This week, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) launched Kurbo, an app designed to aid weight loss and ‘build healthy habits’. There are already a host of apps available that adults use to track meals, count calories, log their macros – so what’s the problem with Kurbo? Why are people so outraged? What is it doing that other diet apps aren’t?
Oh, yeah – it’s aimed at children as young as 8 years old.
Of course, any kid with a smart phone can download any of the meal-tracking or weight loss apps that currently exist. That they’re already so easily available to young people is a problem in itself. But the issue here is that Kurbo in particular has been created specifically for children aged between 8 and 17.
In a promotional video of WW’s latest venture, which was posted on Twitter, 12-year-old Julianna talks about the app helping her to ‘feel good about [herself].’ Her mother, Zsuzana, then says she ‘really didn’t want to be the food police’.
According to the testimonials, the ‘fun’ app (which is currently only available in the US) doesn’t just help you lose weight – it could improve your relationship with your family! It could make you more confident! It could even help you to concentrate in school! And if you’re unsure at first, don’t worry. Your personal coach is there to convince that you need to keep going!
There are also a number of ‘success stories’ on the website, proudly boasting about the fact that the likes of Robby, aged 10, lost 42 pounds, and Vanessa, aged 8, reduced her BMI percentile by 11 points.
I’m sorry – what?
Not only is that completely irresponsible, it’s also incredibly dangerous – not to mention triggering. What is to stop a child from using these numbers as a weight loss benchmark? Why is it acceptable to encourage kids to obsess over every mouthful and teach them that calories should be counted meticulously if you want to feel good about yourself? Who decided it was appropriate to drill a fear of foods into someone as young as eight years old?
There are already reports of anorexia cases in children as young as six, according to eating disorder charity, Beat. It also estimates that eating disorders are prevalent in thousands of young boys and girls across the UK. And yet the app has been designed with children in mind, a tool that will only exacerbate the problem.
The press release quotes WW’s Chief Scientific Officer, Gary Foster, PHD, as saying it is ‘part of the solution to address the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity.’ Yet the 2016 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (which explores the link between dieting, obesity and eating disorders) found that students who moderately dieted had a fivefold increased risk of developing an eating disorder.
Instead of focusing on weight loss and body size, it advises parents to promote a healthy lifestyle by eating meals together, creating easy accessibility to fruits and vegetables and encouraging physical activity. It also notes that parents should ‘avoid comments about body weight and discourage dieting efforts’ as this ‘may inadvertently result in eating disorders and body dissatisfaction.’
So the opposite of what the app is doing, then?
I first became conscious of my weight when I was ten. I went on my first diet aged twelve and began obsessively checking food labels while restricting what I ate. I made it my mission to remember the number of calories in everything from a banana to a small portion of cheese, and adjusted my diet so that I consumed as little as possible without arousing suspicion from my parents and peers.
What followed was years of disordered eating; fad diets, bingeing, purging, not eating, over-eating, over-exercising and becoming totally fixated on what I weighed. That happened without the help of an extensive library of foods that are colour coded in a traffic light system to act as a warning that some foods are ‘bad’ – so when a child is already obsessing over their weight, adding a dieting app to the mix is a recipe for disaster.
And let’s not forget the kids who haven’t formed an opinion on their bodies but who are being moulded to believe that they need to focus on the numbers on the scales.
But, hey! What does someone with a history of disordered eating know? As long as $69 (£57) a month is getting plugged into the billion dollar weight loss industry who cares?!
Actually, I do. As a journalist who has been tasked with writing about fitness and dieting in the past, I try to be as responsible as possible because I know first-hand how triggering it can be.
And I’m not alone in believing that a weight loss app aimed at children can be harmful. Body positivity advocate and iWeigh creator Jameela Jamil expressed her outrage on Twitter, writing: ‘Oh fuck no… are we kidding? Breeding obsession with weight and calories and food at the age of…8? I was 11 when my obsession started, due to being put on a diet for being the heaviest girl in the class. I became afraid of food. It ruined my teens and twenties.
‘*If* you are worried about your child’s health/lifestyle, give them plenty of nutritious food and make sure they get plenty of fun exercise that helps their mental health. And don’t weigh them. Don’t burden them with numbers, charts or “success/failure.” It’s a slippery slope.’
And she’s 100% right. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is one thing, but encouraging children to obsess over their weight and equating shedding pounds to self-worth under the guise of ‘being healthy’ is more than problematic. The damage is long-lasting and the consequences can be devastating.
Let’s hope that this disappears as quickly as it arrived.
I was stumped this weekend however when during a Saturday morning news scour, I came across a story about how an app used to ‘undress’ women had been taken offline by its creators.
How was such an app even allowed to be made in the first place?
With the tagline, ‘the superpower you always wanted’, the app allowed users (for a fee of course) to ‘undress’ photographs of clothed women, using a machine learned algorithm.
According to tech news site Motherboard, the program is used to take a photo of a clothed woman and transform it into a nude image, superimposing body parts onto it.
And in case you were wondering, the algorithm reportedly only work on images of women.
I repeat. Sorry, what?
The creators have recently taken the app offline, but reading the statement they released didn’t make me feel much better.
‘Here is the brief history, and the end of DeepNude,’ the app announced in a statement. ‘We created this project for user’s entertainment a few months ago. We thought we were selling a few sales every month in a controlled manner. Honestly, the app is not that great, it only works with particular photos. We never thought it would become viral and we would not be able to control the traffic. We greatly underestimated the request.’
Hmmmmmm. Not sure the inability to keep up with requests is the issue here, but go on.
The statement continues: ‘Despite the safety measures adopted (watermarks) if 500,000 people use it, the probability that people will misuse it is too high. We don’t want to make money this way. Surely some copies of DeepNude will be shared on the web, but we don’t want to be the ones who sell it. Downloading the software from other sources or starting it by any other means would be against the terms of our website. From now on, DeepNude will not release other versions and does not grant anyone its use. Not even the licenses to activate the Premium version.’
The statement concludes: ‘People who have not yet upgraded will receive a refund,’ before ending on the line: ‘The world is not yet ready for DeepNude’.
No. The world is not ready for DeepNude, nor should it even be ready for DeepNude.
It is programs like this that make revenge porn and similar dangerous phenomenons a very real threat.
And while the app has now been taken down, we can’t stop there. We need to be asking why (and how) the app was allowed to be created, and change the laws around it.
If we don’t start taking a stand against things like this now, the future promises to be very bleak.
Love Island is back and while we’ve all been loving the return of drama to our weekday evenings, it arguably went a bit far this week.
The past few episodes have seen the islanders shun 21-year-old Lucie Donlan for not putting her female friendships over her male friendships.
Lucie Donlan and Tommy Fury. Credit: REX
Fellow islander Amy Hart was the first to take issue with Lucie’s preference to spend time with the boys, with Lucie’s Love Island partner Joe Garratt following suit.
The girls labelled Lucie as ‘unfriendly’, while Joe – accused of being emotionally abusive – told her it was weird to spend more time with boys than girls and asked her to make more of an effort with the women in the villa.
Joe Garratt. Credit: REX
Yes, Lucie has been attacked from all angles for simply being herself, something that has certainly taken its toll, with the Cornish surfer seeming to spend most nights crying alone on the terrace.
‘I can’t take it anymore’ she cried in one of the most recent episodes. ‘Why should I have to change who I am? No one gets me.’
Amy Hart and Lucie Donlan. Credit: REX
Watching the events unfold, I was furious – and after scouring my Twitter feed, I saw that I wasn’t alone.
There were calls for Amy Hart’s exit after her ‘unfair’ and ‘bullying’ treatment of Lucie and Women’s Aid were even using Joe as an example of mental abuse, but the most common complaint was the belief that men and women can’t be friends, or that women should prioritise their friendships with the same sex over men.
Lucie Donlan. Credit: REX
I am a woman. My best friend is a man. And while I do have a close circle of female friends around me, my male friendships are incredibly important.
I’m not saying boys are better friends than girls or that I value my female friendships over my male friendships. My best friends’ roles in my life have nothing to do with their gender – they have all earned their places for having my best interests at heart, supporting me and genuinely caring.
Lucie Donlan and Tommy Fury. Credit: REX
For someone to be bullied for naturally gravitating towards men rather than women is ridiculous, and even discussing this subject in my opinion, takes us back a long way.
One of the only people to check if Lucie was ok was her friend Tommy, with their friendship being the one that everyone took issue with in the first place. The irony.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be tuning into Love Island, but I am very disappointed in the short-sighted views of the current contestants.
It’s 2019 and no one’s gender should pressure them into having certain friends.
There is just one episode left until the end of Game of Thrones, with fans spending every waking moment debating who is going to end up on the iron throne and trying to soak up every last bit of Westeros before next week.
Throwback to that iconic scene where the Mother of Dragons frees The Unsullied and burns Astapor. ‘I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. Valyrian is my mother tongue.’
The language service offered by Bark, Europe’s leading online marketplace, allows members of the public to hire professional tutors for £40 per hour to learn to speak, read and write the Game of Thrones dialect.
Featuring throughout George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ fantasy novels, and created for the HBO program by American linguist David J. Peterson, it seemed like an obvious choice.
So, interested in the tuition service, I sat down with a High Valyrian tutor to get to grips with the language.
What is your golden tip for learning High Valyrian?
Take things really slow to start with – it’s important not to rush. Take it one syllable at a time and really exaggerate your pronunciation. You won’t be able to speak as fluently as your favourite characters straight away, but practice makes perfect!
Another good tip is to listen very closely to Grey Worm on the show – even David Peterson, who created the High Valyrian language for the show, admitted that he would never be as good a speaker as actor Jacob Anderson.
What are the techniques that I need to crack?
Rolling your Rs is a must with High Valyrian – you have to really exaggerate them. Similarly to Spanish or Italian, the language is full of these playful trills. It can be difficult to get this right at first and will take a lot of practice to be able to speak as quickly as Daenerys.
What is a common mistake that people make with High Valyrian?
A good example of a common mistake is one of the show’s most well-known phrases, ‘valar morghulis’, which translates to ‘all men must die’. You’ll notice that it’s usually pronounced with a hard ‘g’, skipping over the ‘h’. However if you listen to David Peterson’s pronunciation of the word, he softens the ‘g’ sound.
What is the hardest part about learning High Valyrian?
From my personal experience, I struggled with the gender system. In High Valyrian, a noun’s gender isn’t tied to sex and the whole system only came from the fact that ‘valar’ was translated as ‘all men’. It’s a very complicated language!
How long would it take on average to learn High Valyrian?
It would only take around three to four months to learn High Valyrian to a good level of fluency, although that will depend on how much time you put in every day. There are only around 2,000 words in the High Valyrian language, so it’s not as extensive as other languages. I’m sure that dedicated fans could pick up the language quickly.
Bark also has a service where you can sign up as a High Valyrian tutor yourself, but after just one session, I don’t think I’m ready.
‘Game of Thrones is more than another hit show – it’s become a worldwide sensation!’, exclaimed Bark.com’s co-founder, Kai Feller. ‘And with the highly anticipated final season fast approaching, the show is more popular than it has ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our latest service – High Valyrian tuition.’
‘High Valyrian is a complex language and this is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has worked hard to become fluent to share their knowledge – not to mention it would be a fantastic string to any fan’s bow!’
I am the Queen of spending willy nilly; if I’m in a bad mood, or good mood, I’ll buy something, and if I’m bored… oops I’ve tapped the contactless once again.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not a big spender, and my hard earned wonga isn’t going on the latest Chanel sandals (sadly) or designer bags, instead it’s being swallowed up by Tesco meal deals, Pret lunches and travel.
Over the April bank holiday I was far too frivolous with my card, and after I paid my bills and rent (not including travel), I was somehow left with £120 in my bank account until my next pay cheque came along. So, I decided to teach myself a lesson.
I am not the first person, and I won’t be the last, to have money matters on my mind. According to a study conducted by F&C Investment Trust, almost 70 per cent of people lay awake at night dwelling on their financial problems.
I spoke exclusively to money saving experts George Charles from Money Saving Heroes, Dilusha Hettiralalage from Consumer Savings Expert at Codes, as well as a spokesperson from Quidco.com, to find out the nifty tricks to make your pennies last longer, and how to make money.
Here’s how I got on…
Day 1: I have no doubt living on £120 will be pretty impossible – especially as just one Topshop purchase can cut into half of this monthly budget – but expert George has insisted it is more doable than we think.
Speaking exclusively to Marie Claire Online, George Charles said: ‘In the current economic climate, it’s hard to distinguish what the minimum liveable amount is. It will also vary from city to city, however we would estimate you could very well get by on around £200 (excluding rent and bills) a month.
‘My favourite way to budget is to ensure you keep a spreadsheet of your monthly bills and how much of your pay check this equates to. Then, give yourself a budget for groceries, socialising and other payments you may make. Having a plan in place to stick to can make budgeting easier.
‘There are a wealth of apps that can help you budget; Monzo, Money Dashboard and Plum to name a few, which analyse the areas that are your biggest outgoings.’
Consumer savings expert, Dilusha, added: ‘At the start of the month work out what key dates you have coming up that will require a larger portion of your budget. Only keep a small amount of these funds on you at a time – in cash – so you can physically see what you have.’
A Quidco representative added: ‘Shopping through a cashback site like Quidco will allow you to earn money while you shop online. You can also make exclusive savings on groceries through ClickSnap.’
I had previously done a food shop ahead of the four-day weekend, and leftovers allowed me to meal prep for the week ahead. I got this!
Day 2: After making overnight oats for breakfast, as well as lunch and snacks, my bag was full and I made my way into work with a spring in my step. My Oyster card was topped up last week, which stood me in good stead for day two. Maisie 1 – Bank balance 0.
TIP: As part of TFL’s refund scheme they reimburse you when your tube has been delayed, while linking your railcard to your Oyster can slash a single fare from £3.95 to £1.95 on off peak journeys.
Day 3: Mid week is ALWAYS a hard one because it’s when all the plans start to roll in. After meal prepping the night before, I saved myself a few pounds on lunch again, which is rare for me.
Despite a calm start to the day, panic swiftly set in when I remembered I had dinner plans with friends. I love nothing more than to stuff my face, sip on a few G&Ts, and let the good times roll. But I contemplated cancelling because I was too conscious of eating my precious pounds, which is so not me, and I didn’t like who I was becoming. When dinner came around my PR friend treated me and my other journo pal to part of the dinner, which meant we only had to put a little bit towards the bill. Yasss!
Day 4: The first week of budgeting went better than expected. Although I meal planned so lunch was covered, guiltily I had to decline meeting a friend for drinks because I was all too conscious of the dollar.
In a bid to make up some extra cash I have turned to good ol’ eBay to work a miracle on my finances. I managed to flog a couple of clothes for £20. Bonus. Downside – postage fees (and the extra fees eBay will whack me with later down the line).
Day 5: I always justify spending money on days when I have already bought something. When I started the day with an Oyster top up, I knew it was going to be one of those days.
Low and behold, I was right. Despite bringing in breakfast and lunch (leftovers from the day before) my stomach was acting like a bottomless pit and I was still hungry. I had no choice but to splash on snacks.
No Friday night is complete without a little evening girly meet up, and that’s exactly what happened. Although dinner and drinks plans were on the cards, they swiftly changed to just drinks (my suggestion – obvs). After I cancelled plans earlier in the week I was adamant my finances were not going to ruin any more outings, as expert George insisted it is vital we keep our social lives going for our mental health.
George said: ‘It is easy to get accused of being stingy when in reality you are being savvy. Despite being on budget, it is still important to keep up an active social life for the sake of your mental wellbeing.’
Day 6 and 7: Then came the weekend, and the inevitable, a huge dent in my account. A boozy brunch AND a birthday on the same day undid all my hard budgeting (I’ve got cold sweats just thinking about it). Then Sunday I was eating my body weight in food, which was another financial blow.
Over the weekend I guiltily relied a lot on my credit card, because I didn’t want to be the one unable to buy a round of drinks. But we all know credit cards can be dangerous territory.
George explained: ‘Self-restraint is key. Training your brain into believing there is a limit on what you can use for each outgoing is one way of avoiding dipping into money that was put aside or using any credit cards you may have.
‘Credit cards can be dangerous, especially for those who struggle to save money. Interest rates can be crippling for many and can lead to serious money problems down the road.’
A spokesperson from Quidco added: ‘If you’re savvy then your credit card can work in your favour. Many credit cards offer points on every purchase which can then be redeemed into vouchers to spend on the high street.’
Outgoings: Too much to admit
Morale: At the start of the week 10/10, until the weekend. But memories are priceless, right?
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Day 8: Monday came around far too quickly, and guiltily the week of successful meal prepping before did not last long. So, when lunch time came around I made sure my lunch was under £5, which is hard to do in the city.
A common fear when counting the pennies is we will miss out on days or nights out. But that’s not the case. Although lunch and travel cut into my account, I still managed to enjoy an evening out without spending a penny thanks to my Cineworld Unlimited pass, which proved to be a life saver. Free night out it was.
Outgoings: £34 for travel and lunch
Day 9: It often takes a couple of days for your bank account to sync and catch up with all your spending. So, when I reluctantly checked my account my jaw dropped. Somehow I was left with VERY little to spend. Panic. Panic. Panic. I had no choice but to be rigorous and cut back where possible.
TIP: Tinned food is a lifesaver. With spare three beans, tuna and sweetcorn in the cupboards, and some veg in the fridge, I rustled up a nutritious three bean salad – proof you don’t always have to live off pasta or sandwiches when on a budget.
Day 10: With little preparation under my belt I somehow managed to pull off another zero-spend day after rustling up a very swift lunch. I attended the new launch of the Galaxy dark chocolate, which meant dinner was covered, and (another bonus) the PR company arranged our taxis to and from the event.
Day 11: Almost half way through and I hit a slippery slope. After a late night, a couple of beverages, I’ve not meal prepped, and I’m hungry as hell. By the time I got to the office, my stomach was growling – just like a scene from The Little Shop of Horrors. – which meant lunch was excessive and it was snacks galore. Thankfully a night in meant no more splurges from me.
Day 12: I hit a wall and fretted to the max; I hadn’t meal prepped, and with upcoming birthdays, the pennies were dwindling.
I have always been the girl who likes to buy a new outfit for a new occasion, but I had to put my foot down and prioritise my spends.
Then came the gift. Thankfully the shopping centre near the Marie Claire HQ had a sale on and saved my bacon with a corporate discount offering 20% off. I was sold, so out came the credit card.
TIP: Although discounts are a rarity do some research, and ask staff in local stores about any sales or promos. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
Dilusha agreed: ‘Shopping around online, looking at the brochures that come through your door and even utilising loyalty schemes can all help to save money.’
Despite the big dent in my account, I had a little surprise eBay sale to cancel out the day’s spends.I started to feel I could get through this.
Quidco spokesperson insisted having a clear out can make a major difference to your bank balance and mind set. They said: ‘Having a clear out isn’t just good for the mind – it’s good for your pocket, too. With sites and apps like eBay, Shpock and Depop making it easier than ever to sell unwanted items, you can make a small fortune and realign your Feng Shui at the same time.’
‘If you’ve got a driveway as you can rent out your drive for a daily/weekly fee via a number of websites.’
George added: ‘There are plenty of sites that offer cashback out there, including Topcashback. The sites allow you to gain some money back with each of your purchases which can be a godsend when finances are tight.’
Outgoings: Lunch £8.24, including cards (not too shabby), gift £40 instead of £50 (but that was on the credit card so doesn’t quite count), plus leaving drinks for a friend £9 (yes, that’s for one drink *eye roll*).
Out: Technically £57.24
Day 12 and 13: It’s the start of the bank holiday weekend and too many temptations.But after last month’s spending spree I was adamant I was going to stick to my guns, take off Apple Pay, and leave my card at home.
With Christening preparation on the cards I ruled out Saturday to stay in the kitchen and do some baking, which made for a money-free zone. Sunday’s Christening followed suit with food on the table I was sorted. Although I may have made a little Topshop purchase.
Day 14: After a very savvy weekend I used May Bank Holiday to meal prep like a mad woman for the week ahead. With just four working days this week I made a very rigid shopping list to help budget, although there were temptations when every aisle makes your mouth water. I ventured to Aldi after hearing rave reviews about how affordable everything was, and £10 later I had all the ingredients to make a few healthy lunches.
Dilusha insists being mindful when we shop is vital, because supermarkets and fashion retailers are very clever with their product placement to draw you in.
The expert explained: ‘Avoid the ends of aisles where deals and offers can usually be found. Look up and down the shelves; products typically at eye level are the most expensive.
‘Don’t be afraid to buy reduced products; the packaging may suggest the food item needs to be eaten that day, but that’s usually not the case, the sell-by and use-by dates are merely guidance. What’s more, you can freeze food to use at a later date.’
Outgoings: £10 on my food shop. Nailed it.
Day 15: A new working week meant the Oyster top up was looming. After whacking my remaining £30, I felt slightly uneasy, but I had to remind myself I’ve meal prepped and pay day is just a week away – I can do this. Thankfully a savvy eBay purchase left me quids in again and took a little bit of the pressure off (especially after treating myself to an outfit on the weekend).
Admittedly I cancelled some plans this week and rescheduled for pay day. Boring – I know, but the fear got the better of me.
Day 16: Following on from Monday’s meal prepping I was ready for the day ahead. Although I have been tempted to leave my card at home to stop any temptations, I didn’t – just in case of an emergency (she said). A night out with a friend in the evening I kept in the planner, although The Fear hit me in the run up, just in case I did splash the cash.
Day 17: Admittedly meal prepping works wonders on your bank balance, but it doesn’t do any favours for satisfying your palette. After eating leftover dinner from a couple of nights ago for lunch I found myself craving all sorts of tasty treats. But Thursday treats for the office were in order.
Outgoings: £7 – small price to pay for tooth decay!
Day 18: The end is near. As much as I wanted to treat myself to a delish Leon, I refrained. With an early start on Saturday a night in for me with a Jo Loves candle, face mask and trashy TV was just what I needed. Overall, a week of budgeting well done.
Day 19 and Day 21: Despite being in credit after this week of being super thrifty, a girly day of wedding dress fittings (not for me) inevitably led to brunch and a lot of food. With my sister and mum in tow, I was conscious of the burning hole in my purse as I wanted to do my fair share of treats for them too, without the embarrassment of hitting the ‘insufficient funds’ phase.
Outgoings:The remaining scraps.
Morale: 2.5/10 – who wants to go to nice events and fear they will overspend?
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Moral of the story
All those #quotesoftheday saying ‘spend your money because you can’t take it with you’, or #ballingonabudget, oh and my favourite ‘champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget’, are all well and good for encouraging us to live our best lives – and proceed to checkout – but it pays the price.
Planning is key when strapped for cash; you have to consider plan meals, days/nights out, and unexpected spends. Admittedly, I didn’t factor in certain expenses, which left me feeling anxious and stressed, and made the process harder than it could have been.
While saving has been a struggle, it was a huge learning curve; not only have I found new things out about myself, but also London living. I’m an ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ kind of girl, and I don’t like to be limited financially. Though London is expensive, there are ways to cut corners.
The unnecessary corner shop runs for snacks stopped, my spontaneous online shops out of boredom were a difficult no no. I started to make a mental note of cheaper options. I also became more thoughtful about how I was spending my free time, and with who; when you don’t have much money you start to prioritise certain people ahead of others, but saying no didn’t always leave me with major FOMO.
Guiltily I dipped into my credit card as a safety net to ensure my social life didn’t take a beating. But most of those purchases could have been avoided, and living on £120 can be done, especially if I factored in travel costs at the start of the month.
Total in: £100
Total out: £61.43 after I deducted the cost of those thrifty sales.
Morale: 4/10 Budgeting is hard, and it made me an anxious wreck worrying I wouldn’t make it to pay day, but it’s doable.
The expectation to be perfect is a curse that plagues the royal women, with Kate Middleton sending the Internet into shock last year for emerging from the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s hospital just hours after Prince Louis’ April birth to pose for photographs. Did I mention she was wearing heels with perfect hair and make up and you could barely see a baby bump?
And that was her third child, with Kate performing an extremely quick turn around and emerging fresh faced with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, too.
This for us ordinary folk is completely unfathomable – I for one know that when I give birth, I’ll probably have to be wheeled out of the hospital days later in my pyjamas and I certainly won’t expect to lose my baby bump for at least a year.
When Meghan Markle was announced to be bypassing the traditional photoshoot on the day of the birth, women across the world applauded. Why should you have to parade in front of a throng of photographers and pretend you feel incredible when you just want to curl up with your newborn?
Instead, the Duchess of Sussex chose to step out with Prince Harry two days after little Archie’s arrival, and as the couple walked towards the cameras, I sighed in relief.
Don’t get me wrong – Meghan looked stunning, and she even donned heels for the occasion – but she also looked entirely relatable.
Her choice of dress accentuated her baby bump and she showed off her pregnancy curves, her hair and make up was very natural and she and Harry made no secret of the fact that they were exhausted.
Bottom line – they were completely relatable, coming across as new parents rather than royals.
While on the outside, Meghan has simply stepped outside with her newborn, she has actually done a great deal more – breaking down the antiquated expectations around postpartum body image.
With brides and grooms dishing out the honours to friends and families ahead of their big day, a lot of people in the wedding party are left questioning what their roles actually involve.
For the bride a maid of honour – or matron of honour as some refer to it – is considered the chief bridesmaid, so the pressure is on to fulfil all the duties necessary; plan a hen party to impress (not embarrass) the bride, and be at her beck and call for the months running up to the big day. But there’s more.
I have never been a bridesmaid, or maid of honour (obvs), but last year my sister said those all important words ‘Will you be my maid of honour?’ After I squealed, screamed and sobbed (and obviously said yes) a sudden fear enveloped me because I don’t know what I’m meant to do, or plan (aside from the hen) or if I’m meant to give a speech on her special day – if I do I’m going to be a blubbery mess and not get a word out, and most importantly I d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ can’t let her down.
I spoke exclusively to wedding guru Sarah Allard – who is the Editor of Hitched – as well as, professional bridesmaid Tiffany Wright, and the Marie Claire team to get the top tips for being the best MOH, and to find out what a maid of honour’s duties really involve; from hen party planning to their role on the day, the speeches to their gifts, and whether brides need to have a maid of honour at all…
Maid of honour duties
The panicked question all maid of honour’s ask themselves is ‘what do I actually need to do?’ Answer: to plan the hen party and be the bride’s support.
Sarah exclusively told us: ‘As the maid of honour, your job is to be the bride’s right-hand woman for anything and everything they need throughout their wedding planning journey.
‘The maid of honour role has always been an important role in weddings. Helping to choose the dress and then organising the hen are the two biggies. The bride is going to have a lot on her plate, so being there to offer advice on the dress, and taking the pain of another event to organise out of her hands will really help her out.
‘Traditionally the maid of honour would spend several days with the bride leading up to the wedding day to make sure she was ready for the wedding. But the rules are a lot more relaxed now.’
Similarly, professional bridesmaid Tiffany Wright insisted communication with the bride is paramount.
She said: ‘The thing I advice maid of honour to do is talk to the bride as soon as possible and find out what is important to her when it comes to the duties of the maid of honour. Some brides might just want the emotional support whilst others want practical help, so make sure you know where you stand from the beginning.’
Aside from organising the hen party and bridesmaids, as well as helping the bride on her special day, whether it’s holding her dress when she goes to the loo or her bouquet as she signs the wedding certificate, you are also a moral adviser listening to all the bride’s woes and dilemmas.
Tiffany added: ‘Although the most of the bridesmaids probably want to get involved in the planning too, it’s huge job to set up the bridesmaid WhatsApp group, book flights, arrange games. You are the sos girl when things go wrong.
‘On the day you have to look after the brides bouquet when the bride and groom go through their vows. If you have your own bouquet hand it to one of the other bridesmaids to hold.
‘But, most importantly, make sure the brides eats and drinks (water!) no one wants a brides to pass out from dehydration or lack of food on the day so keep an eye on her and check she is eating and drinking.’
TIPS: Where do we start?
Sarah advised: ‘Start by organising a brunch for just the two of you, bring a notebook and start brainstorming some ideas with her – what kind of hen do she might like? When is the wedding? What is the colour scheme?
‘By the time the big day comes around, all the planning will be done, so on the day it’s all about being there to support the bride. One job that is paramount on the day, but often forgotten about, is to straighten the train of the bride’s dress when you get to the front so try to remember that – it’ll bug her in all the photos if you don’t!’
Tiffany added: ‘Make sure you have a list of all of the wedding vendors and contact numbers of anyone important incase anything goes wrong.’
Maid of honour gifts
Maid of honour gifts are subject to each bride, and will depend on their budget. Some may gift their bridal party when they dish out the maid of honour title, others may give their MOH a token present on the day or on the eve of the wedding day, while others may gift something post-wedding to show their appreciation, but there are some brides who may wish to do all three – if they are feeling generous.
Sarah said: ‘It’s tradition for the bride to give her maid of honour and bridesmaids gifts too.’
Marie Claire’s Beauty Editor, Katie Thomas, shared her bridal party gifts advice. She said: ‘Buying your bridesmaids gifts is really lovely. I bought them each a pair of earrings to wear on the day and some pyjamas to wear the night before.’
But does the maid of honour give a gift? Again, this is down to each individual.
Sarah said: ‘If the bride has asked you to pay for your dress you don’t have to. But if you still want to give her gift, then focus on something more sentimental and a small token rather than splashing the cash, such as a framed photo from your favourite holiday or a bag full of goodies for the morning after the wedding.’
Maid of honour speeches
It is most common the father of the bride, best man and even the groom perfect a speech on the newlyweds wedding day.
However, it has become more common for the maid of honour or a bridesmaid to say a few words too. As daunting as they may be it’s your time to celebrate your bond with them. After all, if the groomsman can brag about the groom, so why can’t the maid of honour do the same?
Sarah explained: ‘We’re seeing more and more maids of honour give speeches on the big day. It’s such a brilliant way to celebrate your friendship and the ultimate way to show her how much she means to you.’
But professional bridesmaid, Tiffany, has insisted it is a conversation you need to have with the bride.
She said: ‘It didn’t used to be tradition but recently more maid of honours are giving speeches. Ask the bride if it is something she would like you to do.
‘Don’t try and compete with the best man. Best man’s speeches are renowned for being risky so keep it classy with yours.’
TIPS: What should the speech include?
‘Remember that while the story of you both getting locked out of halls during your first year of uni is still hilarious for the two of you, not everyone in the room will want to hear 20 minutes of inside jokes. Instead, focus on a couple of anecdotes (how you met or a special milestone you share), and a poignant message for your friend. I love the idea of writing a poem’, said Sarah.
Tiffany advised: ‘Explain to everyone why the bride is your best friend, remind her of anecdotes when you were younger and tell her why her groom is lucky to have her. Sentimentality goes a long way in a MOH speech.’
Maid of honour dresses
What dress the maid of honour should wear is a common question every bride wants to know, as well as who buys them.
Sarah clears this up. She said: ‘It’s really down to what the bride would like on her day. She may want every bridesmaid in a different dress or prefer to have you all in the same, but it’s really up to her and the vision she has for her day, as well as her budget.
‘If you’re worried about your friend choosing something you don’t like, sit down with her beforehand to discuss her ideas and see if you can agree on some styles you both like and that you feel comfortable wearing. If you have a dress you really don’t like, think about how you might be able to alter or adjust it, and then choose the right moment to explain to your friend that you’d like to make some small changes to feel more comfortable.’
There can be a lot of dress fittings for the bride, her bridal party and the maid of honour too, but does the MOH have to go to EVERY fitting?
Sarah added: ‘If the bride asks you to! But if not, it’s not essential for you to be there so long as she is happy and confident to go on her own or with her mum.’
Tiffany has revealed dresses can be styled in different ways, which can suit the whole bridal party.
She said: ‘Fabulous bridesmaid dresses out there than can be worn in numerous different ways, so if you do want to stand out, suggest that you all wear the same dress but that yours is worn slightly differently.’
This is the main role the maid of honour is given the responsibility of planning, but where to start? There’s pressure to please the bride, the stress of who to invite so not to upset the bride, as well as friends of the soon-to-be newlyweds, the fear the bride won’t enjoy it, so there needs to be a happy medium between fun but not too rowdy, and affordable, as well as drama free.
Sarah shared her nuggets of wisdom to make the whole process stress free. She said: ‘It really depends how well you know the other bridesmaids. If you’re all part of the same friendship group and you’ve planned things together before, then it can be easier to plan.
‘However, if you don’t know the other bridesmaids it can sometimes become tricky when everyone has a different opinion of what the bride would like. Ask the bride for a few bullet points of what she would and wouldn’t like before you get started, so you always have a point of reference to go back to.’
Katie added: ‘The hen party always reveals who puts the most effort in…it’s always very telling! There’s always a bit of drama. I thought I was going to completely bypass it, but I think its unavoidable.’
But when the hen do has been planned the responsibilities continue. During the actual party the maid of honour has the additional responsibility of being in charge of the kitty.
Tiffany said: ‘It usually falls to the maid of honour to be in charge of the kitty and collecting any money needed for the hen do.’
TIPS: ‘My top tips for planning the hen would be to start planning it as early as you possibly can. This way you can give the guests an idea of the cost immediately and manage expectations of whether it will be in the UK or abroad, and there is time for payments towards the total cost to be spread out and more manageable for those attending, especially if they have other holidays too’ Sarah advised.
With all the hen party planning – do not forget to factor in the bride, who the bridal party pay for.
Sarah continued: ‘Remember that traditionally, you need to add in the cost of the bride, so make sure you give the guests the costs up front – people will be annoyed if you keep adding more as the hen gets closer.’
Tiffany added: ‘Make sure you arrange a hen that THE BRIDE would like, not one that the bridesmaids want. If you bride has told you she doesn’t want penis straws and strippers then respect her and stay away from this.
‘Try and personalise a hen do to your bride. If your bride loves the countryside and good food then book a gorgeous cottage and bring in a chef’, or even opt for a zen do.
How to choose your maid of honour
Picking one person to be your maid of honour can be a huge dilemma for some brides, who fear they will offend the rest of their bridesmaids with their choice.
Katie shared her tips for picking her bridal party, and we are so here for it. She advised: ‘I didn’t have a maid of honour as, to be honest, the whole asking people to be bridesmaids is awkward enough. I have so many best friends whom I love equally I didn’t like the idea of asking one to be top dog.
‘But choosing my bridesmaids was the easiest and toughest thing I have ever done. Easy because I knew exactly who I wanted by my side, but tough because I wanted around nine people. I’m not keen on lots of bridesmaids so I had to narrow it down, which broke my heart a little. However, I don’t think anyone would have questioned my choices.’
Marie Claire’s Fashion Editor, Penny Goldstone, said: ‘My maid of honour was my sister, which made it an easy choice, rather than picking a best friend within a group of friends. It meant she knew me best too, so was a great organiser, but also that I had that sister relationship with her that meant I didn’t mind telling her if there was something I didn’t like. She was just very good at taking stress off me.’
While some may opt for siblings or their best friend, others feel obliged to return the favour and choose someone to take the role because they were there maid of honour for their wedding, or because some are simply more savvy and organised (we’re not joking!)
Katie added: ‘I have one friend who chose her bridesmaids based on who was the most organised and would be able to throw the best hen do and be the most help in the lead up to the day.’
However, some brides may want to buck the trend and not single out one person as their maid of honour, and will stick with a group of bridesmaids to share the load, while others may even give the title to a male friend.
TIP: ‘Always stick to who you want. Don’t have someone because you feel you have to. Just because someone asked you, doesn’t mean you have to have them.’
I’ve always considered myself a mindful person when it comes to the environment. I’m vegetarian, I try to be conscious of the origins of my food, I take public transport as much as possible and I’m an avid recycler.
But, if I’m being honest, I’ve never delved into what actually happens to my rubbish or recycling after I chuck it into the respective bins.
So, I took on a challenge to live without plastic for a week and the statistics and realities of what I learnt was shocking. And, although I may never be ‘zero waste,’ I can certainly put a dent in how much I’m contributing to landfill and that’s a start, isn’t it? Here’s what I learnt…
No one is recycling enough
As a nation, we only recycle 14% of recyclable plastic. And around 50% of the plastic we do recycle is never actually recycled because it’s not been properly disposed of. I admit I never looked at my local council’s recycling policy before this week so was guilty of putting things like plastic bags in my green lid wheelie bin (rather than at a specific plastic bag collection bin) and being completely confused about what I should do with bubblewrap (which can jam recycling machines if not put in the right place.)
Our coffee consumption is getting out of control
Think about how much coffee you drink every day. Now, think about how many cups you chuck in the bin. Yeah, I quickly realised that it all adds up, with 7 million coffee cups thrown away in the UK every day – which adds up to 25,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste every year, to be exact. So, I got a bamboo forever cup instead since bamboo is the world’s most sustainable crop. And, it’s worth noting that coffee shops don’t even bat an eyelid when you hand it over for them to fill.
London consumes the largest amount of plastic bottled water in the UK
I’m guilty of it. I constantly buy multipacks of bottled water to bring me to work every day. I liked the convenience of it but considering that by 2050, there will be more plastic bottles in the oceans than fish, we really need to fix this. Plastic bottles make up 10% of all litter in the Thames, with ¾ of the fish inside consuming it, and considering how much I care about animals, these stats really hit home for me.
You can’t really recycle plastic bags
It takes the average plastic shopping bag 100 years to decompose and that’s only if it’s exposed to sunlight and air (which landfill rubbish often isn’t) so that plastic bag you chucked in the bin last week will probably outlast us all. So, now I have a ‘dirty’ tote bag that I put shoes in, a ‘fresh food’ tote bag for any fruit and veg and a ‘dry’ tote bag for everything else.
The sea floor is pretty much plastic
Considering 12.2 million tonnes of plastic litter enter the marine environment each year, it’s no wonder that 94% of the plastic rubbish that enters the ocean ends up on the sea floor. It’s not realistic for me to think I’ll never buy another plastic bottle of water again but I can make sure I only bin it in a recycling bin and never in one that’s overflowing (as these will just end up blowing away)
Plastic is seriously unhealthy for you
Chemicals like BPA and phthalates are used to make plastics and resins and when plastic is heated up (which can happen if your plastic bottle is in the sun for example), these chemicals can leech into the contents. And, since they’re known endocrine disruptors, they can cause a whole load of health issues so I’ve traded in for a glass and stainless steel as they’re both natural elements so are free from chemicals and wholly recyclable.
Plastic cutlery and straws aren’t ever recycled
I’m normally the first person to choose a plastic fork rather than a metal one. But, as it’s too small to recycle, it just adds to our ever-growing landfill. There is, however, a way around it. If you store it in a plastic takeaway container and recycle the whole thing, that works – but otherwise, just choose metal cutlery or invest in a stainless steel foldable spork! And, after finding out that the UK and US use almost 550 million straws a day – most of which end up in the ocean or take 200 years to break down into toxic particles – I’m all about refusing the straw, or using reusable stainless steel, glass and bamboo straws (I got mine from eco straws.)
Heartbroken by what I learnt we’re doing to the environment and wildlife (as well as to ourselves), I finally saw just how unnecessary so much of my disposable plastic use was so, not to sound like a poster but really, it’ amazing how much a difference we can all make by refusing, reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling everything we can.
‘The backlash against Dr Bouman is a not-so-subtle reminder that male scientists who make history gain recognition, while their female counterparts are painted as frauds,’ says Marie Claire’s Jenny Proudfoot
You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Dr Sarah Bouman this month. The 29-year-old computer scientist was credited for her work developing code resulting in the capturing of the first-ever image of a black hole.
The photo posted by MIT showed Dr Bouman at her computer, captioned: ‘Here’s the moment when the first black hole was processed, from the eyes of researcher Katie Bouman.’
Unsurprisingly, the groundbreaking photo went viral, with Katie congratulated by everyone from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Nancy Pelosi for her work on the project, as well as her ‘inspiring women and girls with STEM dreams’.
A woman at the front of a huge scientific breakthrough getting the credit she deserves – 2019 was looking good.
Katie was the first to tell everyone that it was a team effort, insisting that ‘no one algorithm or person made this image,’ but with the internet being what it is, the online backlash started and within hours, Dr Bouman had been vilified.
Yes, just when we thought we were making progress, here’s a not-so-subtle reminder that when male scientists make history, they gain recognition, but when female scientists make history, they are painted as frauds.
Within hours, Bouman’s Wikipedia page was marked for deletion and there were videos on YouTube dissecting how much work she had actually contributed to the project. People speculated that it was her colleague Andrew Chael that was actually responsible for the breakthrough, with Katie getting to be the face of the project for the sole reason that she was a woman.
To those people I say, how dare you? This is blatant sexism.
We need more women in STEM, not just for diversity but for scientific innovations. But it’s no wonder there aren’t more women in the field if we publicly vilify the ones who succeed.
Your tweets stripping the recognition away from Dr Bouman will have been seen by young girls across the globe, deterring them from pursuing science and technology, and changing the future for the worse.
Andrew Chael was quick to defend his colleague, taking to Twitter to post:
‘So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging software library to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and friend Katie Bouman. Stop.’
He continued: ‘While I appreciate the congratulations on a result that I worked hard on for years, if you are congratulating me because you have a sexist vendetta against Katie, please go away and reconsider your priorities in life’.
In my opinion, even a development as huge as the first black hole photo doesn’t count as progress if it means regressing on something as important as gender equality.
In search of some serious Michelle Obama inspiration, Team Marie Claire went along with Live Nation and experienced it for ourselves.
The atmosphere was electric and this writer isn’t embarrassed to admit that she cried early on – a mix of the female power ballads, montages of Michelle’s life and excited Mexican waves rippling the crowd.
Once the 55-year-old started talking however, you could have heard a pin drop, with every audience member on the edge of their seat to hear her recall everything from her first meeting with Barack to how her father raised her to be an equal, teaching us all life lessons along the way.
Here were our most inspirational takeaways from Michelle Obama’s UK tour…
‘Hope takes patience whereas fear is immediate’
‘It’s easy to go low. It’s easy to stoop and to lead with fear – that’s one of the easiest ways to operate. But going high means you’re taking a longterm view. You have to think about whether the words you’re about to utter will help or hurt. And you have to be really systematic and strategic and thoughtful about that. Hope takes patience, whereas fear is immediate.’
Hard work goes a very long way
‘If you don’t take control of your message and your image and your voice, someone else will do that. That was an important lesson for me to learn. People were literally trying to reshape my voice. I could have gone home and said, “I quit – this is too hard”, but I saw it as a challenge, adding to the underestimation that started when I was in second grade. Every step of the way, there was always someone there telling me that I was talking too loud or dreaming too big. I learnt that I could either succumb to it and wither away or I could become steely and say “I’ll show you”. So I did that. I said “Ok, you don’t think I’m worthy of being First Lady, you don’t think that I’m smart, you don’t think that I’m strategic, you don’t understand that I love my country – well I’m going to just do the work. I’m going to put my head down and I am going to work hard. I’ll show you.” So I worked my tail off.’
‘We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines’
‘My advice is get to work – don’t be complacent and don’t become so cynical that you just turn off because democracy never stops just because you get cynical and emotional about it. It keeps going. So we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines.’
Anyone can make global change
‘A lot of young people think that change only happens on a big stage, that you have to be President, the Queen, hold some high position or be wealthy, and some of that comes from the fact that we only hear limited stories of what it means to be a leader. The books that are written about leaders are primarily about rich white men. And so we naturally start thinking that power is what change is because that’s all we know. That’s why telling more stories is important. That’s why sharing more of ourselves is important, because we’ve got to get more images out there in the world of what it means to be human and make change.’
‘It’s our job to do a better job’
‘There’s no one way to get things right. There are many ways to be human and do it well. There’s no one religion, no one race, there’s no one who has a monopoly on kindness and compassion and truth. And I get emotional when I think about it because it just hurts when we don’t get that and we hurt each other over this kind of stuff. We have an obligation not to lose faith in the possibility of being better – we have to do it for our kids. They deserve a world that is full of hope. And when I think about the youngest of our kids and the kids in this audience, they’re just so full of promise. They’re not jaded, they’re not racist, they haven’t been harmed in any way – they come into this word pure. We fill them up with all that stuff, it’s not the natural way humans are meant to be. So, it’s our job to do a better job, and give our kids a sense of what’s possible.’
‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice’
‘We have to understand that as Martin Luther King said – my husband uses this quote often – “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice, and it bends because we help it bend”. So that’s my advice – it’s time to do some bending. It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves. We have to pay attention, we have to be engaged, we can’t take our rights and liberties for granted because if we don’t vote, somebody else will, and that will be the direction that our country will go in. This is still in our control. This is still within our power.’
‘Change is hard but you have to keep pushing’
‘Yes there are bumps in the road, but that’s what change is. Change is hard. No one ever said it would be easy and we’re just in the throws of the uneasy part of change. But we have to keep pushing. We have no other choice.’
‘We have to learn to be more empathetic’
‘It’s almost a bit unreasonable for us as a world to expect change to be without fear for some. And in truth, we have to learn to be a bit more empathetic because there are people who are afraid because the world is changing so fast. And their fears are real. We may not agree with them but some people don’t know where their place will be in this new and changing society. “Where will I work?” “Will I have a job?” “Will I become invisible?” People are afraid of that change and why wouldn’t they be? But we have changed before.’
‘It’s all going to be OK’
‘This may seem like a dark chapter, but there are highs and lows. And yes, we are in a dark place right now, but we’ve been darker. And we will come out on the other side better and stronger’.