What it’s really like to work for Gwyneth Paltrow? The Goop Lab co-host Elise Loehnen knows the answer to that

What it’s really like to work for Gwyneth Paltrow? The Goop Lab co-host Elise Loehnen knows the answer to that


As Netflix brings The Goop Lab into our lives co-host Elise Loehnen tells us Goop’s secret for success and reveals what’s coming next after that vagina candle…

The Goop Lab

It’s been 11 years since Gwyneth Paltrow launched Goop, her wellness and lifestyle company, starting out as a weekly e-mail newsletter providing new age advice, such as ‘police your thoughts’ and ‘eliminate white foods’. The A-lister turned CEO was mocked for her alternative views, but has since proved critics wrong. Today, the brand has a cult following and covers everything from books, beauty, candles (‘This Smells Like My Vagina‘ candle launched in early January 2020, immediately sold out and will be restocked on January 25), fashion, food and annual wellness summits (think panel talks, yoga classes and sound baths). Now with Paltrow’s six-episode Netflix series, The Goop Lab hitting Netflix from Friday, 24 January, Elise Loehnen, Goop‘s Chief Content Officer and co-host of the show talks to Olivia Adams about psychedelic drugs, self-care and Goopy misconceptions.

How did you get the job at Goop? 

I was a magazine editor in New York for a long period of time. It was clear the industry was heading to a digital era, so I moved to Los Angeles to create editorial for an Internet shopping comparison search engine. I wanted to learn about the Internet, as I didn’t feel at all equipped to meet the future. I learnt so much – like what people using the Internet respond to – but after a while I missed working on a brand. And it was there that I realised how hard it is to build a brand – it’s much simpler to create a business on the back of one.

Throughout my career I have co-written books, and I began working on one for Tracy Anderson. Gwyneth owned part of her studio business, and I had also agreed to write copy for the fitness class descriptions. I had a phone call with Gwyneth to discuss the content and I thought it was crazy that she was on the phone with me! I was taken with her level of dedication and interest to the studio. When she moved back to Los Angeles from London, I met her in person to talk about scaling Goop‘s content.

Were you already a fan of the brand?

I thought it was bold and interesting and I found it incredible what she had built off a not very technologically advanced site. Goop was only a couple of years old, but it had captured peoples’ attention and I saw potential.

When I went to her home for the chat, we sat on this incredible rug on the floor. I’m not sure why we did this, but I was relieved because I’d had a baby a few months ago and didn’t fit into any of my clothes, so I decided to focus on my shoes. I had an idea of what she was going to be like and thought she would judge me – of course that was not my experience at all. But it was a shoes-off house, so I had to abandon the main point of my outfit, but I hadn’t had a pedicure so I was relieved to sit on the floor and hide my feet. A couple of months later, when it became clear that we were aligned in how we thought, I joined the brand.

Courtesy of Goop

What is the secret to Goop’s success? 

It’s easy for people to say a celebrity brand’s success is because they are famous, but the reality is tonnes of celebrity brands have failed. Yes, it’s easier to get attention, but getting people to commit to you and take action on your suggestions is another level of engagement. Goop‘s unique perspective on the world is the secret. It has become quite iconic.

Critics have said the show is ‘designed to shock’ – is that a fair observation?

[Laughs] Yes. There is content in the show that will be very surprising to people who have never really encountered Goop. Equally I think people will wonder why Goop is sometimes labelled controversial, because there are respected experts and doctors and scientists on the show. We explore things we don’t yet know about or understand, but we make clear that we don’t know.

Are there potentially harmful therapies being performed?

No, not harmful, just experiences – like energy healing – that we don’t necessarily understand why they work yet. Before Reiki became more mainstream it was scrutinised, but now it used as a therapy to heal in some hospitals in Los Angeles.

 You play a large role in the show. Is there a particularly memorable activity or moment that has stayed with you?

Doing psychedelic drugs on camera was definitely a first for me. I did mushrooms in Jamaica with some other members of the Goop team. That episode is the closest to my heart, not just because of the vulnerability we express, but because psychedelics show a tremendous amount of promise in the treatment of PTSD, and there is so much mental illness around the world. The idea that something could be available to dramatically positively impact people is poignant.

What is Gwyneth like as a boss? 

I’ve learned so much from her. She didn’t grow up in a corporate culture, so never inherited bad habits – for example ‘I never had this growing up, so you can’t have this’. We have a ‘straight speaking’ culture. Instead of talking behind each other’s backs and venting, we have to go to the person directly, regardless of where they are – above or below – in the company, and express yourself to them. By listening generously it means you have the intent of having your mind changed. It’s our method for dealing with conflict and that’s how we grow, get better and stay healthy as an organisation.

Courtesy of Goop

Do you always agree with Gwyneth – or has there been a clash over thoughts on anything from a therapy to a product?
[Laughs] There are times when we say, ‘I don’t know if the world is ready for that’, but her curiosity is one of her defining qualities. I have never known her to reject something outright, but she pushes to make it more distinctly Goop. She’s an incredible role model for women. She’s resilient to people who want her to stop talking. She’s so brave and continues to stand up for what she believes in. She has a fearlessness we all really need in these times.

Goop first started as an insight into Gwyneth’s routine, what is a typical day-in-the-life like now?

She’s really good at taking care of herself. She doesn’t say, ‘I can eat whatever I want’. She puts in the work at the gym. And she’s maintained this attitude, despite the growing needs of the brand. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum – I have two young kids, so I am not a paragon of self-care as much as I would like to be. But we both do our best. It’s not about perfection; no one can do everything perfectly.

What is your can’t-live-without Goop product?

That’s easy. The GoopGlow glycolic overnight glow peel [£112.00]. I use them once a week and my skin adores them. They’ve replaced facials for me – which I don’t really have time to get anyway!

Courtesy of Goop

The majority of Goop’s products are expensive – would you consider making them more affordable? 

The hope is that as the business grows, our prices can meet that, as ingredients become more widely available. But we use really expensive, clean and high quality products. Gwyneth loves beautiful things, and we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the product and include any ingredients that could become harmful to health.

What is the biggest misconception about Goop?

Being defined by the media as ‘funny’ or ‘crazy’ works to our benefit, as people then come to the site to check it out. Then they learn Goop‘s content isn’t outlandish, it’s actually reasonable and makes a tonne of sense. I hope this is the same with people tuning in to the show and it resonates with them.

The Netflix series is the focus for now, but what’s next on Goop’s radar?

We’re interested in strengthening our role in the category of TV. Hopefully it’s the first of many TV shows.

All episodes of The Goop Lab will be available to watch on Netflix from Friday January 24 

 

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Sugar Awareness Week: an expert's tips to help ditch the sweet stuff from your diet

Sugar Awareness Week: an expert's tips to help ditch the sweet stuff from your diet


Sugar Awareness Week wants to alert us to the damaging effect of too much sugar in our diet

sugar awareness week
Unsplash

It’s Sugar Awareness Week, so we spoke to leading nutritionist and weight-loss specialist Kim Pearson, to see how we can reduce sugar consumption from our diets, without losing our minds in the process. Because it’s no secret that sugar has a huge effect on our body and mind (and not in a positive way). This is what Kim had to say…

 

  • Remember to Read Your Labels

    ‘A master of mystery, sugar likes to disguise itself under a host of different names on food packaging. Look out for dextrose, fructose, glucose and sucrose, amongst others on your ingredients list. But the best way to easily tell just how much sugar is in your food is to look at the nutrition information table. This will clearly tell you how many grams of sugar there are per 100g. Knowing that there are around four grams of sugar in a teaspoon helps to put this number into perspective.’

Sugar Awareness Week

Unsplash

  • Beware Hidden Sugars

    ‘A lot of everyday foods that you may not expect to contain sugar are actually loaded with the stuff. Breakfast cereals, so-called ‘healthy snack bars’ and soft drinks are all common culprits of being amongst the biggest sources of sugar in the average diet. And don’t forget alcoholic drinks, too. Cocktails are amongst the worst offenders here.’

 

  • Don’t Forget Fruit

    ‘Packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, it’s easy to think that you can pack your diet with as much fruit as possible. But remember that many fruits are so sweet and delicious because they are pretty high in sugar. Avoid fruit juices and dried fruits – a small 300ml Tropicana contains 26g of sugar (equivalent to 6.5 teaspoons!) for example. Coconut and berries have a lower sugar content that sweeter options like bananas and mango so get to know which fruits to reach for.’

  • Switch to a Sweetener

    ‘Sweeteners can get a bad rep, but if you opt for a more natural sweetener, such as stevia or xylitol, you can cut your sugar intake without giving up that sweet fix. A stevia clicker can be handy for sweetening drinks while xylitol is good for baking.’

 

  • Beware ‘No Added Sugar’

    ‘Many foods that are labelled as ‘no added sugar’ are actually already packed with the stuff. For example, an energy bar that contains a lot of dried fruit doesn’t need added sugar because it already contains a lot naturally. This comes back to remembering to read your labels carefully and not being sucked in by clever advertising.’

 

 

 

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Five seriously far-out car tech innovations to watch out for in 2020

Five seriously far-out car tech innovations to watch out for in 2020


From a flying uber to a car that drives itself, these were the most exciting car tech concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas…

Consumer Electronics Show
CES

Las Vegas hosted one of the most important car shows of 2020 this month: the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Technology takes priority, with cars redesigned to showcase the future of technology and the connected car. Here are the 5 coolest things we saw:

BMW i3 Urban Suite

Consumer Electronics Show

BMW i3 Urban Suite at CES 2020

BMW turned its i3 electric car into a chic work space. With the second rear seat stripped out, there was room for a wooden desk, softly lit by a little lamp, with the seat in front replaced by a large blue foot rest. It’s meant to give the “relaxed feel of a boutique hotel”. A fleet of these gorgeous little automotive suites acted as shuttles for show guests: visitors could hail one via a BMW app.

Hyundai and Uber

Consumer Electronics Show

Hyundai S-A1 at CES 2020

The two giant auto companies joined forces to unveil the S-A1 Personal Air vehicle (PAV), a small electric aircraft, which takes off and lands vertically, to access compact urban areas. Being electric, the flying vehicle is quiet, and is the first taste of a future air-based ride-hailing network that Uber and Hyundai envisage. At the moment it requires a pilot, but Hyundai claims in the future such aircraft will be autonomous, and will be hailed via an Uber app.

Mercedes

Consumer Electronics Show

Mercedes-Benz Vision AVTR at CES 2020

Mercedes teamed up with the brains behind the Avatar films to create the vision Advance Vehicle Transformation (AVTR) concept. Mercedes says it “embodies…the vision for mobility in the distant future”. The most important part of the concept is its battery which, Merc claims, is 100 per cent compostable; it’s based on “graphene-based organic cell chemistry”, which is a pub-quizz fact if ever there was one. Current lithium, nickel and cobalt based battery cells are the most problematic element of electric vehicles for the entire industry, as the raw materials are found in politically unstable countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are highly polluting.

The AVTR is also able to move sideways, in a crab movement, to maximise small urban spaces.

Audi A1:ME

Consumer Electronics Show

Audi A1:ME at CES 2020

Audi’s concept car featured a humungous curved screen the full width of the car, instead of a dash, with eye control. This allowed journalists to conduct the important test of ordering a burger from a restaurant menu (the idea being that the car will know restaurants you like to visit, and present you with menus en route) with eye movements only and then, obviously, eating it at the end of the test drive.

The concept previews a small, electric, autonomous car which is the same size as BMW’s i3.

Honda

Consumer Electronics Show

Honda Augmented Driving Concept at CES 2020

The crazy Augmented Driving Concept featured just a solitary single wheel that acts as accelerator and brake, too. It can drive itself, or the bored passenger can take back control: the choice is theirs. The four-seat convertible looked a lot like the Honda E, a retro electric car about to go on sale this year.

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Wake up to 'Wakey' – the new, micro breakfast show that'll brighten up your morning

Wake up to 'Wakey' – the new, micro breakfast show that'll brighten up your morning


Writer, broadcaster and artistic director Deborah Coughlin talks about why her new app, Wakey!, will help improve your happiness, health and wellbeing. And Love Island’s Chris Taylor is hosting!

Wakey
Getty Images

It’s Blue Monday, the saddest monday because payday is still way off, and all our good intentions and resolutions have by now got in the bin with the Christmas tree. I’m just about still managing dry Jan, but Veganuary took a hit when faced with a stressful deadline last weekend I ordered some prawns. Who knew I had a prawn-related stress response?!

According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. You would have thought that tech could help us out, with a million apps to keep an eye on us and keep us in line, but I was surprised to find that in clinical trials of health apps academics from Harvard University found 74% of users stop engaging with a health app after only ten uses. As they are, the machines are not going to save us from ourselves, and I think I know why.

A year and a half ago I left my work as a freelance writer and multimedia producer and joined a tech-for-good incubator called Zinc. That’s where 50 people from around the world are brought together to try and come up with ideas for tech products and services that can help with some of the developed world’s biggest problems.

I focused on mental health. I’ve struggled with it myself, as have many of those closest to me. I can’t think of anything more fundamental to having a happy and fulfilling life. So, I looked at what was out there in the app world already to help us, and there’s loads, but are they going to keep our attention beyond ten uses? Probably not, but I know what does… entertainment.

That’s where the idea for a new app and show came from – Wakey! We launch today January 20 – Blue Monday, and we’re making wellbeing entertaining. It’s a micro breakfast show that replaces your boring alarm, wakey you up and giving you a dose of feel good entertainment all presented by Love Island 2019’s Chris Taylor and Sink the Pink’s Ginger Johnson.

We’ve got some amazing scientists working with some brilliant telly creatives, to make a new way of helping us all keep tabs on our wellbeing. Why does working on your wellbeing have to either be po-faced medical or pseudo spiritual? Why can’t we laugh and have fun? Well we think you can, and we think that’s what’s going to help us stick to the things we want to do to have a happier healthier life.

* Just download, set your alarm and wake up to Wakey! The first show is Monday 20th January. Available on iPhone and Android

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Don’t have a Blue Monday – five reasons why it’s time to stop hating on January

Don’t have a Blue Monday – five reasons why it’s time to stop hating on January


It’s the most wonderful time of the year (no, really it is) according to Lizzy Dening who knows exactly how to see the jolly side of this Megxit/Brexit January

Blue Monday
Getty Images

It’s Blue Monday the most depressing day of the year. My social feeds are awash with ’30 days hath September – but January has 7,000’ memes. New year diets lie by the wayside, people are clamouring for the next payday and the weather is all over the place. It’s easy to see why people loathe January – but I’m not one of them. The first month of the year is, in many ways, the best. It’s not because I’m a diet enthusiast, or Christmas bah-humbugger – more that I love the feeling of potential that comes with a clean slate. January has the same ‘back-to-school-new-notebooks’ vibe of September, but with the cosy, indoor vibe of December. Not convinced? Hear me out…

Get snugly and reflect: When you peel away the stress and pressure of the festive period, January is really what Christmas should feel like. Insular, snug, and with lots of time for reflection. Admittedly it can feel painfully long before the end of the month pay cheque, but (without being too nauseating about it) you’re left with time to focus on what matters. Spending time with friends or family, dreaming up creative projects, planning holidays and visits for the year ahead, and – for me – ploughing through a delightful pile of books from Santa.

Reconnect with people who make you feel good: December is great for seeing people but it can feel a bit exhausting and pressured (after all, it’s harder than ever to cope with feeling sad during ‘the most wonderful time of the year’). There are no expectations for this month – see people, or hibernate. It’s up to you. ‘Compared to December, January offers the luxury of getting to really choose mindfully who you spend time with,’ says psychologist Natasha Tiwari (natashatiwari.co.uk). ‘Consciously choose to reconnect with people who make you feel good, energised, support you and inspire you to believe that you can create all you wish to in this new year ahead.’

Dry January

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Veg out on veg: While it’s fun to eat crap and stop moving throughout Dec, it’s clearly not good for us. We tend to start the new year feeling grumpy and constipated, so it’s nice to slowly unravel that. Eat more veg, start moving again in a way that feels good. There’s plenty of variety easily available when it comes to seasonal goodness. ‘Leafy green veg are in abundance, which are rich in nutrients like folate and magnesium, helping our brain, detoxification, hormones, and mood,’ says Jodie Brandman, a Nutritional Therapist (jodiebrandman.com). ‘You’ve also got the root vegetables and squashes, which are rich in things like beta carotene, helping your eyesight and progesterone (amazing for hormone health and fertility).’

Lower the booze to lift your mood: If you’re having a month off the booze (or at least not drinking every day like at Christmas) you should already be feeling the benefits on your mood. ‘I love Dry January as it frees up the liver, allowing it to do what it does best and filter out toxins from our environment and excess hormones in our body,’ says Brandman. ‘Alcohol can negatively affect our moods, so getting rid of it just helps everything really.’

Blue Monday

Getty Images

Focus on the positives: ‘But, Lizzy’, I hear you cry, ‘can you just shut up? I’ve broken my resolutions and I feel crap about myself.’‘Ditch them,’ says Confidence Coach Lizi Jackson-Barrett. ‘Instead of focusing on the things you think you need to change about yourself from last year, spend some time thinking about what aspects of 2019 you’re most proud of and that you can carry forwards into 2020. Maybe last year you started to learn a new skill; perhaps you made more time for self-care or maybe you stood up for yourself and it felt good. Forget about what you’re not doing well enough and think about what you’re already doing exactly well enough.’

January is, after all, the month of time travel. It’s the only time we look both backwards and forwards, and really take stock of whether our lives are heading in the right direction or not. Consider setting a new goal that’s a bit more creative or gentle than ‘lose weight’. Why not set yourself a target number of books to read this year (Goodreads is a fun way to keep track and record your reviews)? Or try your hand at volunteering – not only will you make new friends and make a difference to those less fortunate, but you’ll feel so damn good about yourself that you’ll care less about whether or not you’ve eaten too many cakes this week.

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Diana’s boys: how William's healing the rift before Harry's move

Diana’s boys: how William's healing the rift before Harry's move


After Harry’s heartbreakingly honest farewell speech revealing his ‘great sadness’ about leaving the only life he has ever known, Michelle Davies charts the rift between the brothers and how their once unbreakable bond is slowly mending

harry
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There was a rather telling omission in the joint statement released by Buckingham Palace a week ago to dismiss the reports that William’s ‘bullying’ behaviour was the trigger for Megxit. The brusquely worded statement said he and Harry ‘care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful’ – but it noticeably stopped short of saying they care about each other. In fact, the statement made no attempt at all to pretend their relationship was even the slightest bit okay. So while talks continued between courtiers to thrash out Harry and Meghan’s next steps after they stepped down as senior royals, the rift between them seemed wider than ever.

The wife factor

harry

Meghan, Prince Harry, Prince William, and Kate stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to view a flypast to mark the centenary of the RAF in July, 2018 (Getty Images)

However, according to latest reports, the two brothers have held secret talks in the past week to overcome their differences, realising it was ‘now or never’ with Harry’s imminent move to Canada about to put thousands of miles between them. One newspaper even claimed Kate and Meghan were involved in brokering the peace talks, a sure sign that the Fab Four are mending the fractures that forced them to separate their two courts when Harry and Meghan left Kensington Palace to move to Frogmore. ‘It has been ground-breaking in terms of saving their bond as brothers and has been totally driven by them,’ a source was quoted as saying.

Family is everything

For their extended family, it will come as a huge relief to see the brothers attempting to reconcile their differences. Their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, once remarked ‘family is the most important thing in the world’ and she would undoubtedly be aghast at the fallout between her sons.

harry

The Prince and Princess of Wales on holiday in Spain with the boys in 1987 (Getty Images)

Rumours of a rift began to surface shortly after Harry and Meghan’s wedding in April 2018 but it wasn’t until his televised interview with Tom Bradby after their trip to South Africa in September last year that Harry confirmed there were indeed issues between him and William, who at 37 is two years his senior.

‘Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it’s under … stuff happens,’ said Harry, when Bradby asked him about his relationship with William. ‘We’re certainly on different paths at the moment,’ he added. ‘As brothers, we have good days and we have bad days.’

Stoking the rift

Of course, two brothers who are different in personality and temperament not getting along is hardly an anomaly. Families fall out all the time. But there was something inexplicably sad about the breakdown of the princes’ previously close relationship after what they endured with their mother’s death.

Harry

Prince William and Prince Harry at their mother’s funeral in 1997 (Getty Images)

Harry’s surprisingly unguarded interview with Bradby sparked an avalanche of stories that served to stoke the rift, including repeated claims he was upset William did not do enough to welcome Meghan into the Royal fold and had even cautioned him against marrying her. This week it was alleged they even rowed before playing in the Power Royal Charity Polo Day at Billingbear Polo Club in Berkshire in July last year – the same event at which Meghan was pictured in public for the first time with newborn Archie, alongside Kate and her three children, George, Charlotte and Louis. Apparently such was the distance between the families now that the cousins have only met on one other occasion. With Archie still in Canada with Meghan, that situation won’t have changed even if William and Harry are speaking again.

harry

Prince William (left) and Prince Harry (right) participating in the Power Royal Charity Polo Day at Billingbear Polo Club in Berkshire in July, 2019 (Getty Images)

Bad blood

Sources close to William subsequently told The Times he felt he and Harry were ‘separate entities’ and ‘I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives but I can’t do that any more’. So far there is no confirmation of who made the first move to heal the estrangement, but our money’s on William, because the latest comments emanating from Harry and Meghan’s camp hinted again at ‘bad blood’ within the Royal Family, with an unnamed friend of theirs quoted by People magazine as saying, ‘If relationships had been better, things would have been different.’

harry

Prince Harry and Prince William appear on TV to announce an upcoming pop concert to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, 2005 (Getty Images)

An uncle intervention

Their father, Prince Charles, is no doubt most relieved that his sons have found a way to navigate the frustrations they evidently had with each other. He appreciates first-hand how difficult life can be when you don’t get along with your sibling, as he and Andrew have never seen eye to eye.

To ensure it doesn’t happen again, he could do a lot worse than enlist the help of his sons’ uncle – Diana’s brother – Earl Spencer, to whom Harry is particularly close. At her funeral in 1997, the Earl’s blistering eulogy included the promise to protect William and Harry from suffering the same fate as she did when he described Diana as ‘the most hunted person of the modern age’. ‘We will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair,’ he said. Given that it appeared to be them triggering each other’s anguish rather than outside forces, it would be worth keeping him on speed-dial.

Prince Harry with Earl Spencer in 2006 (Getty Images)

Dashing Diana’s hopes

After all, his sister would have undoubtedly done her utmost to reverse the estrangement. She once remarked it was her goal for ‘my boys to have an understanding of people’s emotions, their insecurities, people’s distress, and their hopes and dreams.’ What a relief for their families that they appear to at last appreciate one other’s.

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'My mum had a stalker for three years and it's shaped my life ever since’

'My mum had a stalker for three years and it's shaped my life ever since’


Author and journalist Marisa Bate has spent most of her 34 years worrying about what lurks in the shadows and our vulnerability where predatory men are concerned

stalker
Getty Images

How do you know you’re being watched: Some instinctive feeling? An evolutionary radar developed to work as a defence mechanism to warn us of attack? I don’t know how I knew I was being watched, I just knew. And I could feel it. We sat in the hotel having breakfast. I turned my head to the window. His face was peering up against the window. His eyes felt heavy, unmoving, deliberate. I blinked back. Just for a moment we looked at each other. “Mummy,” I said, “there’s a man at the window”. He was gone.

My mum knew immediately who I meant. She’d seen him around throughout our holiday. Quickly, she’d begun to notice him everywhere. The thing is, she says now, is that she wasn’t sure if he was stalking her, a woman in her 30s, or us: me, her 4-year-old daughter and my brother, her 8-year-old son. She took us to the local police station. Handsome Italian men with dark hair and light blue jeans made plans. One afternoon, in the silence of the heat, we walked where the police told us to, and then he appeared, right on cue. They got him.

This, however, was the second time our little family was stalked. The first time was in our home. I don’t remember any of it but it has become like family folklore. We lived down a lane in woodland behind a motorway. Not many people even knew the lane or houses were there. At the top of the road was a deserted airfield. There were no street lights.

stalker

Marisa as a baby with her mother

I was just a baby and my brother was about four. My father had recently left my mother and so it was just the three of us in our house in the woods. It began much how it ended; unexplained. There was door knocking in the middle of the night but there was no one at the door. The phone would ring but the line was silent. My brother can remember my mum picking up the phone, screaming “fuck off!” before slamming it down again. We found faceprints up against the living room window. One time my uncle sat in the garden all night with a baseball bat. Other times the police would come. They’d wait and watch. No one was ever seen, caught, charged with trying to incite terror on a young family. According to my mum, the stalker would make a nuisance for a few weeks at a time before going quiet. This went on for about three years.

This family folklore has been very formative, for different reasons. Mostly, I look back in awe of my mother managing that situation. She didn’t sell the house, she didn’t move in with friends or family. In fact, she screamed “fuck off” down the phone. She was not backing down. Her bravery and resolve are mind-blowing.

stalker

But it has also shaped me in a less positive way, too. I’ve grown up with a shady figure of a man hiding in a bush lingering around me. And this image of the stalker has become a bigger representation of my perceived reality as a woman in the world; it has become a warning, a lesson, that women are vulnerable, that there are figurative and literal, men in the woods, waiting to pounce. This, of course, is not ideal. And not even completely true because grimly, mostly women are attacked by men they know, not strangers hiding behind a tree in the dark. But it has cast a long shadow. And sadly, something that was reinforced growing up. I went to school near Milly Dowler, the 14 -year-old schoolgirl who was abducted and murdered. Throughout my time there, the school would send out warnings when suspicious vans had been circling. Even when I was very little, and visited a summer childcare scheme, the message was clear: as we walked hand in hand down to St James Park, the leaders told us to remove our name tags, and whatever we do, never talk to strangers.

Now as an adult, when I get a late train home, I hold my keys between my fingers or walk down the middle of the road where it is lightest. The problem has not gone away: the threat of a predatory man lurking out of sight is still something I and women everywhere contend with on a near daily basis. We can’t walk certain routes home, we can’t go running when it is dark, we must be sure we tell people where we’ve been and where we’re going.

stalker

Marisa and her mother today

The experience of the stalker made my mother a very tough, cynical and cautious woman, and it made me aware of the darker shadowy corners of the world we live in. It was undoubtedly a harrowing, extreme experience. But I also see how we all, in one way or another, still contend with an unseen threat, all the time.

* STALKING IS ILLEGAL. You have a right to feel safe in your home and workplace. If you are being stalked – this can include being followed or constantly harassed by another person, such as being sent unwanted emails – please contact the police. You can also seek help and advice at The National Stalking Helpline run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Call 0808 802 0300. For more information visit: suzylamplugh.org/pages/category/national-stalking-helpline or scaredofsomeone.org

The post ‘My mum had a stalker for three years and it’s shaped my life ever since’ appeared first on Marie Claire.

Relax and let it go! The alternative way to achieving your goals

Relax and let it go! The alternative way to achieving your goals


Fed up with failing? You need a Personal Responsibility Coach. Nat Rich, founder of the ‘Unf*ck Your Life’ workshops, explains how to boost your chances of getting where you want

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Words by Rosie Mullender

Striving to achieve a personal goal often feels like an uphill struggle – especially if you’re trying to kick an addiction, or aiming for a long-term achievement that offers few short-term rewards – dreaming of being hailed as the next E.L. James for example, isn’t always enough motivation to sit down and write your magnum opus right this second.

Personal Responsibility Coach Nat Rich has an alternative way of looking at setting and reaching goals. Her six-hour ‘Unf*ck Your Life’ workshops look into simple ways of getting things done – and she believes the secret is to let go of goals altogether, focussing instead on communication. ‘When we have a goal, we use our energy to plan for something to happen in our future,’ she explains. ‘We build up expectations around that future event taking place and then, if we don’t reach our intended goal, we can feel like a failure, which causes anxiety and feelings of depression. But the truth is that nobody’s guaranteed to get what they want, exactly when they want it. Instead of constantly designing and manipulating the outcome you wish to have, the idea is to learn how to relax and allow life to show us what it has to offer.’

 Unf*ck your life by facing your fears

Whether your goal is to take up yoga or sort out your finances, the first step is working out what’s motivating you. Procrastination is a form of avoidance – ‘there really is no such thing as procrastination, you’ve just found a benefit of doing something else more appealing,’ Rich says. So you need to face up to exactly what you’re avoiding before you start. ‘You have to look at how your avoidance impacts all areas of your life: social life and friendship circles, work life, financial life, love life and family life. Then break everything down to the very basics. For instance, when I gave up alcohol, I made a list of every area of life my drinking was affecting. It wasn’t just impacting my health – it was everything, from my social life to my finances, without even being aware of it. The final list was enormous, which gave me the awareness I needed to face up to the issue and give up alcohol for good.’

achieving goals

Nat Rich, Founder of I AM SOUND ACADEMY

Next, look at all the (real!) reasons you’ve dodged achieving your goal in the past. ‘We tend to be more honest with ourselves when we write things down,’ Rich explains. ‘When we simply think things over, it’s easy to start lying to ourselves, because thinking gives your ego the chance to gloss over the situation – for example, by telling yourself you’re avoiding yoga because of the cost, rather because you’re nervous about being the largest person in the class. Putting pen to paper and getting your fears down really helps you see the size of them.’ Alternatively, try an online mind map such as Simple Mind to help organise your thoughts.

Unf*ck your life by starting big

Once you’ve identified what’s held you back from in the past, it’s time to tackle each issue one by one. But instead of taking baby steps, Rich recommends a plaster-ripping approach to dealing with your goal-related gremlins. ‘It’s not about starting small, it’s about starting with your biggest issue first,’ she says. ‘Because that biggest issue will be affecting everything else, and secondly, by starting big, it just gets easier as you go along. Also, if you start small, you know you’ve got your biggest issue waiting for you, which allows procrastination to sneak in.’

If your messy finances have evolved because you’ve got a pile of unopened bills, you can’t face organising debt repayments, or you’re avoiding asking for help, the step you’re most dreading is the one you should tackle first and, says Nat, it’s asking for help that most of us will find the hardest. ‘Asking for help is every person’s biggest problem but by letting someone else in, you can halve your worries,’ she says.

achieving goals

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 Unf*ck your life by not comparing yourself to others

You might see social media as the perfect place to find inspiration. If other people have done it, you can do it too, right? But research shows our self-esteem plummets when we make ‘upward comparisons’ – comparing ourselves against people who seem fitter or have more friends than us. Looking at your own reflection then at the perfect physique of an Instagram gym bunny will deflate anyone whose goal is to just step foot in the gym. ‘Personally, I don’t have any social media, and it’s changed my life,’ Nat says. ‘I actually became far more productive when I let it go. I used to compare myself to other people and panic, thinking, ‘They’re doing something I want to do, but I’m not doing it.’ Just by looking at somebody else’s life, I felt like a failure.’ So before you start, ditch the accounts of people whose lives you aspire to match – at least until you’ve reached your goal.

 Unf*ck your life by modifying your goals

Once you’ve listed all the ways your goal (or lack of it) is impacting your life, you might realise you were heading in the wrong direction all along – and that’s fine too. Perhaps you’ve worked out you don’t actually want to be slimmer, you just want a more successful dating life – which means accepting the need to shift your focus elsewhere. ‘I dreamed of DJ-ing, but once I started, I realised it wasn’t what I really wanted,’ Nat says. ‘But it was very hard having to admit it, because I’d told everyone and had landed a job DJ-ing in Dubai. The worst thing you can do is change your mind about a goal, but end up carrying on because you don’t want to tell people you’ve changed your mind. But that’s just another form of procrastination – admitting you don’t want to reach your stated aim anymore can be an achievement in itself.’

Find out more about Nat Rich’s Unf*ck your life workshops and hacks on: www.wheresnatat.com  

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I completed a 12-week weightlifting programme – this is how it changed my body

I completed a 12-week weightlifting programme – this is how it changed my body


Niamh McCollum pushed her body to the limit with Evolve’s intense Warrior Woman Workout challenge – and the results were incredible

I’ve always been a quitter. As a kid, I quit guitar because the power chords were ‘too sore’ on my fingers, I shoved sax lessons to the side because I couldn’t be bothered lugging it on the school bus with me, and after years of training, I gave up horse riding because I couldn’t face my fear of inevitably falling off a horse one day.

So when it came to physical exercise, same story. Not exactly a fan of team (or any) sports, I’ve never really had a regular fitness routine, with my teenage and university years spent eternally falling in and out of a cycle of running instead.

I’ve always been keen to branch out, having heard from friends about the benefits of weight training. But truthfully, that area of fitness intimidated me, so I was too scared to try it out in the gym on my own. Besides, my track record suggested that I’d never be able to keep it up long enough to see actual results.

This was until I was offered the chance to do the 12-week Warrior Woman Workout Challenge at Evolve. Curious to learn about the elusive (to me, anyway) world of weights and test whether or not I had it in me to keep up a three-month training programme, I (hesitantly) said yes. Fast-forward 12 weeks and not only is my training completed, but I saw results I could never have imagined. Here’s what I learned… 

Goal-setting is key

On my first day of training I met Tim Walker, Evolve’s founder. Together we talked through what my goals for the programme were, and I did an in-body scan which calculated my weight, as well as my overall muscle mass and body fat percentage. I told Tim that rather than lose weight, I wanted to tone up and get stronger, and he created a fitness and diet plan specifically tailored to my desired results.

Tim explained that to achieve the results I was looking for, it would be a case of changing up my body composition by lowering my body fat percentage and building up muscle.

With a specific goal in mind, my fitness journey at Evolve began and I was paired with one of Evolve’s trainers, Ian. Every four weeks I had a scan where we could track my results. Being able to actually see my body composition gradually change kept me super motivated to keep working towards exactly what I set out to achieve.

I started seeing results more quickly than expected

Being a total weight training rookie, my first two weeks at Evolve passed quite slowly as Ian turned my focus first to technique, rather than smashing out high-intensity sets from the get-go. Once I felt comfortable with exercises like deadlifting, we gradually levelled up the intensity and I started seeing results way faster than I anticipated.

Not only did I notice significant changes to my body by week four (having already lost 5% body fat), but I was also shocked at how quickly my strength was going up. In the space of just two sessions, I went from barely being able to complete a set of lying leg raises to confidently smashing out three sets as I felt my core strengthen. Consistently seeing these improvements made it easy to keep coming back for more.

Routine is everything

It goes without saying, the Warrior Woman Workout Challenge is intense – I’m talking four sessions a week (before work!!!) intense. Having never been much of an early riser, (for years I was convinced that doing any type of physical exercise before 10am would make me legitimately puke), I was certain that I would miss more than just a few morning workouts.

Although it was tricky getting out of bed the first two weeks, once I got into a routine I actually began to quite enjoy it(!?). Not only did I get to start each day with a sunrise as I made my way to the gym, but I also learned to love the feeling of setting a physical goal and smashing it before my working day had even begun – whether it be adding an extra 5 kg to the bar I was deadlifting or finishing three sets of P-A-I-N-F-U-L split squats.

Having four designated training days also made it a lot easier for me to stay consistent throughout the 12 weeks, as I knew that once I got my four sessions out of the way, I was free to reward myself with a Saturday sleep in and enjoy my weekend (within reason).

It gave me a healthier relationship with food

For me personally, the diet plan was the most difficult part of the whole programme. It’s designed to give your body exactly the right amount of protein to help you gain muscle, but it’s not exactly fun. I did, however, like the fact that although I was on a calorie deficit, I rarely felt hungry – as it was so protein heavy it kept me feeling full all day. It also changed my relationship with food, helping me see it as a source of fuel for the body rather than something that should be obsessed over.

Warrior Woman Workout

You cant out-train a bad diet

If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t stick to the diet as stringently as I should have –having probably said yes to one too many dinner/drink invites in the run-up to Christmas. Although I achieved my desired results, I would’ve seen much more of a physical change had I been just a little bit stricter.

Explaining the importance of the diet plan, Tim told me ‘the training only takes up a small percentage of your week, if you don’t also focus on sleeping and eating well, which make up the rest of the 80%, then the training is pointless’. 80% diet, 20% gym guys – it doesn’t seem fair, but if you want to see results, it’s the only way.

Training’s easier when someone is motivating you

For everyone out there fortunate enough to afford it, I couldn’t recommend getting a personal trainer enough. Having someone holding me to account went a long way in keeping me motivated, as I didn’t want to let Ian down or waste his time by not putting in the effort. He was also always on hand to answer any questions I had about the diet plan, and consistently sent encouraging messages to help keep my spirits up when I doubted my own ability.

If you can’t afford a PT, then I recommend training with a pal – there will be times where you want to give up, and sometimes simply having another person there to spur you on will be enough to keep motivation levels high.

My body changed in ways I couldnt have anticipated

By the end of the programme, I’d lost 5 kg and 10% body-fat. Not only did I get a buzz off looking leaner, it was also fascinating to track exactly how my body composition was changing with each in-body scan. My metabolism went up significantly, which made me appreciate the benefits of weight training beyond the aesthetic changes.

As well as this, tension held in my shoulders meant they were at an angle – which I wouldn’t have even realised had Ian not pointed it out. After a few weeks of training, the alignment of my shoulders had completely straightened and I felt less tightness in my neck, which even improved my sleep.

I also couldn’t believe how much stronger I felt despite looking leaner. Small changes, like feeling the muscles in my legs as I walked up the stairs at work, and finding it easier to carry shopping bags home from Lidl, felt truly empowering and boosted my confidence massively.

Weight-training is just as stimulating as cardio workouts (if not more)

I used to think weight training was more slow-paced than cardio-based exercise like running – but man, was I wrong. There will be times where you’re pushing a 200 kg sled across the gym, profusely sweating and in so much pain that you might cry, but you will be smiling ear to ear and feeling like a total champ once its done –it is incredibly rewarding.

Despite having never been able to keep up a three-month routine of cardio-based exercise, with weight training it felt easy. Rather than eventually becoming bored and tired like I used to with running, I was bursting with energy during my time spent training at Evolve – and as a result the 12 weeks, very sadly, flew by.

For further information on Evolve’s Warrior Woman Workout, please visit www.evolvefitness.co.uk

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Seven ways to see the beauty in the everyday

Seven ways to see the beauty in the everyday


No, you haven’t accidentally navigated to a crystals ‘n’ angel cards woo-woo website. Catherine Gray tells Marie Claire how to do gratitude the wry, no-nonsense, British way

gratitude
Credits: David Yeo

I can’t believe I’m writing this article. Or, more accurately, 2013-me can’t believe it. She is currently engaged in maximum lip curl at the notion of re-enchanting the everyday. ‘Gimme a break!’ she’d cry. ‘What a bunch of new age, touchy feely, Oprah-esque poppycock.’

However, 2013-me found herself in one hell of a mental health dilemna. Having quit alcohol due to a mother-bleeper of an addiction, 2013-me realised that unless she changed her thinking, the drinking would resume (I promise to stop referring to myself in the third person from hereonin).

Open scene: November 2013. I was two months sober, but still feeling really sorry for myself. I had a ‘poor me, pour me another’ victim hangover, that was still kicking around, despite the absence of booze.

So, when I saw a shout-out on Facebook for a ‘gratitude group’, based on the premise that ‘a grateful heart never drinks’, I contained the Patsy Ab Fab within me, who wanted to spit at the screen and spark up a Sobranie, and instead, I expressed an interest. I knew I had to shift my bone-deep disgruntlement with myself / my life, and here was a possible way.

And so, I started accidentally researching my latest book, The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary. I began pulling gratitudes from the back of my dissatisfied brain every-damn-day, mental rain or shine. Eventually it became second nature for me to alight on what’s right, rather than what’s wrong.

gratitude

Credits: David Yeo

Here’s what I’ve learnt:

1. You most likely have a negatively-biased brain. Because you have a brain. I interviewed a neuropsychologist who told me there are very fortunate souls out there, who have a ‘joyful amygdala’, but the vast majority of us have a ‘grouchy amygdala’.

This basically means that the emotional response system in our brains (ie. the amygdala) is like a cross between Eeyore, any Jack Nicholson character, and Miranda SATC. Think auto-gloom, pessimism and a lawyer-esque eye for how you could be hoodwinked.

This has evolved to save our skins. It was really useful back in hunter-gatherer days for our brains to yell ‘watch out for that weird berry!’ or ‘she looks angry, appease appease’, but now, not so much. However, we can cheer up even the grouchiest amygdala, and one of the most research-backed ways to do so is: gratitude.

2. Gratitude isn’t just for Kimmy Schmidts who purchase glitter-covered ‘Count your Blessings’ journals. Even I still hard-side-eye articles called ‘The Power of Gratitude’ but I know now; it’s just science. It works. Hundreds of studies show that gratitude is transformative to mental health, and seemingly on a par with exercise for the wellbeing wallop.

Why? See point 1, but also, our brain reacts more passionately to the negative (proven by actual brain scans), and remembers it more. So, it’s not quackery or woo; I think of it more as re-balancing a neuroscientific quirk in my brain. Of evening out the negative / positive bias.

3. The first step is simply noticing nice things. Our brains outrage at the person who shoved us on the tube, rather than radiating thanks at the person who smiled. The person who cut us up at that junction, rather than whoever let us out. And so, the next time you see something joyful (a dog running towards you with unbridled love, a kid in a bear outfit), beautiful (street art, a monkey puzzle tree, a bench with a lovely inscription) or someone does something kind, such as holding a door open for you… just clock it. Tick. Noticed. Done.

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4. Then start recording the day’s beauties, whichever way floats your boat. I’m a writer, so I fill books with scribbled nightly gratitudes. These are not beautifully written; I would be mortified if anyone ever saw them. But to sound terribly clichéd, you do you. Play to your strengths. Snap them, record them via voice note, talk about them with your housemate, doodle them, visualise them when your head’s on the pillow. Simply recording them in some way evens out your brain’s default ‘here’s what went wrong today’ setting.

5. Keep it snappy. Eight is the magic number, psychologist Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky told me. Research has shown, she said, that any more is overkill.

6. Try to find things specific to that very day, as other research shows that re-played, repeated gratitudes (‘I love my racing green Mini Cooper’ or ‘I’m grateful for my job’) lose their power alarmingly quickly.

7. If you’re having a fecker of a day, that’s OK. Anybody who tells you they feel ‘grateful all the time’ is either in denial, or straight-up lying. Traditional gratitude literature tends to guilt-trip. ‘How very dare you feel less than wondrous, you first world ingrate. You have a roof over your head, while millions don’t have a pot to p*ss in!’

Nope. Just because we live in the first world, it doesn’t mean we’re disallowed negative emotions. Let the mood roll in, and roll out. Numerous studies have shown that suppressing negative emotions doesn’t work, anyhow.

Gratitudes took me from being utterly disenchanted with my everyday world, from ‘I’ll be happy when I’m on holiday / promoted / engaged’ malcontent, to how I am now: default content. I still have my resentful ‘life not fair. Hate life’ moments. Or my princessy ‘why haven’t they de-headed my prawns, I don’t want to touch their creepy eyes!’ thoughts. But when I’m underwhelmed, or being a tool, I now have a tool. And that’s gratitudes.

Give them a spin. All you have to lose is your dissatisfaction.

* Catherine Gray is the author The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary, published by Aster, £14.99 www.octopusbooks.co.uk (All sources and studies mentioned in this article are cited in the back of the book)

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