Living with acne: Why I’m thankful for my acne scars

I’m not ugly. Of course there are days when I don’t believe that. But deep down I know it’s not really true. I do well on a good day. Nonetheless, I’m familiar with all my flaws. Larger than normal nose, unevenly matched boobs, rather sizeable thighs. But the one flaw that stares me in the face every morning and evening, the one that cries out to me in every photo, is my acne scars.

I’ve had acne since I was 12 and I am far from coming out the other side. Thankfully, it’s now kept tightly under control by artificial hormones, but one or two missed pills and I flare up like prepubescent all over again. I did everything you were supposed to with acne, and everything you weren’t. Nothing helped. It persisted, at times painfully. So painful that I often couldn’t bring myself to cover it up so I resigned myself to an ugly day, week, month. Trying instead to look my best in other ways, while knowing I was failing. No amount of hairstyling, nice clothes, or smiling was going to distract from my one giant spot of a face. And while it’s currently lying low, I find myself left with permanent reminders in the shape of scars, which can never be fully covered no matter how much industrial-strength concealer I use. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Acne and its scars did not make me who I am today. It did, however, have a significant role in shaping my body confidence. On ugly days when make up was impossible to apply, I had to resign myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be fitting in with the girls who managed to fake the appearance of flawless skin, and the possibility that a boy might be looking at me was firmly ruled out. Unable to worry about these common teenage hang-ups meant I was free to do and say what I wanted to do and say. I learnt to be less conscious of what people thought of me, and felt brave enough to voice my own opinions, not the ones I thought people wanted to hear. That’s not to say I didn’t have days when I desperately wanted, and tried, to look and act a bit more like everyone else. But I was, and possibly still am, less concerned with this than many of my peers, and I think the roots of that lie in my acne past. And when I could wear make up, if ever I caught myself thinking I couldn’t leave the house without it, I would deliberately force myself to go bare-faced. It stopped me taking my appearance, and myself, too seriously and I still live by it today. The first couple of days are always disgusting, but I’ve found that once you grow used to your naked face, you begin to see the natural beauty lurking below the dark eye rings and cratered skin.

What’s more, acne gave me a sense of humour about my body image. I can identify my self-perceived flaws (there’s no shortage of them), and ridicule them to high heaven. I giggle at lopsided breasts. I make jokes about thigh claps. And I laugh in the face of acne. I try not to take my appearance so seriously because I’ve learnt that ultimately people aren’t paying attention. How many people even noticed that I was having an ‘ugly day’? I suspect I could count them on one hand, if that. The only person that really notices is you because everyone else is too distracted with their own appearance hang-ups. I now concentrate on making myself feel happy in front of the mirror, and forget everyone else.

So thank you acne. Far from ruining my self-esteem, you have given me a type of body confidence that has set me up for life. But that’s not an invitation for you to come raging back the moment I come off this pill. In fact, in recent months I have taken steps to hopefully get rid of acne for good. More to come on that.


Why I run.

I’ve come across a few people now who have marvelled at my ability to get out of bed at 5:45 of a work day morning and go for a run, and I have recently even had people telling me my motivation is inspiring. While this is mildly flattering and always amusing, I’m slightly unnerved that people think I am anything more than a running fraud. I am henceforth putting the record straight on exactly why I run, so hopefully people will see that I am as surprised as anyone every morning that I successfully make it out of the door in my trainers.

How I started running is a pretty dull story. It was two and a half years ago, I had eaten too much on my year abroad (if you didn’t you did it wrong) and moved way too little (thanks to convenient German public transport). I got back to the UK and, surprised that the excess weight didn’t just instantly drop off me, I thought shit I should probably do something about this. So I downloaded a couch to 5K app and decided that for once when it came to exercise I was going to stick at it. And stick at it I did. Did I complete it in the allotted time? Hell no. Did I repeat week four at least five times? Very much so. But rather than doing what I usually do whenever I fail, which is beat myself up and get frustrated, I followed a motto, plagiarised from a forgotten source, that continues to be my motivation today:

A bad run

There were times when I quite literally had to chant this out loud to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and it got me through it. Still does.

But while running began as a way to move a bit more and shift some excess weight, it soon became much more than just that. In my final year of uni early morning runs provided some form of routine to an otherwise non-structured day of studying, while evening runs were an effective way of busting pent up stress. And when living in Germany a twenty minute run in the damp, dark mornings was sometimes all that could stop me from waking up in tears at the thought of facing another lonely day. Since moving home I’ve found that I haven’t had to rely on running so much to keep me sane, but I’m a sucker for the January blues and I’ve recently been reminded just how much that jog can improve my outlook on the day.

And when I say going for a run, I am not talking a 5K every morning, in fact I don’t think I remember my last 5K and I certainly don’t remember the last run I completed without stopping. Almost consistently I can go for about ten minutes before I’m plagued by stitches, shin splints, breathlessness, can’t be arsedness, etc.. But for me running has never really been about performance. If it was, I would be failing miserably. It’s about mental stability and not taking myself too seriously. And if it means I can have those extra biscuits, well then that is just a much-welcomed bonus.

Saying Goodbye to the German language 

On Friday I will be flying home to start a new job in Oxford and it will mark the first time in nearly 11 years that German will no longer play a significant role in my near future. And while it should perhaps be a time of bittersweet sorrow, the overwhelming feeling is relief.

Learning German has felt like an epic journey of highs and lows. I am not, nor ever was, a natural linguist, but instead I undertook the never ending task of systematic vocab learning and grammar exercises, and held a strong belief in practice makes comprehendible, if not quite perfect. It was German’s logic and distinct lack of exceptions (compared to French) that kept drawing me to it. Formulating a German sentence felt a bit like solving a math equation as you try and work out what word belongs where and the strong sense of satisfaction that came from getting right was rather rewarding. But for every time I have ever got it right there were hundreds more times that I got it wrong and it is that which led to a German career filled with feelings of inadequacy and despair.

I’ve always said it is the curse of any language student to never feel fully fluent. To always feel like they could do better. And this is something I have battled with throughout my German learning. In school I had to deal with the humiliation of taking the same exam three times yet not ever going up a single grade. While from early on in my degree I had to quickly come to terms with the fact that German would bring my marks down; no matter how hard I worked at it, I was never going to achieve what I could studying just English Lit. Even now, living in Germany and speaking the language on a daily basis, I still regularly have moments where I could scream with frustration as I fail to formulate coherent sentences or articulate my thoughts and opinions. The number of times a day I simply blurt a bunch of German words in someone’s direction and hope they make sense of it is just embarrassing. All this to learn the language of a country infinitely more fluent in English than I will ever be in German.

I realise thus far it all sounds rather bleak and perhaps it would be tempting to say I regret ever choosing to study German beyond a compulsory level. But putting aside the fact I am still doing better than two thirds of the British population who can’t speak a second language at all and am probably more fluent than many people reading this post, the experience of learning German has always been more rewarding than speaking the language itself. From larking around with the language assistants in school, to meeting some of my now best friends in German classes at uni, to living and working in a completely different culture and being exposed to experiences I never would have otherwise encountered good and bad; it’s all worked to shape me on an intellectual and emotional level. Whether I conjugate a verb perfectly or use the correct effing preposition with the correct effing gender with the correct effing case is insignificant in comparison.

Today my German is the best it will be for the near future, and quite possibly forever, and I am saying a fond goodbye. Goodbye to daily embarrassment, frustration and sense of failure, but also to a beautiful language (I’d choose it over the romance languages any day) that has been a companion to some of the most significant moments of my life so far. I’ll revisit it for sure but I feel no shame in stepping into the next chapter of my life and leaving it behind because the important things are coming with me.

I quit sugar: and caved

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for a while because nobody wants to write about their failures. But it wouldn’t be fair to pretend. The truth is I caved. And it’s a repeat offence.

It all started the Friday before last when I just couldn’t get sweet things out of my mind. I was so fed up with still longing hungrily after every piece of cake and chocolate I saw. I held off all weekend but on Monday I couldn’t take it any more. It wasn’t even a snap decision. I knew exactly what I wanted. Chocolate covered Oreos. If I was going to break the fast then I was going to make it worthwhile. I searched four supermarkets before I found them. And when I got home I ate them and it was amazing. And then the next day I finished the packet. And opened a packet of Haribo that was floating around the house. Afterall, I’d broken it so what did it matter?

It all left a funny aftertaste and I felt a bit sick directly afterwards but other than that it was as if the three weeks without sugar had never happened. But I wasn’t quite ready to go back to the old ways just yet. After a talking to from my little sister who promised to make me a cheesecake at Easter if I didn’t eat any more sugar, I resolved to go back to my sugar-free misery. I did, however, start to introduce fruit. I’d always intended to around this time and it was a good compromise. But I’ve stuck to low sugar fruits like kiwi and berries and only once a day.

This is the cheesecake I gave up. The first she ever made and the best I ever tasted.

I really wish I could say the story ends here and that I’m back on track and the cheesecake is in sight. But I was in a crap on Tuesday and managed to get hold of another bag of Haribo, and then ate a chocolate bunny for breakfast yesterday. There was no justification for it this time. Only that I am just not getting the results I had hoped for and I’m losing sight of why I’m doing this. I’m not any skinnier, I’m not happier and I’m sleeping worse now then ever before. But the very fact I resorted to sugar when feeling low is evidence that I need to power through.

But evidently it’s not going to be a smooth journey. And it’s going to continue long after lent is over and Easter has been celebrated. I’ll have good days and bad days but hopefully the number of good will eventually outweigh the number of bad. My aim is to not beat myself up about it. To not through in the towel when I eat one, two or even three chocolate bars (so easily done), but to pick myself up and say: “Okay, that happened. Let’s try again.”

So once again I am picking myself back off the floor where I am lying feeling sorry for myself with stomach ache/trapped wind because of the Haribo and I am trying again. Will I slip up again before Easter? I honestly don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised either way. For now I am going to take it a day at a time and see where I end up.


I would also like to write as a postscript to my little sister that I apologise for not being a better role model over this; for moaning and whining to you, and giving up. I hope that reading this though, you’ll know that it’s okay not to be perfect. In fact, it’s completely normal. And we both know you’re going to make me that cheesecake anyway. xx

I quit sugar: two weeks in

It’s been two weeks without sugar now and it’s slowly starting to get easier but I’m not even going to pretend that I wouldn’t mind devouring a giant bar of chocolate right now.

I’m won’t be dramatic and say the first week was hell but it was certainly, challenging. I went cold turkey where I probably should have weened myself off slowly, but if I could cut down my sugar intake in moderations like that then I wouldn’t have a problem in the first place, right? As a result I got all the withdrawal symptoms.

First came the mood swings. Being all out of routine I had difficulty telling when I was hungry. This resulted in me coming home from work one evening absolutely foul and almost in tears because I just couldn’t work out what to cook for dinner. I eventually cobbled together what ended up being a very yummy plate of food and within ten minutes felt like a normal human being again. Moral of the story: always have an emergency rice cake to hand for when times get bad.

Next came the headaches and dizziness. This was slightly more alarming but thankfully I was aware of this potential side effect and so didn’t think I was suddenly dying. I drank a lot of water to compensate for the lack of sugar in my system and it soon passed after a day or so.

Then came the cravings. I had been feeling quite chuffed at the lack of cravings in the first few days but when they hit they hit HARD. I found myself staring hungrily at people eating fruit, scrolling through Facebook became torture what with all the Tasty video channels I’ve subscribed to, and I even caught myself eyeing up the box of sugar cubes next to the coffee machine in the staff kitchen.

Those were the most notable symptoms but all through that first week I felt like a really dull version of myself but I waited it out and I’m starting to come through to the other side. For example, I walked past a fruit market yesterday and didn’t start drooling. I’m getting better at knowing when to stop eating and am definitely not snacking as much.

That’s not to say I’ve been perfect. I accidentally ate some dates at a Tapas bar and didn’t even realise what I had done until the next day. I also got caught out eating a bag of crisps and checked the label half way through to learn that sugar was the third ingredient on the list. But I’m refusing to get my knickers in a twist about it. I can feel in myself that it hasn’t completely undone all the hard work so far.

The same goes for eating out. I got in quite a tizz in the first week when I was invited out for pizza because what about all the hidden sugars? But then I decided the whole point of giving up sugar is so that my life becomes less dictated to by food. If I pass up social opportunities because of the odd bit of sugar here and there, I’m still being controlled by what I eat. So I have been out to eat more in this second week. I probably haven’t made the best food choices each time but I’ve avoided drinking cocktails, refused tomato and BBQ sauce (which is a BIG deal for those who know me) and ignored the jam-filled sugar-coated pastries when out for breakfast; these are all big steps for me and I do feel rather liberated for it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next couple of weeks go.

Why I quit sugar

I’m addicted to sugar.

Even mid-way through stuffing a chocolate bar in my face, I’m worrying about when and what my next fix will be. I crave sweetness the moment I finish a meal and when I finally satisfy the yelling in my brain telling me to eat literally anything containing the white stuff, I get a sugar spike for ten wonderful minutes before an epic crash that leads me feeling so lethargic I’m almost falling asleep at my desk for the rest of the afternoon.

But perhaps worse still is my compulsion to comfort eat. The moment anything in life seems to go remotely off-track I reach for something sweet, and momentarily feel my entire body sigh with relief as I gorge on whatever I can get hold of. Recent achievements include eating a whole swiss roll in one night and the time I ate a packet of sweet popcorn and bag of chocolate raisins in one sitting. Of course the comfort doesn’t last. I’m left at the end of a binging session feeling sick and even more miserable when the sugar low kicks in. And while I try and keep the house empty of chocolate and sweets, I find myself desperately searching for other fixes; I’ve been known to chain eat handfuls of cornflakes for half an hour, or spoon jam from the jar if I’m desperate.

Why am I disclosing this gross information? Having recently failed to make modest cutbacks in my sugar intake I’ve decided it’s time to go a bit more extreme. I am using Lent to quit sugar. Cliché I know. But Lent provides the perfect amount of time to break a habit. And that is what I want to do: I want to break the addiction and reset my body.

I’ve done a lot of research over the last few weeks in preparation and one of the best resources I’ve come across so far is I Quit Sugar, by Sarah Wilson. This is an 8 week plan to going sugar free and in comparison to many diet books I have read it is incredibly down to earth and practical. As Lent is six weeks I will be skipping the first two weeks of the plan in which Sarah recommends initially just cutting back on your sugar intake. I’ve thought about this a lot and know that when it comes to sugar I can’t just cut back. Sarah explains in her book why many people have this problem. It is all to do with fructose. It is the only food that we don’t have a stop button to. The reason for it is in the cavemen days we would rarely come across sweet things, when we did find something like a berry bush, we would gorge ourselves on it as much as we could and immediately store the sugar as fat ready for when we needed it. Our bodies still do that but today sugar is so readily available that we no longer NEED to gorge but we still do.

And because fructose is the addictive stuff I’ve also decided to cut out fruit. This has alarmed many of those I’ve told so far but it is just a temporary decision while I break my habit. I want to be able to eat a meal and feel satisfied with it in itself. I know that if I allow myself a piece of fruit afterwards, or whenever I have a sweet craving, I am not going to break that habit of hankering after sugar. I will at the end of the plan, slowly begin to reintroduce it if I feel ready, just as Sarah’s book recommends.

I will very much be listening to my body throughout the next few weeks to monitor how it responds. My body has been telling me for a while that it’s not happy but I was either not sure what it wanted or was ignoring it. I’m hoping cutting out the sugar will rectify several complaints I’ve been having and make me more in tune with my body. In particular I’ll be focusing on:

  • Quality of sleep
  • Afternoon slump
  • Stress and anxiety level
  • Body image

This is partly why I am blogging about this. I want to monitor my progress as I go along so that I have a reminder of how I felt before the programme and how quitting sugar made me feel. Because I will inevitably slip up. But the trick is to not beat myself up for those relapses but acknowledge them and move on. Blogging about it also means I have some form of accountability and hopefully support. Because I am going to need it.

What’s your relationship with sugar? Leave me a comment.


Resources so far:

I Quit Sugar, Sarah Wilson

5 Weeks to Sugar Free, Davina McCall

But I’m on the look out for more info. so leave your recommendations below!

La La Land broke my heart

Warning: this post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.


I hadn’t originally wanted to write about this film. Or at least not publicly. I was so shaken up after watching it that I didn’t think I would ever be able to write a coherent critique. But slowly overtime I’ve managed to organise my thoughts a bit and I’m hoping writing them down will help me solidify them.

My initial reaction was one of surprise and utter heartbreak. Surprised that I had watched a musical and not instantly loved it. And heartbreak not just for the love lost between the main couple, but for the fragility of such intense love and its inability to last. I know we are all too used to watching and reading about an unrealistic, wholly idealistic love that conquers all, but to see a more shatteringly honest depiction, portrayed in such a beautiful way, completely shook me to the core. Worse still, was this overwhelming need to cry that I felt in response and yet I just couldn’t. A rare occurrence for me whose waterworks are usually hypersensitive.

The film itself really was beautifully made. From the choreography, to the costumes, to the music, everything was so… vivid. Rarely, if ever, have I seen a film that fully captures the spirit and feel of an onstage musical. While the singing was relatively weak for what you’d expect from a musical, it only added to the charm and vulnerability of the main characters. There is a moment in Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s City of Stars duet where the couple break into giggles at a wrongly placed note; scripted or not scripted, it is small nuances like that that make you invested in the their relationship. And  Emma Stone’s Fools Who Dream was the crescendo I had been waiting for from the start and will forever send chills down my spine.

As a visual piece of art the film was flawless. But I found the themes it dealt with initially troubling. Not least because I have never been one to empathise with the concept of chasing your dreams. Am I allowed to admit that I’ve never had life-altering aspirations? More like modest goals. So the conflict between chasing dreams and supporting the one you love failed to properly resonate with me. More than that though, the film works so hard to set up the ultimate clichéd romance so typical of musicals, before quickly destroying it with a traumatic five years later and an extensive what could have been montage that is agonising torture. Yet we are then asked to trust in the dreams of yet another aspiring actress and musician, and believe that if they hope and dream enough anyone can become a world-renowned actress or own their own successful club. As if dreaming is so much more rewarding than loving.

Or at least that was my initial reaction. But on further reflection I have started to see another side to the ending. The what could have been montage, for example, rather than being a taunting jeer at what could never happen, could simply have been an alternate reality that was just as more or less likely to be the outcome. The idea being that dreams can come true, that love can last but also sometimes they can’t and don’t. Now that theory I like. In fact, therein lies the beauty of the film. For once we are not given a clearcut happy ending that we must force ourselves to believe. Instead, we are given a realm of possibilities, our responses to which will more than likely change based on the changes in our own values and experiences. While I don’t think my heart is ready for another viewing any time soon, I’m curious to see how my response to the film will adapt in a few years time.


There is so much discussion surrounding this film at the moment and that’s only going to increase as the Oscars approach. Really interested in other people’s experience of the film that everyone is talking about. Feel free to leave a comment!

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