Breaking News: Missing Manchester mother found

 

During a newsday for a Journalism Practice module I took at University I was assigned to one of the biggest stories of the day. A mother of two from Manchester had been missing for two days following her works Christmas party at Sugar Buddah on Deansgate Locks. Her family and friends had put out an urgent, desperate appeal on Facebook to help find her safe and well following her disappearance.

The behaviour was deemed ‘unlike Louise’ who was described as a ‘loving and committed mother’ which sparked high concern amongst those close to her. I traveled to the place she was last seen, Sugar Buddah to record an as live to raise awareness of her disappearance with the aim of interviewing the bar owners and also her family who were out looking for her on the day.

Once I was there I began to film my as live and my colleague went and spoke to her loved ones who were gathering outside the bar next door handing out leaflets and deciding on a plan of action to start their search party. They had stated to my colleague, they would be unable to give us an interview as they wanted to focus their attention on finding her and were also too emotional to speak about it on camera at the time.

Once we had began filming, a member of the search party, Louise’s family friend, Dominic Fleming, came over to us to ask what it was that we were filming. After explaining to him what we were doing he revealed to us, exclusively that Louise had returned home and she was currently on the phone to her sister. He explained they had no idea where she had been or in what state she was in just that she was home and alive.

We had to act quickly as we knew it would be a matter of time before larger press outlets found out she had been found so we called back into the newsroom and told the sub editor to get the information we had found online immediately. You can read the story here.

Following this we refilmed my as-live into a breaking news segment and recorded it once again on my mobile phone to send back to the newsdesk to be put into our 10am bullet in.

I am extremely proud of this piece of work as broadcast isn’t my chosen pathway and being on camera isn’t something I am overly confident with. (This might be obvious.) However we managed to get it done when time was of the essence and secured the breaking news ahead of the M.E.N.

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Veganism and bodybuilding

It can take years to build a body you want, years of commitment, years of gruelling exercise, sacrifices and pushing yourself beyond your limits to achieve your goals. But as with most things in life, anything worth having usually takes a great deal of commitment and self-control to obtain.

No one has ever pretended you can change your body over night or even in a week and it is solely through determination and dedication, as with anything, that you can achieve. Any of these fad diets that can be found scattered around the internet or in glossy magazines can often market themselves as a ‘quick fix’ but none of them demonstrate long-term sustainable results. It’s been proven time and time again that the only real way to change your body is to change your lifestyle; spend time in the gym and eat a balanced, healthy diet. The same is never more true, than when looking at body building. Body building is a sport that sees both men and women, train intensively in the gym consistently with the aim of building a well sculpted, muscular body. There are dedicated competitions which require both physical and mental discipline from competitors to show the best version of themselves against their peers as they are judged by industry professionals.

Not only is there intense training involved in becoming a bodybuilder there is a strict diet that must be followed to help build lean muscle, and this is where it gets interesting. A standard body builders diet is based on high protein intake. It is recommended to consume more protein than you need to help grow muscle, the suggested intake ranges from 0.8g-1.2g of protein per pound of body mass per day. That’s a lot of protein to consume in 24 hours. Here at VLIFE, we want to know how it’s possible for someone to achieve this level of protein intake on a plant-based diet.

Of course it’s not just about the protein, it’s about achieving a long-term maintainable lifestyle whilst not putting yourself at any health risks and more than that, getting enjoyment from what it is you’re working towards.  The key to success in this strict diet is food preparation; planning and preparing meals in advance. This allows for you to get the right nutrition at the right times to help progress towards your goals, it can be challenging but worthwhile when done correctly. Nathan Umagash, 23, is a bodybuilder from Liverpool, he became vegan after discovering and researching the impact the meat and dairy industry place on not only the animals involved but also the environment. We caught up with him to find out about his journey and how he finds time to prepare his meals, train hard in the gym and have an active social life.

He explained, ‘I got into body building when I was about 16-years-old, it was more of something to do at the time but I take it more seriously now. It’s a good way to stay focused and keep your health intact. Dieting with the sole purpose of losing weight can get pretty tedious and hard to sustain, so body building gave me a purpose and encouraged me to keep my diet clean. I’m vegan because I chose to be. In my faith, a lot of people don’t eat meat for religious reasons so going vegan was just one step further for me. Of course I have friends who like to go to Nando’s after the gym and refuel, but things like that I just don’t indulge in. Not because I can’t but because I don’t want to. From being 13 I had started feeling ill when I ate foods which contained dairy so I started to look into what could be causing it. That then lead me onto vegan websites which is where my diet progressed from.’

When asked how he manages to consume enough protein to spike energy levels and promote muscle growth he added, ‘you can get vegan protein powder which doesn’t contain dairy that I have with water but also from foods such as: egg substitutes, lentils, rice cakes, spinach and oats.  I’ll usually have a pre workout shake which helps raise your energy just before training and this really helps to get me through those heavy sessions. Other than that I take amino acids which help to keep both my body and mind focused.’

Nathan aims to get to the gym six days a week which is slightly higher than the average body builder prefers, ‘every body builder is different’ he told us, ‘some prefer three to four times a week if they have other commitments but this tends to be reflected in the physique they hold. A standard training session for me would include up to 12 different exercises depending on the time I have to train. When I first started I probably wouldn’t train as often as I do now and that’s because my recovery time was a little longer than others. I used to get myself really wound up about that. But since I’ve developed my body has got used to it and I am able to train heavier, and more often which is great for me.’

Nathan went on to explain how his cheat meals are limited, but he makes sure to indulge once a week to keep him hungry for success in the gym. He professes to feeling passionate about the lifestyle choices he has made and will do anything necessary to help him on the road to success. When asked if he would consider competing in an industry competition he said, ‘I would consider it definitely. I have considered it. Competition prep is a lot different to off season dieting and the side effects of completely cutting carbs could be a struggle. I think it all boils down to how much you want it and how mentally strong you are, more than physically. But I do think I could do really well on stage if I put my mind to it, my drive to stay healthy and feel good about myself would pull me through, some may call it vanity but after you spend so much time committing to the gym, once you start to see real results it becomes an addiction. There are worse things to be addicted to though.’

Finally, we asked the 23-year-old if he could share any tips for being a successful body builder whilst being a vegan, he explained, ‘it is so important to do your research! Make sure you have supplemented what you will miss and make sure you are 100 per cent committed to the vegan lifestyle because it isn’t without it’s challenges. Many people have started and failed because they haven’t planned out an achievable exercise programme or planned their meals in advance and that can make it harder to motivate yourself to keep going. Expect it to be challenging at first but it does get easier as your body has time to adjust.’

Being a vegan shouldn’t hold you back from achieving your goals, nothing should. Nathan is living, lifting proof that your body can achieve anything, it’s just your mind you need to convince. There are so many inspirational and empowering members of the vegan community that ‘being vegan’ isn’t an excuse anymore. You’ve got this!

Review: Strippd vegan lean protein powder

At a glance, you could be excused for assuming that Strippd Protein is just like any other supplement product out there but the new kid on the block has so much more to offer than just your standard protein.

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For starters, Strippd, is marketed as a luxury product aimed at women of all ages and claims to be different than all the others on the market which are ‘created with the bodybuilding male in mind then popped into a pink tub in the hope of appealing to females.’ Which is why when creating their brand, Strippd, ‘started from scratch’ and created a protein powder that gives women both what they want and what they need.

The powders come in a 490g tub which includes a scoop for measuring out your perfect serving of Strippd. Each tub of lean vegan protein contains 14 servings and there are three flavours available: vanilla, chocolate and mixed berry.

I chose to take a look at the chocolate flavour to see if it could satisfy my cravings and that it did. I’m sure you, like me, know the hardship of trying to find a vegan protein powder that not only does its job but actually tastes nice but this one actually does. Hallelujah! Not just nice either, the powder, when mixed with the recommended 250ml of cold water has an almost creamy taste to it and even better than just that, doesn’t come with the disgusting and off-putting texture I have found in a lot of similar products on the market.

You may have heard a lot of rumours about protein powder supplements and what they can do to your body, my favourite and perhaps one of the most popular being that you shouldn’t take them unless you want to bulk up. Wrong. Protein is what our bodies need to help repair cells and create new ones and it is important we get enough of it. As the most common form of protein is found in meat, fish and dairy products it is more difficult to get the right amount of protein on a plant based diet or if you are lactose intolerant. That’s why protein powders such as this one can be amazing for us as a source of protein.

For those of you looking at taking this supplement to enhance your workout routine it is recommended as a post work out drink, mixed with cold water, around 30 minutes after exercise. This allows the protein to reach your muscles at an accelerated rate and speed up the muscle repair process.

And for those of you just experimenting with the protein powder hype you can add yours to breakfast smoothies or porridge oats for a morning boost. I tried both of these options and I wasn’t disappointed. I felt considerably more alert for longer when I’d had my daily dose of Strippd and even noticed my appetite had been curbed making it easier to resist snacking throughout the day.  The convenience of the shaker and the fact you just take Strippd with water made it so easy to get your protein fix on the go, something else I loved about this product.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to show this powder as the all singing all dancing gift from god product to end all of your dietary woes overnight. Like anything there are some features of this supplement which aren’t as great as others. The size of the tub for example. 490g may sound a lot but with recommended serving sizes of 35g up to 3 times a day you’ll be lucky if one pot lasts you a week. As well as this, more emphasis, I feel, should have been put on what can happen to you if you exceed the recommended intake. Your body can demonstrate laxative effects which you don’t need me to tell you won’t be pretty.

The range of vegan lean protein powders are made of only natural ingredients and are a pea and hemp based protein with natural sweeteners.  Strippd also sell a variety of whey protein powders (not vegan friendly unfortunately) as well as glow capsules, multi vitamins and trim and tone capsules designed to complement their powders. The products are available to buy online directly from their website Stripped-uk.com and at most large Boots stores. The powders retail for £20 per tub with the capsules costing £15.

 

 

Free running around your town

WITH almost 2,500 ASBO’s issued in the UK in the past 10 years’ communities across the country are struggling now more than ever to find new and innovative ways to keep youths off the streets. In the North West, park tour and Free Running team ‘Street Monkeys’ are providing an active alternative to more traditional and outdated youth clubs.

Free running, also known as urban acrobatics is described as the art of expressing yourself without limitation of movement and is a skill which requires fantastic athletic ability, strength and composure. The phenomenon has escalated through YouTube and developed into a popular hobby and sporting activity particularly but not exclusively in young boys.

Street Monkey’s was established in 2010 with the simple aim of ‘inspiring young people.’ The team has now gained over 5, 000 likes on Facebook and 2,000 subscribers on YouTube and is growing daily, finding new ways to engage with and appeal to a young audience. The team hold sessions four days a week, some of these are structured, coached sessions and some are freestyle providing a variety for beginners as well as being sure to cater for more experienced free runners.maxresdefault.jpg

Team leader, Sean Delaney says, ‘When I first started out with the Street Monkey’s I’d never have thought that I could help so many kids. Free running is something I have always loved doing and when I was a kid there was never anything quite like this to get involved with. It’s great now to be able to do this as my job and to see all the kids I work with develop and really enjoy what they are doing just as much as I do.

‘It’s far more than just the running and jumping off walls that people seem to think it is. I consider it an art almost and I don’t think there’s enough recognition of sport as an art form. You have to be strong and focused all of the time, it’s not just something anyone could come and do. There are some critics who see this sport as a little bit anti-social but as I’ve said that is down to a lack of awareness of what it is we are doing and what we are all about. It’s almost the exact opposite of what we stand for. We are more than just a team, we’re a community, the team keeps the kids active and doing something they enjoy and I don’t see a thing wrong with that.’

Sean explains there are many benefits in becoming involved with the Street Monkeys and just what can be achieved when young people feel as though they are a part of something. He explains, ‘probably one of the best things about free running is that it isn’t about the competition. It’s not like a game of football where there are winners and losers and people getting aggressive. It’s all about self-improvement and challenging yourself to be the best you can be whilst working as part of a team for each other. I think that’s a really important thing to teach these youngsters, that not everything has to be a competition.’

Earlier this year Street Monkeys opened an academy offering the team the opportunity to work towards training becoming coaches. Sean continues, ‘We opened the academy to give our members even more opportunities. The response has been great to the classes so I just felt the time was right to expand and now I can offer these kids the opportunity to not only do something they enjoy but also work towards something valuable. There are now opportunities in place for more advanced members to train to become coaches to younger classes, working towards qualifications and building their skill-set whilst doing something they are passionate about. I think it’s great.’

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The average age of the team is 16 but due to high demand and interest in what the Street Monkeys have to offer the team last month began structured beginner’s classes for under 12’s. Not only is this bringing in the younger Street Monkeys but also allowing the more senior members to practice their coaching skills.

Sean added, ‘It’s really good for us to get some younger kids involved in the team, the growth we are experiencing is not only good news for us but for the sport as a whole, showing more recognition and promising a bright future ahead.’

The teams YouTube channel features several videos choreographed and edited in the style of music videos showing the creativity and athleticism that goes into free running. This has led to the team being invited to work on a new upcoming project with Sony Music, which leader Delaney describes as ‘a huge opportunity and a big achievement’ for his squad.

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Daniel Worthington, a 16-year-old Street Monkey explains, ‘I never rea;;y enjoyed PE at school and I didn’t really do anything at the weekends apart from watch TV or play Xbox but I joined Street Monkeys a year ago with my friends and now I’ve met some of the best people who will probably be good friends for life.

‘Free running has taught me, in life, don’t rush anything you have all the time in the world and that it’s really important to always remember where your head is. I think it’s important to focus on what you want to do and how you’re going to do it. Don’t even think of failing as an option just get it done and I think like that about everything now. The group have been chatting about a trip abroad next year and it just shows how it’s loads better to be a part of a team rather than standing around on street corners. Street Monkeys has helped me achieve so much in a short amount of time and I just really enjoy what it’s all about.’

Despite the fact that free running is quite unheard of or disapproved by some people it’s hard to argue against the work Sean is putting in with his team and that in doing so he is providing young people in the North West with opportunities they may never have had elsewhere. By introducing free running to younger generations it’s difficult to imagine just what the future may hold in this sport which continues to grow.

From the club to the cells, a night with Lancashire’s binge drinkers

BINGE drinking is amongst the nations biggest problems. Whether that be amongst young or old people, people from the South or from the North. It’s a problem everywhere. Although some research figures suggest that binge drinking is becoming less of a problem it is estimated that the cost of treating alcohol related injuries is within the region of £3 billion per year.

Binge drinking is the term given to excessive drinking of large amounts with the intention of getting drunk on a regular basis. Something which is commonly thought to be a problem exclusive to teenagers, young adults and students due to ever-growing popularity of nightlife in cities and towns across the UK.

North West England has a higher than national average alcohol consumption rate and is home thousands of students. With 40 percent of all A&E admissions relatable to alcohol over consumption. I spoke to Medacs officer Keven Renshaw to find out the strain this issue is putting on the NHS and public services.

Kev works as a Medac and is based in Lancashire covering Preston, Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley and Lancaster in a shift. His main job is to asses whether or not someone who has been arrested is medically fit for questioning and police interview.

‘I used to be an anesthetist nurse on a women’s health unit in a hospital. There you knew what you were expecting and almost all cases were the same and twelve hour shifts went on for what felt like forever. Whereas now you don’t have any briefing of who is going to be brought in and you can’t always be prepared for it either.  There could be a group of kids brought in for binge drinking or an elderly man who’s stabbed his wife and my job is to treat everyone the same.

‘I see a lot of people in the station due to excessive amounts of drinking and what’s even more worrying is that a lot of those people are young people who don’t understand the long term damage they could be doing to their bodies.  I’ve dealt with sixteen, seventeen year olds who have been arrested for being drunk and disorderly who are hysterically crying because they think being arrested means they are going to prison and they are begging me, someone who has little to no power over what happens to them not to tell their parents where they are when they struggle to tell me their own names. Girls are the worst for that and boys are worse for fighting. The girls generally just need time to sober up and calm down before they go in for questioning but with the boys it tends to be more than that. They need full medical treatment sometimes off site before they are in any fit state to be interviewed and they don’t even realize the harm they are doing to themselves by consuming so much alcohol and getting into such violent fights over from what I’ve been told is usually a spilled drink or an accidental shove on a dance floor.’

Medical evidence supports that females are far more vulnerable to the dangers of binge drinking than males due to a lower tolerance of alcohol. Despite this research also suggests that males are far more likely to binge drink to excess and be involved in alcohol related violence.

Kev went on to explain his typical night shifts and the encounters he has with highly intoxicated youths; ‘‘Through the weeknights we don’t see as much of this but come Friday and Saturday night the police cells are full of young intoxicated people waiting to be seen. Its much more of an issue than people realize. Its most worrying perhaps not for these young people themselves but their parents who are oblivious to the states their children are getting themselves into.

‘A typical Saturday shift will start off quietly, 7pm on a Saturday its what you would expect not much happening. I tend to start my shift in Preston but I’m on call for all other four sites so as soon as I’m needed elsewhere I’m in the car and on the move. If there is football on then you can almost guarantee we’ll have a few fighters brought in and I will have to stitch them up and sort them out before they’re questioned but its generally Blackpool first.’

Blackpool is a popular hen and stag do destination in North West England and attracts people from all over the UK over the weekends. Its cheap and cheerful appearance as well as many bars and clubs is attractive to not only these parties but also young people from the region.

‘Blackpool is always the busiest, closely followed by Preston. If I’m not in Blackpool by 9pm then something is seriously wrong. People tend to get either extremely violent or extremely nervous when they’re in with me. Like I have any power to do anything. Sometimes they’re abusive and derogatory towards the police and aim their anger at me not realizing that my job is to ensure their safety and health is in tact. The worst thing that’s happened with regards to this topic was when I was on call in Blackpool on a bank holiday Sunday night I was alone in a consultation room with two young lads, no older than 20 and they had me up against the wall, I was only running tests on them to see their alcohol levels but they were adamant that it was my fault they were in there.

‘People who don’t experience this first hand don’t really understand it and don’t really appreciate how much of an issue it is and what strain is being put on the health and crime services every week. If I had to pin point what I thought the reason for the rise in binge drinking in the North West was I would probably say boredom. There’s nothing really much for these kids to be doing other than going out on the weekend and drinking with their friends in town. I know because I used to be one of them and nothing much has changed. It’s also very cheap and accessible to them. Don’t get me wrong I see people coming in after drug use all the time but alcohol is far cheaper and more readily available to this generation and it causes them a lot of problems. Not to mention the problems it causes myself and the team.

‘When these young people are intoxicated to the levels which they are they don’t understand what they are doing and what they are saying, some find it funny and some don’t realize the consequences of their actions. On a typical night I will experience maybe 15 to 20 young people in these states and that’s just me. There is a definite problem with excessive binge drinking around here that doesn’t seem to ever stop. Whether it causes the person in custody to be violent, abusive or just rude I don’t think there is any doubt that more needs to be done to stop this from happening so often.’

Kev suggested that it could be time for club owners and workers to take some responsibility and limit how much alcohol is served to individuals. He explained, ‘It would be difficult for club owners and their staff to monitor intake but our resources are being stretched to deal with this which could in most cases be avoided with just drinking a little less or going home just a little earlier. In my mind something definitely needs to be done. Its not just us at the police stations that are being stretched due to this reoccurring issue but A&E departments across Lancashire are being over subscribed to as a result of excessive drinking as well with their peak being at weekends.’

It is believed that up to 30 percent of all accidents in the UK are related to alcohol intake whether that be an accident caused by excessive consumption of alcohol or the effects of an accident are worsened by intoxication, either way there is no disguising the cost and time strain being put on public services due to this on-going issue.

Nightlife in Lancashire generates high levels of income and boosts the local economy as a result of this, so it can be questioned whether or not the rise in nightlife culture can have a positive effect in some cases. Preston club owner, Andy Mac explains ‘MAC’s is my business its how I earn a living and at the end of the day it’s a money making thing for us. Yeah its bad seeing these young kids get themselves into states especially young girls making themselves vulnerable but it is what it is. I charge them to get in and charge them for drinks I cant be responsible for what happens to them when they’re in my club. I can’t be counting how many double vodka’s each 18-year-old girl is drinking on a Saturday night out with her friends. It’s just not possible. I have a strong security team that will take control of any situation that they consider to be getting out of hand. Whether that be a fight or someone who had more than enough. But I can’t tell my staff to stop serving them because they’ll just go elsewhere. It’s not like there isn’t any options.

‘I see maybe 300 to 400 people in MACs doors on your average Saturday night I can’t babysit them all and neither can my staff. That’s not what we are here for. We’re here to give the people of Preston a good night out and make money at the end of the day. People need to know their own limits and control themselves, be responsible for themselves, that can’t be my worry. We’ve all been in a state when we’ve had a few too many don’t get me wrong but when you cant stand up its probably time to go home. Maybe these kids need to be getting a better education on what drinking too much can do to them and be learning how to recognize when they’ve had enough and how to sober themselves up. But saying the responsibility and blame for binge drinking lies with club owners and workers is the same as say obesity caused by McDonalds workers. It’s a bit ridiculous.’

He also explained; ‘I think maybe these kids are exposed to it all early aren’t they. It’s all presented as very glamorous isn’t it going out on the weekend with your friends getting ready and drinking before your taxi arrives. What I wouldn’t say is that its worse round here than it is anywhere else in the country. They all have big clubs some much bigger than the ones here in Preston. It’s a university city isn’t it so the nightlife is going to be good. I wouldn’t really agree and say it was a binge drinking problem we have here it just young ones getting a bit carried away. That’s definitely not what MAC’s is we don’t support it. But at the same time these things aren’t our responsibility I’m trying to run a business.’

Although these are two very differing opinions on the consumption of alcohol it is clear that it is affecting everyone in the North West in different ways and more needs to be done to help minimise the negative strain being placed on the police and the NHS.

‘How pro anorexia blogs stole my teenage years’

Figures published by the national institute of health state that over 1.6 million people in the UK are now suffering from eating disorders. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating with the vast majority (89%) of sufferers being female. That said eating disorders can affect anyone at any time as 22-year-old Millie Turner knows only too well.

‘Living with an eating disorder was the hardest time of my life. It wasn’t the hunger that hurt it was hiding it from everyone, I lost friends because I just couldn’t face seeing them and having too eat with them or explain to them why I wasn’t. It was like I was stuck in my own bubble and I couldn’t get out and I couldn’t let anyone in I felt so alone all the time.’

Millie was just 15 years old when she developed anorexia, the disorder ran away with her quicker than her or anyone she knew could have imagined when she joined an online forum which promoted and encouraged an anorexic lifestyle. Social media and the rise of the internet has been linked with the glamorization of eating disorders, promoting an unhealthy body image through editing software such as Photoshop, creating obsessions with unrealistic body goals.

As social media has developed, as have online communities, these can be for anything that users share a mutual interest in. The most common online communities include gaming communities, online fandoms and YouTube/Blogging communities. With the rise in such online forums it has become far more accessible to gain health and fitness motivation and in more recent years, help on being anorexic.

At only 15, Millie decided that extreme measures had to be taken to change the way she felt about her body, through joining an online community she became close friends with a girl named Sophie who wrote a blog supporting the disorder. ‘It might sound absolutely insane but I actually came across Sophie’s blog very unintentionally. When I first decided I needed to do something about my weight I actually did a google search for ‘how to be anorexic’ and came across it. I would be lying if I said it didn’t instantly intrigue me and have me hooked from my first visit.’ She explained.

The disease itself is explained; a sufferer of Anorexia Nervosa often has a very distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining any weight. Though a sufferer may be hungry they inflict weightloss by brushing any calorific foods and fats. The condition is more common amongst girls usually being in their mid-teens and has little to do with looking good/more to do with a deep rooted emotional problem and the need for an element of control.

Anorexia is considered one of the worst eating disorders as it has the highest mortality rate in the UK at 25%, with a recovery rate of 60% with the increased use and access to Pro Anorexia dedicated FaceBook pages, Twitter and Instagram Accounts as well as blogs it is now easier than ever to gain help, support and motivation to become anorexic.

Such blogs describe pro anorexia (pro ana) as a religion and a lifestyle choice and not as an illness something which is concerning when accompanied by hashtags such as ‘thinspo’ and tag lines such as ‘Hello Skinny Bitches’ and ‘DON’T BINGE!’ thus promoting the lifestyle as desirable and something to aspire towards.

These accounts are typically ran by teenage girls and are therefore increasingly dangerous as they are aimed at their peers who’s family members may have no idea what they are looking at online and are not aware of the exposure their child is getting to such hard hitting and self-esteem killing material. Some blogs also include posts on how to hide anorexia from friends and family.

When asked how the community had affected her eating disorder Millie explained; ‘It didn’t make me feel any less alone, I didn’t feel like these people I spoke to were my friends, I didn’t feel like I knew them I just felt like they were my competition. I felt more determined to fast because of them. For me, because I have always been a competitive person, that’s what it was for me, it was a competition and that’s’ why it got to the stage it did I think. The very thing which gave me control was what made me lose it completely.’

Things only got worse for Millie when the online forum she was visiting turned into private chats between group members. ‘It made me competitive, especially once I started talking to a few of the girls through private messages. There were six of us involved and we decided to do a weekly weigh in to see who had lost the most. At a point these weekly weigh ins were what I lived for. I was weighing myself two times a day religiously and I would stand in front of the mirror crying at the state of my body. Anyone who says this isn’t an obsession truly has no idea. It consumed every part of me I very rarely thought of anything else at all and avoiding talking to many people because I knew they couldn’t understand me. I was wearing baggy jumpers and spending days in my bedroom to avoid seeing people. Because if they saw me they might notice and if they noticed they might stop me and that was something absolutely incomprehensible to me.’

Some Pro Anorexia websites include a disclaimer explaining that it is a support mechanism , Millie disagreed that this was what she experienced during her encounter, ‘Looking back, I was in such desperate need for help but I didn’t want it at all. I also think now that my mum knew all along. How could she not know I lost almost 3 stone in 20 weeks and she very rarely saw me eat anything for months. But I was at college and I had forgot my laptop and asked her to bring it in for me, it seems so strange now that something so simple was the beginning of the end for me. But before it had even crossed my mind that I may have left the webpage open or anything open for that matter; my mum was ringing me to come home and she knew everything. The next day I was in a hospital bed hooked up to a drip. I don’t remember too much of those 24 hours, I just remember not being left alone. Like I wasn’t trusted, like I was a risk to myself but I just couldn’t see it like that. I felt like my freedom and my control was gone but I also felt like my walls were coming down and I wasn’t quite so scared to be alone. It’s not a feeling I can describe to anyone really. I was just so scared I was going to get even fatter than ever.’

When asked about her recovery Millie added ‘Recovery is such a scary word for me. Mainly because I associate it with weight gain. I also didn’t think I ever had anything to recover from. But I was really wrong in that sense. I have a new outlook on recovery now I see it as a way of regaining the control I lost over my life. The control that the pro anorexia lifestyle and community took from me. Recovery for me is being able to be happy with my body. I wouldn’t say I was entirely happy with it now, but I would say I’m in a good place with it and I just take things at my own pace. It’s difficult and not a lot of people understand me and my addiction I’m just lucky to be surrounded with the right people now.

‘I think it’s difficult to give advice to others on how to deal with a situation in general. Mainly because I truly think everyone’s situation is different but advice on getting away from the community is crucial. It absorbs you in a way that I can’t even begin to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I would just say that being anorexic will never make you happy. It will not give you the body you want and it definitely won’t give you a life you want. In actual fact, it does the opposite of that. It takes the life out of you and no matter how many days you go on just drinking water and eating carrot sticks you will still look in the mirror and see a fat person looking back at you. And even when you are at your lowest you will still want more because that’s what it does. There is absolutely nothing glamorous about anorexia and trust me, its’ not worth it.’

For further help and advice on issues raised in this article please contact Beat. Beat is the UK’s leading charity supporting anyone affected by eating disorders or difficulties with food, weight and shape. Providing information and support through Helplines which people can call, text or email.

Help for adults

The Beat Adult Helpline is open to anyone over 18. Parents, teachers or any concerned adults should call the adult helpline.

Helpline: 0845 634 1414

Email: help@b-eat.co.uk

Help for young people

The Beat Youthline is open to anyone under 25.

Youthline: 0845 634 7650

Email: fyp@b-eat.co.uk

‘My boob lift saved my life’

IT’S not the typical way to get over your ex, some may say it’s a little extreme and extravagant Most people just opt for a hair change or buy a new pair of shoes, but 32-year-old Sharon Maxwell went a little further when trying to put her past behind her.

The self-confessed ‘surgery addict’ has been pumping her lips with fillers for almost eight years and claims to have had more than 60 lip enhancement treatments and botox top-ups every six weeks but when she bravely walked away from a violent and abusive relationship she decided it was time to focus on herself.

The Scottish mother, has undergone a number of surgeries including an eyebrow lift, countless botox and lip fillers, cheek fillers and more recently full body liposuction and a breast lift costing over £40, 000 and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. We chatted to her to find out her reasons for having so much work done and finding out if she had any regrets after years of surgery.

The owner of Supreme Property Lettings, explained how she worked her way up from having nothing to be able to afford her lifestyle of luxury treatments and how she has more in store for the future. Glasgow based, Sharon is not ashamed to admit she suffered from insecurities her entire life, suggesting that witnessing her aunt’s murder at just three-years-old was just the start of her troubles.

Throughout her school life, a notoriously difficult time of change for young people, Sharon started to develop a little earlier than most, her breast rapidly grew to a double G cupsize and she suffered with bullying and pain ever since. She explains, ‘I was always teased about them. I was actually called ‘jugs’ at school that was my nickname and I absolutely hated it. It got worse when I was old enough to have boyfriends because every guy I was ever with would slag them off and call them saggy when we fell out and that’s just something that’s always been with me.’

The 32-year-old admits she had always wanted something done to her breasts, whether that be a reduction or a lift but didn’t have enough money to fund it until recently. She goes on to tell us how, with her most recent partner the ridiculing got continued; ‘It got worse when I was with him, he wasn’t a very nice guy at all. He used to say and do horrible things to me all the time so when I left him, I left with the clothes on my back. He used to tell me how much he hated my boobs and that can really knock your confidence that someone who’s supposed to love you would hate something about your body. But since leaving him, I have noticed it was more so his problem than mine and I’ve been able to build my business up and get my boobs lifted which has really given me my confidence back.’

Sharon elaborated on how she used to get a lot of modelling work when she was in her twenties and how since her breast lift surgery, earlier this year she has been offered more of the same. She explained, ‘it can really help improve your confidence when you can improve your body, it means you can wear more things and can make you feel a lot better, all my confidence was knocked out of me and that was a huge reason behind getting it done.’ The 32-year-old explained how she gets all of her plastic surgery done in Turkey where it is much cheaper than it is here and says how she is pleased with the results. On her most recent visit in February (2016) Sharon underwent her much anticipated breast lift. Unusually whilst she was there she was also gifted free full body liposuction through one of her friends.

She added, ‘The liposuction was good but I’m probably fatter now than when I got it done now to be honest and I only got it done nine months ago. It’s a good quick fix if you want to get toned up but I didn’t have to pay for it so I don’t regret having it done. My initial plan was to get the fat taken out of my body and then have that injected into my bum, which I don’t even know why I wanted that done because I think I’ve got a great bum but there wasn’t even enough fat taken from my body, only two and a half litres so I couldn’t have that done.’

Apart from her breasts Sharon had always been unhappy with her lips stating she ‘had absolutely no lips whatsoever’ and always expressed the desire to have them done. This was the first thing she had done at 25 years of age and arguably began her addiction to the needle. She had initially booked in to have them done when she was 21 but a comment from an ex-boyfriend put her off until she was 25. She said, ‘I was with my kids dad at the time and he told me not to have them done because I would look like a fish, that night I dreamt of my face on a fishes body with these hug lips and it put me off. He had always told me he didn’t like the fake look.’

From her first procedure followed many more in the clinics chair and although she now runs a successful business she hasn’t always been able to afford the life she now leads. She explains how she was referred to the NHS for breast reduction surgery to ease her of her pain which was extremely bad during her pregnancy. Sharon however turned this down, she says, ‘I would have been able to get them paid for on the NHS. But I decided against that because I didn’t want to get them done with tax payers money it just wasn’t right. So I said I’d just save up and pay for them myself. I work hard to have things done. I have worked three jobs, worked days, nights and weekends but now because I have my own business I don’t have to do that anymore but I worked hard to pay for what I’ve had done.’ Sharon also explained how she occasionally promotes her friends’ salon and receives free botox but insists money is not a deciding factor on how much work she has done.

The blonde bombshell’s transformation hasn’t been without criticism. Whilst she says her family and friends are for the most part, behind her decisions, she admits that when she first started having work done friends would comment and ask her what she was doing. However now Sharon claims that she’s given all her friends the surgery bug. She explains, ‘I look completely different now from how I used to look, it’s like I’m a completely different person. People who I went to school or people that I’d known for years will just walk past me in the street and not recognise me, which is a good thing.’

Not everyone has been so welcoming, Sharon states tells how she is exposed to online trolling and says, ‘I’ve been told online that I should model balaclavas for a living, that I look like Pete Burns, I get that a lot. I do get quite a hard time online from people who don’t like me but that’s not people I know, just people who have nothing better to do.’ But the successful business woman filled with new confidence doesn’t let their opinions get to her.

Sharon added how she feels the breast lift she had earlier this year gave her a second chance at a new life and explains the reasons behind the dramatic post break-up decision. ‘A bigger reason for me getting the lift was basically a way of me sticking two fingers up at everyone who had ever slagged them off or said they were saggy. I think they were pretty good before so I think I did it more for that than myself to be honest.’

Surgery is rarely far from Sharon’s mind, as she is currently in the process of planning a lower facelift and a return to Turkey. Whilst she insists she has calmed down on the surgery professing, ‘I think when your older, you notice you don’t need as much work as you think you do when you’re younger. I only get things done if I feel like I need them doing now to improve my confidence whereas five years ago it was more down to experimenting with everything. I’ll always get my botox and I’ll always get lip fillers but I wouldn’t ever get my cheeks done so I think I’ve just learnt what works for me.

‘When I broke up with my ex I had nothing and I was in a really sad place personally. I needed to prove myself and make something of myself so I concentrated a lot on my business and then in turn was able to work on myself. I suffered with post-traumatic stress following the violent relationship I was in and it was really important for me to be able to focus on something else.’

Despite the thousands spent on treatments and procedures, Sharon remains grounded and true to herself. Her journey shows just how important appearance can make you feel and just about how it can change your life in more ways than one.