Tips for Swimwear season.

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I am not ageists, just realistic. And like all realists I like to prepare for anything I do including going on holiday, because let’s face it, after a certain age ( 39 in my case) you just don’t “wake up like this”!

So when I’m about to go on holiday, especially to a city renowned for its glamourous ladies, naked bodies, beautiful skin, gosh I go into overdrive!. Now, some people might say this is all vanity and my response to that is! Duhhhhhhhh of course it is! I own my vanity. And you know what I’m glad I was prepared for Miami! What a sexy city!

So here are my top tips for preparing for holiday especially if swimwear will be involved.

  1. A month before you travel cut down on your sugar intake! Not necessarily for weight loss, but for your skin. Nothing looks as great as bare skin with a flash of bright lipstick in the sun! and nothing, bar cigarets ages you more than sugar! So dump the sugar in your breakfast cereals, breakfast bar, ice cream, sweets, and some breads for that glow, because sugar is the enemy of great skin.
  2. You have a month to go! You wanna lose body fat – how? Track your diet! Don’t just reduce your calories to 1,000 or less! But balance your carbs, your protein and fats and reduce your calories to no lower than 1,400 ( I am 5:5 I never go lower than this ever, otherwise crazy things happen to my hormones and it’s just pointless!) if you are taller you may even need more! Do not be afraid to eat! I get into my best shapes when I eat really well and train dirty! if you increase your protein intake you will never be hungry! Lean protein sources like chicken breast, turkey breast, and  most white fish will keep you full for longer. Use my fitness pal ( the app) to work out the balance between fat and protein and carbs! It will change your life!
  3. Three weeks before you go reduce diary. If like me you are prone to water retention or bloating you may want to try eliminating diary to observe the effects. Every time I do this I become less puffy, hold less water and my belly becomes super tight. I also notice that my skin becomes clearer. I’m now considering giving up on diary completely; I’m not saying never ever again, but not as often as I do now. Also, 85% of black people, mostly Africans do not have the requisite enzyme to digest diary well, surely an indicator that it’s not for our constitution. You’ll find that most body builders remove diary from their diet leading up to a competition for that lean look, you’re just doing yours for the beach.
  4. Three weeks before you go Increase your water intake! Minimum 2 litters a day! You should be doing this everyday anyway! But we all know how it goes! Scientific research shows that if two people are on the same diet, the person who increases their water intake will lose more body fat than the other who doesn’t. That’s just facts. So just do it. Is there a correlation between more water and clearer skin? Research says no! I know! I was shocked too! however more water does gives the skin a plumper look and this in turn minimises the appearance of fine lines. Also if you are bloated, you need to start hydrating, this will trick your body to flush out the water it’s holding for that lean appearance
  5. Two weeks to go! Reduce your salt intake. And if you can do it at one monthto go, do it! My beach trick is to dump salt! Including knor and artificial seasonings! All of it! I’m gangsta. Your body only needs half a gram of salt a day! But that’s almost impossible unless you make every single meal you eat yourself. Realistically 5 grams would do. That’s closer to the guideline. But if you eat processed food you are eating way way more than that! Because salt and sugar are cheap food flavour enhancers.  I stop eating bread 2 weeks before a holiday because it holds as much salt as a serving of crisps but it’s blended in, you wouldn’t even taste it!  I cook all my meals without salt, no maggi, fresh herbs only. My skin immediately looks better, i hate makeup on holiday so every little helps! I also I lose water weight quickly, my stomach is flatter – there is no downside
  6.  Still at two weeks to go! swap vegetables that are prone to bloat with those that don’t bloat. I don’t digest some fruits and vegetables well; it’s not me it’s the veggies and fruits! So I avoid broccoli, Kale, apples and pears especially.
  7. One week to go if you still suffer from bloating ( this is the bane of my life) try dandelion tea
  8.  2 days to go I stop exercising, Somehow a break from the gym or outdoor training reduces any body swelling possibly caused by the stresses of lifting weight.
  9. A day to go – spray tan! Yes I know I’m black!  but trust me it’s not in your face orange, and it evens out the skin tone – those faint stretch marks, the hyper pigmentation on the bum etc watch them all even out! Thank me later
  10. Finally! whatever you do – do not drink alcohol on the plane! It makes water retention and  swelling worse

IMG_7258Have fun when you get there eat and drink whatever!!!!!!

Stop taking relationship advice from men

 

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I wish women would stop taking relationship advice from ‘men’. And by this I mean men who are unqualified. These men are not Counsellors, Psychotherapists’ or Psychologists. They don’t know JACK about you or your partner.  But they are perambulating as relationship experts on social media and even on TV. Some of them are labeling themselves as lifestyle coaches with little qualification to show.  And worst still, a lot of these men have terrible track records of being awful partners to very many women. And you know what? Some women are doing it now too, they are on Facebook live, Instagram live! Talking about how you ought to ‘do’ your man!

Don’t get me wrong we can learn so much from other people, but in my opinion the tell-tale signs of a fraud is when you hear their advice predominantly directed at the woman; cook more, serve him, kneel when you serve him, have sex whenever he wants, pray for him, fast for him, he is your father. Have you ever wondered why these advisers direct their opinions 9and that’s all they are opinions) at women.  Why aren’t many more relationship advisers targeting men with these half baked advise. I’ll tell you why, because it is easier and lazier. Telling women what to do, and how to do it still fits into the traditional norms of many patriarchal society.

I am not a relationship expert either. I am just a married woman concerned about the wrong messaging and the abuse of women under the guise of marriage, and our own complicity as women and as a society in this abuse. All I am saying is that marriage should for the most part be enjoyed, being realistic and mature about its ups and downs too. And as a woman it is  not your sole responsibility to keep the marriage going, it’s a joint effort. You did not stand at the altar alone, you did not marry yourself, and before anyone makes reference to that  Yoruba proverb ‘Obinrin lo un di ile mu’  which translates to ‘it’s the woman’s responsibility to ‘hold’ her home.  We are not listening to that bullshit anymore. It has always and will always take two to make a relationship work and any advise that predominantly shifts the responsibility on the woman is wrong and dangerous.

I have observed that in the best relationships ‘power and responsibility’ doesn’t lie in one place, it shifts. Sometimes the husband is in the driving seat, and sometimes the wife is in the driving seat. I know that this idea of shifting ‘power and responsibility’ goes against the grain of how we as women have been raised especially in Nigeria.  But it’s what I have observed in my own personal interpretation of healthy relationships. In those relationships, the man is the head sometimes, and sometimes the woman is the head. No one sits on the throne forever! And no, healthy couples rarely sit down to carve out when the man will be the head, or when the woman would be the head, it’s probably more organic, falling naturally to where the couple’s strengths lie.  I am always adamant that in the healthiest of relationships a woman cannot always be in that submissive lane, nor can the man always lead. I warn you, if you stay in that submission lane for too long you will become redundant, a doormat.  And if you think you can constantly be the leader, you will morph into a tyrant, and in time lose your captor.

People often challenge me by saying their parents have been married for 50 years and did it the ‘traditional way’ – and some would list barmy things like (no lie I’ve heard all of these):

  • My father didn’t eat yesterday’s stew so whatever my mom was up to she had to cook fresh everyday
  • My father can’t eat pounded yam with lumps so my mum would have to remake it
  • My father didn’t let my mum work
  • My father had affairs but told my mother she was number 1

Often, children from these backgrounds appear to accept that their home traditions is the natural and right order. Never have I heard them question  the physical or emotional damage these imbalances might have had on their mother and even them. In fact they will argue that their mothers were happy, because she always looked happy or rarely voiced her discontent. But  how many mothers burden their children with their deepest unhappiness? And  one cannot judge happiness by the length of a marriage in a society where there is little support for those who leave their marriages, even under cruel and dire conditions; little support from the state, little support from the church, little support from the family). To point to length of marriage alone would be TOO simplistic. Being married for 50 years is not a goal. Being happy, feeling fulfilled and feeling accomplished whilst in the marriage ought to be the goal?.

 

Wives get bored too

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Some few weeks ago I went to see the movie hidden figures under the misunderstanding that My friend had booked us to watch the movie Fences. She was just as surprised as I was when Hidden Figures started. By the end of the movie, we couldn’t grumble because Hidden Figures turned out to be a fantastic movie.

I finally got a chance to watch Fences enroute to Miami. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is a touching story which feels real and true. And the dialogue is sublime.

Mid-way through the movie I started to shift in my seat, wishing I was on land so I could urge every female friend I have to watch this movie and heed three explicit warnings:

1. Do not become complicit in your own mistreatment.
2. Do not lose your identity, destiny or purpose in a marriage.
3. And if you choose to do both, be acutely aware of the repercussions and own the consequences.

In the movie we see Rose ( Viola Davies) immerse herself in family life, loving her husband completely, taking on his family, his shortcomings, and dealing with it as some loving wives might. And although this was heart warming to watch in the beginning of the movie, these traits soon start to grate as the viewer realises that Rose through her complicity, was enabling some destructive behaviour; behaviour which would eventually tear her family life apart.

Rose’s husband wasn’t a stereotypical abusive husband or father. This would have been too lazy. What he was is probably closer to the reality of most destructive characters, they are rarely one dimensional. Troy was loving yet unkind, warm but bitter, responsible and irresponsible. He was traditional to a point of disregard. In his opinion his duty was to provide for his family. And as long as he did this successfully, everything else was inconsequential, including meeting the emotional needs of his children, and ultimately his wife.

Every relationship can learn something from this story. But I am specifically drawing attention to this beautiful piece of story telling because of the parallels I observe in a lot of Nigerian marriages. Often the Nigerian woman is advised to accept and tolerate the intolerable in marriage. We are encouraged accommodate bad behaviour under the falsehood that compromise is the foundation of a good marriage. The problem however, is that too often it is the woman who over- compromises, especially when the husband is a good provider like Troy. But this one sided compromising is at the expense of our future happiness, and more importantly our mental health.

Rose allowed her husband to get away with atrocious behaviour, this she admitted to towards the end of the movie. As the movie progressed,  it became clear that men like Troy can become so self absorbed, they fail to see that they are mistreating their wives. And women like Rose, lose themselves so completely and absurdly in the superficial appearance of a healthy home; cooking for everybody, constantly fixing a plate; toiling. The way Rose was quick to enter the kitchen for Troy and his family; son from another relationship, her hisband’s friend,  his brother, was both symbolic and a clever way of highlighting how women give.

Rose expected her husband to be loyal, loving, and attentive because she was. Unfortunately her passivity or compromises or submissiveness emboldened her husband’s bad behaviour, to their eventual detriment.

Women too get bored too: There was a scene where Troy was honestly trying to explain why he cheated, and I understood it completely. I even felt annoyed for understanding, but at 40 and after being married for over 12 years I know that marriage isn’t all roses and make up sex. Marriage is partly about those daily worries and palavers like mortgage, bills, in laws, child care difficulties. Marriage is about the grind. It is about misunderstandings, miscommunications, neglect, being taken for granted, hurt, and sometimes lies. And yes the feeling of wanting to escape is normal – having an affair can seem like escapism for some – for Troy – who wanted to feel alive, devoid of responsibilities, duty or obligation.

In the middle of his emotionally charged explanation Rose cut him dead. In fury and in hurt she reminded him that for 18 years she had stood by his side, casting her own dreams aside – supporting him, accepting his flaws, covering for his flaws, even at the detriment of her own children. And through snort and tears, the viewers realises that she knows, that she had given too much, and literary played herself out of the marriage. Because you can give too much in a marriage? Yes. You have no business or obligation to give away your destiny or purpose or dreams like she did . No one, not the man nor the children you bear will thank you in the end. And even if they do it probably wouldn’t be enough.

As married women we must be wary of the false notion that giving up on our own development, destiny, or life goals is tantamount to love. It is not. And a truly loving husband wouldn’t want or expect it.

More powerfully Rose highlights a point I wish every man would take away from this movie. That it is not the preserve of men to crave escapism; to want out from time to time. Most women feel this urge too, that desire to run, to cast aside the burden of responsibility, to hide even. And as Rose put it, to seek comfort, desire and escapism in the bed of someone different. But. And there is a powerful But. What stops a lot of women, and some men from cheating, at that real point of frailty, is a combination of discipline, maturity, self respect and will power – holding on to the commitment they made while keeping an eye on the bigger picture – a healthy relationship. This discipline may not be applicable where abuse is present, emotional or physical abuse or indeed neglect may drive women to seek solace with another.

Sadly, most patriarchal societies pretend that women simply don’t feel the desires Rose highlighted.  I guess the very idea that women too feel this urge is itself an affront to the premise of patriarchy.

love

Titilolami

Food and Ageing

 

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Firstly, I would like to apologise to the lovely lady I promised to write this blog for. It’s late, I am sorry. But I hope it helps somebody else out there too. So let’s get to it. How do you start eating healthily? My method or way is to start looking at food completely differently and to accept that you will have to change the way you eat for life, especially if you are a woman who has had children, and over 35.  What you eat shouldn’t just be titillating to your taste buds, but nourishing to your body – at least 80% of the time.  I don’t believe you can make permanent and lasting changes without embracing new foods, or new ways of thinking about food, which includes seeing food as fuel, as nourishing and preventative for many modern diseases .

Nothing beats a balanced diet.

The honest truth is simple. A balanced diet is what works. But the problem is most of us don’t know what balance means anymore thanks in part to the food industry and their are just too many people trying to make money off ‘diets’ and ‘food’. Also, portions are out of control and we need to re-learn what moderate means. If you are prepared to re-learn, you will enjoy all food groups; carbs, protein and fats! The honest truth is I enjoy everything, including the crazy modern Nigerian cuisine. I call it crazy and modern because the way the younger generation cook dishes like Efo and Ayamase etc is simply not the way my grandmother cooked or ate it. And she lived past 115 on African food only. But what she ate, and how she prepared it, was a lot simpler than the modern version of loading everything into our delicacies and cooking stew swimming in oil! . The principle  I advocate for is  – simple foods, prepared simply.

Age plays a role

I keep talking about women over 30 and mums in particular, because I am a mum of two and 40 this year!! (bloody depressing!! where did the time go). I know how the body changes, I’ve seen those changes. And what they call ‘middle age’ spread is real. Food choices like refined carbs and sugar will stick to the middle more in middle age, your tummy especially, and especially after 35. I am not one of those 40 year olds that  say “40 is the new 20” babanla oro ode (#foolishtalk). 40 is 40. I have eyes. I see 20 year olds. I see their skin, their hair, their waist and their flat tummies!  It’s futile to long to look like a 20 year old, it’s unhealthy even, but if you want to look good at 40 or at 50 you are going to have to be mindful of your food choices, because the by-product of a good diet is that at 40 you will have clear or clearer skin, strong and healthy hair, and a healthy body – if you eat well. Now someone is bound to say “but some people can have all those things, good hair, good skin, and a healthy body without ever watching their diet’ my answer is simple “are you one of those people”? exactly!, keep reading.

Cut the Fad Diets and Stick with whole foods

I don’t believe in cutting carbs or fat because they are not sustainable in my opinion. Instead, I have trained my taste buds to appreciate whole or clean  foods cooked without too many additions – boiled yam with no sugar! remember our grandparents ate roasted yams or boiled yams with palm oil and a little salt; not fried eggs, sausages, corn beef stew and I’ve even seen people add fried plantain – errmmm  If you eat corned beef repent now!!! I cook basmati rice with no salt! I season my meat with natural spices (not too much) sometimes nothing –   because the bottom line is the more flavor, the harder it is for your brain to register you are full and satisfied. learn to enjoy the natural flavor of foods too. If  you need to start a plan even with seasoning start with whole food. And by that  I mean things that grew from the ground, on a tree, came out of the sea, ran on the land, or flew through the air. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds are all great examples of real food

Reduce or avoid crap food.  Crap food is that which comes from a drive-thru window, a vending machine, box, bag, or wrapper. If it has a long ingredient list it’s probably not good for you.  If it started out as real food and then went through ten steps to get to the point where you’re about to eat it, it’s probably not good for you.

And you know what? I cook most of my meals myself. Eating out is a treat. I don’t even buy sandwiches at work. I make everything and take it into work. If you can learn to do this too, you are 70% of the way there. Do not trust food vendors or eateries. They don’t care about you. they care about repeat business and profit margins, and trust me those profit margins are achieved mostly through cheap flavour enhancers – sugar and salt – cheap products. And no, it wouldn’t even taste sugary or salty but trust me it’s loaded full of it.

Exercise wouldn’t help if you don’t change your diet!

If you don’t change what or how you eat exercise wouldn’t help if your aim is to lose weight! That’s the worst part! You can’t eat crap food and compensate with an excellent exercise programme –Never– hence the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet”. But you can certainly  lose  fat or weight without ever exercising. After I had my two children my body changed so much. It was sooo soft and flabby, even though I was slim. I trained like crazy, no change. I complained to my trainer, and he said “Lola you train like these girls, pointing to magazines with fitness models but you don’t eat like them, and until you do, nothing will change”. I adjusted my diet which was already healthy, and I got my results. Now if you are reading this you may not want my results. Maybe your goal is just to lose a bit of weight, but the principle is the same, until the foundation is right (and the foundation is your diet) you wouldn’t ever see results. 80% of your success or failure will come from how well you eat.

Being fit or healthy comes in different shapes and sizes too!

Please understand one thing. I do not believe we should all be a size 8 or 10 or 12. Fitness and healthy come in different shapes and sizes and the truth is I am against any ‘ideal’ or ‘look’ promoted as optimal. That’s a lie. But in your heart, if you are overweight, or perhaps obese and if you want to do something about it, if you are ready, when you are ready, there is guide below – it is only a guide and it is not easy because it requires you to eat different things and prepare your meals in different ways. This guide will help any average height female around 5:5 tall, trying to lose weight. This is a guide and insight into how I eat – I do eat more, calorie wise, as I am not trying to lose fat – but please treat it as a guide and always consult your doctor before embarking on a new diet.

Meal Plan 101

the meal below  aren’t cooked with oils, expect a smidgen of coconut, olive, or any other healthy oil, a smidgen is less than half a tea spoon – okay maybe half a teaspoon!. Season food to taste but try and switch to lower salt seasonings e.g. Mrs Dash. Once a week eat whatever you want, one meal once a week, not the whole Saturday!! . Once a week have a fizzy drink if you enjoy them,  but only with your cheat meal. Reduce alcohol to once or twice a week – a glass or two maximum.

Meal 1:

1/2 cup oatmeal/ or 5 ounze of yam/sweet potatoes

3 egg whites, 1 egg

I fruit

Snack (20 grams of 90% dark chocolate)

Almonds (23)

Meal 2:

6 ounces grilled chicken/turkey/cod/lean protein

Large salad or any vegetable/s

2 tablespoons light dressing

½ cup of cooked basmati rice

Snack or little meal

Fat free Greek Yogurt (the brand Fage is king and best) OR more lean protein with vegetables or salad if you wish. 2 rice cakes with a tablespoon of peanut butter and fruit

Meal 3:

Fish or steak (salmon, seabass, any really, or grilled steak and vegetable)

Dessert – sugar free Hartley jelly

Water, tea, coffee, no sugar, yes to milk, yes to sweetner.

Is your genetics to blame?

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Last week my friend sent me a video of herself doing  presss up! Yes! the same friend who sent me a picture of her Back complaining about the non-existent or rather normal and healthy fat we all carry there.

My friend has been trying to eat better, and train smarter, so I have been obliging her with advice here and there. The first time she sent me a video of herself doing press ups she asked me to inspect  her form and advise accordingly.

I’ve inserted a poor picture of my friend in press up mode below

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A week after I gave her some pointers about her form, she sends me another video, this time her form was much better! But I couldn’t help but notice her amazing shape! Amazing for a mum of 3 who doesn’t lift weights! The definition she had was similar to someone who lifted weights consistently! Her waist was so tight and her bum looked like she squatted for days. I know for a fact that she doesn’t lift weights, but she runs on occasions and does the elliptical machine. And these are the least efficient or effective way to build muscles.  I knew those two machines do not explain that body definition. And you know what? neither does her diet! I’ve known her a while, we spent too many times eating pizza express before I found healthy eating. She doesn’t eat much, but she doesn’t necessarily eat clean; biscuits and snacks her also her Achilles heel.

What explains her definition is genetics. Whether we want to hear it or not genetics plays an important role, not just in our shapes, (e.g whether we are pear or apple shape), but also in the ease with which we can develop muscle mass. I’ve been weight training for 5 years now, and my results are comparable to hers in some areas. Life is a bitch like that!!

A study that appeared in the International Journal of Obesity found that while you need physical activity in order to build muscle, people who have “muscular” genes require far less exercise than others to look fit. My friend has clearly won the genetics lottery, just like some win the lottery in height or even beauty. I have always known that if I wanted some ‘tone’ or muscle mass I’d have to work really hard, because even though I have always been slim, I’ve always been very soft, and after children I got softer. And research suggest that that softness gets worse after menopause, so that means training into my 50’s!!

So yes, genetics plays a role, but that’s not the be all and end all. Studies also suggest that while your genes may determine up to 80 percent of your weight and body shape, environment and personal choice still play a significant role. I haven’t got my friend’s genes, it simply means  unlike her, I  will have to pick up some weights! And I may just need to work harder on my lifts, and harder on the diets that will get me where I want .

The truth is at the end of the day, you’re in the driver’s seat of your own life. No matter what your genes or your environment might be, you can’t gain weight unless you’re taking in more calories than you’re expending (unless there is a medical condition, which is rare). You may not be able to change being apple-shaped, or get my friend’s natural muscle tone, but it’s certainly well within your power to be the healthiest, fittest ‘apple’ shaped  possible and to develop some muscle with resistance training.

 

THE KINKS IN THEIR MINDS

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I had an unfortunate meeting at my daughter’s school this morning. Last week she went in with a twist out which I pinned up for her in the morning. Her hair was let down just as seen in the pictures above and below. When she got home, it was tied up in a bun, so I casually asked why she decided to put it up, she said she did so because her teacher said there was an Ofsted inspection that morning, and her hair looked “wild”. I was horrified when I heard the word “wild” I said “did she use the word wild”? My daughter said yes. I was livid!!!’  I didn’t want my daughter to know I was that upset so I shut went upstairs, fuming, I sat down and I wrote to the teacher expressing my dissatisfaction.

The school called me  and we fixed a meeting with the Head teacher and the teacher in question. Sadly, I left feeling more frustrated than appeased. The Head teacher said I was the one that had a problem with the use of the term “wild”. She kept saying she described her own hair as wild frequently and saw no issue with it. She actually expressed her dissatisfaction with my own my letter, because I said “the school had an issue and history of not understanding Afro hair” ( they do ). She said this statement suggested that I was calling the school racist, or prejudice, when at least 2 of her close family members were married to Jamaicans, She said she understands Afro hair and I shouldn’t have brought race into it.

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My good God!!!!! I was flabbergasted and completely certain that this school needed a diversity awareness course. Firstly, the term ” wild” conjures up unruly, unsightly and animalistic. Something that needs to be tamed. All of which my daughter’s hair was not on the day,  and all of which shows an unconscious bias around what is deemed appropriate, or presentable according to a perception that bears no relation to the characteristics of an afro hair.  This unconscious bias was  slipping through in loose and derogatory language and it is the language which I sought to address.

I expressed in no uncertain term that I really didn’t care if the Head teacher described her own hair as wild, I do not want that term used to describe my daughter’s hair. Afro hair texture is not smooth or sleek in the way that Caucasian hair is. It grows up and not down and although it can be chemically straightened to look sleeker, lay flat, and look more European this is not a choice I’ll ever choose for my daughter,  or indeed my own hair. I love Afro texture hair, I love it with its kinks, curls, coils and volume. When she was going to school that morning I brushed her hair,  and I personally put two pins in her hair and sent her off saying your hair looks beautiful and she replied ” I really like it”. Now to those of you raising little black girls you know what an achievement it is to get them to the point where they “love” their natural hair.

We live in a society that has historically not appreciated the difference and beauty in Afro hair texture.  This is not an indictment on the society, because even in many African countries it is often not celebrated or held as up as an ideal beauty.    I had to stop wearing weaves, and even braids to instil confidence in my own daughter’s  hair, so yes I was  not going to let a teacher kill her new found confidence with the careless and offensive use of the word “wild”.

People may say oh she didn’t mean to cause offence, but that is not the point, she did cause offence, and she refused throughout to apologise insisting that the hair was untidy. No. my dauther’s hair was not untidy. What is untidy is the ignorance that still abounds where afro hair is concerned. What is untidy is that a lot of black people have been complicit in the rhetoric that our hair, as it grows from our scalp is unmanageable, untidy, unruly and in need of ‘something’ to make it presentable and acceptable. And often that something just happens to look more European.

The use of the term ‘wild’ is loaded, full of so much value judgement and indeed micro aggression. It’s the exact type of word that chips away at the confidence of a 9 year old, it highlights their difference in an unflattering and negative way and subconsciously forces them to concede and accept that they do not fit the  beauty ‘ideal’. It is a rhetoric that I will fight against, for the sake of my daughter and her place in this world. I do not care if other mothers do not see it or get it, because of course according to the school I’m a trouble maker, not said directly but the Head said on more than one occasion that I’m the only Afro Caribbean parent who seems to have an issue with hair. That hurt my feeling. It hurt my feeling because I remain acutely aware that I live in a society that can be unintentionally prejudice yet if I raise it,  question it, or challenge it I  will be accused of playing the race card, of being overly sensitive, or of having a chip on my shoulder.

Let me be clear, I did not and do not accuse the school of racism. No. Fadeke likes her form teacher very much and she has never expressed being treated differently. But how can race not play a role in the description of Afro hair as ‘wild’. That the school fail to see this, and would defend it is more disturbing. In the end the teacher said she didn’t mean to cause offence, and the Head said it was an unfortunate use of the word, but I was under no illusion, they didn’t get it. And that continues to upset me.

the picture of my daughter was taken on the exact same day.

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Nevertheless we Persist

 

 

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Last Saturday I was invited to speak at an International Woman’s day event organised by the Smileers. The focus was on “what it takes to build something” I was invited to participate as founder of Path to Possibilities. Here are extracts from what I said:

Success is not lonely: You can’t do it by yourself, so tap into your support network and use them to propel you forward. For those who plan to get married, I said be wise about your choice of husband. Marry someone that loves you enough to support your dreams or your crazy adventure. Your choice of partner can be the difference between soaring or stagnation, it may even derail you completely. No marriage is worth a derailment from purpose.

If you marry a man who expects you to be the sole child carer, sole home maker, or to always take care of his needs first, this may not be compatible with your own individual goals. Much respect to women who have no dreams or aspirations outside of their immediate family, feminism is about informed choice, with no value judgement – family may be enough fir some . But as I said, for me, and for some women our husband, and our children are part of our world, not our world.

Define success on your own terms: Do not let the noise of the world define what success is for you. It may not be CEO. It may not be a six figure salary. It may not be the trappings of wealth or drive for more and more material things. It may be at odds with what everyone considers to be successful. Success is individual to you and your values. Success is rarely compartmentalised either, so you should see it manifesting in every area of your life once values are aligned.

Strengths and weaknesses: in trying to develop ourselves we sometimes think we must always improve on all our weaknesses first. And that we can’t move forward until this has been developed. Sometimes this leads us to focus obsessively on those areas we are not good at at the detriment of understanding our strengths and letting that strength guide us into spaces where we will flourish.

Knowing our weaknesses is important, but the rhetoric that suggests developing them is instrumental to success can be flawed. I used body building as an analogy. I said I apply the principles of bodybuilding into my style of exercise or training. Body builders in general split their training into body parts; so one day they may work legs, next day they work arms, another day shoulders, next is back – you get my drift. There is an intense focus on splitting and training muscle groups together, this system works very efficiently because no part is neglected. Now because bodybuilders do this, they are also very much aware of their weak areas. I know for me my weakest spot is my abdominal- I’ve had two kids and muscle separation and quite frankly it’s been stretched to wrinkles. For a while I obsessed about my abs, I tried to train it hard but then realised it was making my muscle separation worse, so I stopped training it hard, I got stricter on my diet, but then I realised I was cutting out too many things because they bloated me, which made my abs appear worse. I focused so much on my abs I started to forget about how great it felt to be active, or how great my legs were looking or my shoulders, and my back. My point is yes we all have weaknesses, but overly focusing on them may stop us appreciating our strengths and even limit our drive to go to places we can occupy inspite of our weaknesses. The founder of the Smileers Francesca Danmole said ” you can simultaneously be a masterpiece and a work in progress” this is my belief too. Do not let your weaknesses be the excuse. It doesn’t have to hold you back. You don’t have to be perfect to succeed! You don’t need to tick all the boxes. Your strengths can take you far.

Stop waiting for affirmation: I was asked what piece of advice I’d give another female starting their career and I said I’ll say stop waiting for people to congratulate you, to promote you, or to value you. You wouldn’t always get the recognition you deserve or the promotion – if it’s not happening and you’ve asked and it’s not happening then leave! You don’t have to stay in the same job, or on the same path, you can leave. Sometimes the old adage is true ” a queen is not recognised in her own queendom”

I was asked why I stated the charity Path to Possibilities and my answer was simply. I am
here today, not because I’m special, or brighter, or more intelligent , I’m here because I’m standing on the shoulders of many other women who helped my mother. My efforts to educate other children is born out of that knowledge. My greatest hope is that many more of us will realise that we didn’t do it alone and that we can be instrumental in changing and touching other peoples life’s. and although it often seems like a Herculean and thankless task we owe a duty and a responsibility to God, the universe or Mother Earth not just to take, but to give back.

If you would like to join me in making a difference please come and run with me on 1 July 2017 in North London. We will be fundraising to keep more children in education. Last year Path to Possibilities established a library which we can only keep open with support. Please sign up for our annual race, if you raise £50 you’ve done more than enough to help us. http://www.race4change.co.uk

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Above is a picture of the centre I’m desperate to keep open!

happy international women’s  day.