies, either. (That’s my name for white teeth.)

My back – it’s a common problem. Dodgy chairs + hunched over a computer all day = back pain. For the first time in my life, my beautifully straight dancer’s posture deserted me, and I started to hunch.

My willpower – I like baking. I like the look of cakes, I like the act of making cakes. But I don’t actually really care too much about eating them. Weird, huh? Before the office job, I’d bake every couple of weekends or on special occasions, and eat a bit, but not a lot. Suddenly, in the office, it was somebody’s birthday EVERY SINGLE DAY. Or their leaving do. Or it was a charity baking sale. Or it was just Friday afternoon. And you know what? The cakes were delicious, and I really didn’t want to be the kind of dick who went ‘no, I think I’ll leave your beautifully crafted cake, baked with loving care, and I’ll just stick with my low-glycaemic seeds and agave nectar’. No one wants to be that person.

My sleep patterns – Gosh, who would have guessed that bucketloads of sugar and caffeine combined with a stressful job would make me restless at night?! But it was worse, and weirder, than just having to count an awful lot of sheep. For the first time ever, I became anxious when I went to bed. Racing thoughts, heat beating fast, all the rest of it. I would wake up in the night and be instantly wide awake, but groggy in the mornings. I was thinking the strangest, worst kind of thoughts, and worried about everything. Embarrassingly and bizarrely, I became unable to sleep with the light off, for the first time since I was a child. Almost every night felt like I was having a mini panic attack. Hmm, healthy.

The way I viewed food – I’ve never been a conventional ‘dieter’. I can’t stand the concept of ‘good food’ and ‘bad food’, as this just makes your life difficult and stressful, and you are reduced to near tears on being faced with dessert. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people always on a diet, always convinced that carbs were bad, and telling me so. It was alarming. I felt hyper aware of what I was eating everyday, and the attitude rubbed off on me. Periods of eating barely anything were followed by binges on all the ‘bad food’, because the people who were on diets always knew they were doomed to fail, that was just how it worked.

My liver – Even in this time of austerity, the image of the boozy ad agency still remained true. Post-uni, I’d virtually stopped drinking, and my body was resetting itself from all of that indulgence. Suddenly, we were drinking with alarming frequency, and I still had the attitude of the recent student: if it’s free, eat it/drink it/take it, because you don’t know when you’ll get the chance again. We even had a drinking game that revolved around hiding a fish (look, we worked long old hours, no wonder we went a bit silly.) Essentially, if you didn’t find the fish, you did a shot. No matter what time of day. I loved that game. And I was bloody terrible at it. Many mornings I’d be having a shot of some foul foreign paint stripper, or just a spot of Jagermeister. Boozed up lunches, parties and after work drinks ensued, even G&T’s in the boardroom on one particularly marvellous Wednesday. I loved it, but my body didn’t. I’m sorry, liver.

My stress levels – It was a stressful job anyway, and one that I wasn’t actually very well suited to. Cue insane amounts of worry, fear, and anxiety over my performance. To that cocktail, please also add the sugar, crisps, caffeine, and….well, actual cocktails. I often felt on the verge of tears, I never stopped feeling exhausted, and my brain wouldn’t ever turn off. I wasn’t taking any care of myself.

My fitness levels – And lastly, sheer laziness. Of course I could have gone for a run on my lunchbreak, or the gym before/after work. But I hate getting sweaty during a working day, and by the time I got home I was still too hyped up from the day to feel like doing anything other than watching TV. So that’s exactly what I did. I made excuses, and did bugger all. That was probably one of the worst decisions I made of the lot.

The worst thing is reading this back and knowing I could have prevented most of this, and you can prevent it too if you find yourself in this position. I should have been stronger, resisted the chocolate bars, and eaten seeds and dried fruit, or dark chocolate. I shouldn’t have listened to the eternal chorus of the dieters, and just brought in what I wanted to eat, and not been sucked into complaining about my thighs as a bonding method.

The cake thing is pretty difficult to navigate, but I’d say the rule is: if somebody’s made it, have some. Just take a small bit, and deal with it. If someone has just purchased something from a supermarket, forget it. Tesco won’t be offended by your eschewing of their brownies. I promise. For the caffeine issue, just either say ‘no, thanks’, or get up and make it yourself. Your colleagues will love you, you’ll get a tiny bit of leg exercise, and you can just make yourself a herbal tea. Done.

Pack your own lunchbox every day, full of exciting salads and grains, and change it up so you don’t get bored having the same thing constantly. Forewarned is forearmed – bringing in your own food and planning for your meals in advance means less likelihood of you ending up in Marks, crushed between a pensioner and a mother with a ginormous pushchair, forced to grab a 600 calorie sandwich.

Force yourself to exercise. As Nike say, just do it. It’s taken me 5 months to put myself back together because of the toll unhealthy living during this job took on me. I just drifted for a while, my eating habits broken, my fitness level at rock bottom. In the last month, I’ve made better food choices, given up caffeine, more or less completely given up sugar, and started exercising. I’m working twice the hours I worked at that office on many more projects, so my workload has become infinitely more stressful, and yet I feel incredible. The changes in my eating and exercising have made me able to cope with anything. I’m more focussed and driven, and I’ve got boundless energy without having any caffeine.

I was totally wrecked, exhausted, unhappy, unfit, and unmotivated not too long ago. Had I visited any GP, they’d have wanted to plonk me straight away on anti-depressants, and I probably would have been tempted to take them. Thanks to cleaner living, I sleep well, I wake up early with no alarm, I work my ass off and have the energy to plough through 16 hour working days with no problems. I am calmer, happier, more confident, and free of the panicky spells and long dark nights of worry that characterised six months of my life. If I can inspire just one person to make a few easy choices that will make them feel better, I’ll be happy. I’m going to be writing a series of blogs on eating well, and working out, so keep reading if you want to, and feel free to ask me any questions.

It’s another very long blog from me, but I wanted to give people a context for why I’m making changes in my lifestyle.

Snogs (frozen yogurts that is),

Amelia xx