Hardman's Thoughts

Pretty much everything…


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Four Years Old

Hardman’s Thoughts is four years old (technically it was on Monday, but I missed that!). Four isn’t seen as a significant birthday and won’t warrant mention on most sites, however, it feels like a major thing for me.

Four years ago I was lost at Uni, unsure what I was doing there and seeing my life fade into obscurity in front of my eyes. I knew I liked watching sport, I knew I had an insane amount of knowledge on sporting events and I had a feeling I’d be pretty good at writing about it.

Back then, Hardman’s Thoughts started as a side project for me – with most of my attention focussed on We Only Sing When We’re Winning. That blog meant a lot to me. It gave me experience at writing, showed me I shouldn’t be nervous about putting my opinions on the internet and led me down a path I’m only just beginning to explore.

WOSWWW got thousands of views because of an article Josh wrote, and through that we created a podcast. That podcast wouldn’t set the world alight, but it was fun to record and always something to look forward to on otherwise dreary Sunday nights.

When the whole blog started fading, others were created – but none have been as successful as Hardman’s Thoughts. HT is a drop in the ocean compared to what WOSWWW did with Josh’s article, but with very little publicity and even less know-how on WordPress or Social Media, I feel I’ve done fairly well.

In these four years, I’ve had 3,527 views, with 1,461 coming in the last year alone. I’m proud of that. It shows that my writing is interesting enough for people to click on, and even sometimes controversial enough to debate.

I was going to highlight my favourite articles, but since I’ve started this I’ve realised I actually can’t think of my favourite! I’m proud of a lot of them, but most lose relevance over time.

Furthermore, it’s insane to think that in those four years I’ve completed my masters. Firstly, that’s not something I would have considered when I set this up and secondly, definitely not one in Sports Journalism. It feels appropriate that ten days following the fourth birthday of my blog, I graduate.

So Happy Birthday Hardman’s Thoughts, and a massive thank you to everyone who has ever viewed, read or commented on this site. It stopped the boredom of a Physics degree, and then gave me confidence that I was as good as other people on my Sports Journalism course.

This is not the end. I see this as merely the beginning. I have huge plans for this space, not just carrying on what I do – but explore other journalistic areas and expand my influence.

So, here’s the crux of this post.

I’m going to set up a spot (once a month to start with) for guest blogs. Ideally, I’m looking for a 300-word article on something relatively controversial, preferably to do with sport. If that sounds like something you are interested in, please drop me a message on facebook or twitter. I’m dead excited to explore thoughts and opinions which are not just my own, but friends and family too. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get a debate going!

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A delightful look back at my second degree

I remember my first day at the University of Lincoln vividly. I remember the fear, the apprehension, the permanent questions about whether I was doing the right thing or not. I remember being petrified about the money I had spent on something I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do. It was no longer a case of, oh if it’s not right I’ll just drop out – this was real, and this was scary.

I’m not the easiest in social situations, I think that’s fair to say. And the first term terrified me. Actually, scrap that, the whole year has terrified me. Everything our tutors were saying about journalism, I would listen and think: “is this even right for me? Surely I’m not confident enough for this.” And then, predictably, they would say something similar to ‘if you aren’t sure this is for you, what are you doing here?’

I don’t think I was ready to return to university, and the first train journey to Lincoln predictably brought my familiar feelings of dread and a sort of emptiness. Nottingham, while a wonderful place and a city I’m delighted to call my home, sort of broke me in a way. I had only just begun to recover and to return to a sense of state I like to think of as normal when I was back enrolling for another year at an educational establishment that, at the time at least, I hated. Because, I did. I hated university, I hated the culture and I hated what it had done to me last time. I don’t anymore.

It would be a valid question to ask why I returned. The truth is, I think I had realised my Physics degree was about as worthless as anything I had ever got in my life. I was never going to use it. I needed another qualification, one I could cherish and actually show off. I considered teaching, for quite a while actually, but then decided, for whatever reason, I didn’t really want to pursue that. And so, I came back to the feelings that had kept me going through my first and second years at Nottingham. I needed to watch, analyse and explore sport before I felt truly happy.

I know, it’s ridiculous. But that was the reason I explored Sports Journalism. And that was why I applied for courses at Sheffield Hallam and Lincoln. I think initially I wanted to do it at Sheffield Hallam. But then I visited Lincoln. One day in Lincoln with Emma, a nice sunny day in which we visited the uni, climbed Steep Hill and sat on the grounds of the castle, and I knew that was where I was going to study.

I wanted to continue living with Emma, even if that meant waking up at half five every Thursday and Friday to get to Lincoln in time for 9am starts, although the direct train from my small village actually got me to the city an hour early. And I don’t think that was ideal on my first day.

My first lesson back at uni was Law. Not really the best way to start in reality. Especially because I had had a whole hour in Lincoln permanently entertaining the thoughts that everyone would hate me, I wouldn’t make any friends and I would hate the whole experience. I know, I know, I really can be too negative. My one thought, the one that kept nagging at me, was that all the people on my sports journalism course would be LADs. And I wouldn’t fit in as a result. And then I would hate it.

I was also panicking about the fact that finally people would be reading and marking my writing. At that point, I’d been writing with my great friends Martyn, Josh and Charlie for a couple of years, but no-one was seriously analysing it. All of a sudden, I was in direct comparison with other people who wrote, other people who shared my passions. It scared me because I never see my good points, I only ever see the faults.

Despite a three-hour lunch break during which I walked around Lincoln on my own, the first day went quite well actually. The couple of people I spoke to were really friendly and, all in all, like usual, all my worrying was for nothing. It would be ridiculous to say that on my first day I knew I was doing the right thing, but it’s not a million miles from the truth.

In reality, it was the second day when I realised I was going to love my year at the University of Lincoln (who, btw, had already done more for me than Nottingham ever did by sending a free jumper – a simple touch which can mean more than people think). Core broadcast. I think, by the time the TV section came along, a lesson we all eventually hated. But also the one when I realised that not everyone in this world is horrible. That a hell of a lot of folk are nice. Even tutors.

I saw my personal tutor from Nottingham in Boots the other day. I addressed her using her title (Dr), instead of her first name. It’s not her fault – it’s just how the uni is. Professors and lecturers are known, at least in my experience, by their title and surname. It still strikes me as strange that I call my tutors at Lincoln by their first name, and that they actually offer help when you email them, rather than just being aloof.

If my experiences at Lincoln taught me anything, it’s that Russell Group universities are ridiculously overhyped. That actually the better universities, if you want an educational experience where adults care about you, are poly ones (although even then, I know a lot of tutors in Manchester and Nottingham who are wonderful people – sorry to group you with that). Backed up by Emma’s first year at Nottingham Trent, I wish I could have told my 18-year-old self that there would be no shame in going to a university not classed as one of the best. That it doesn’t make me any less intelligent, that it doesn’t prove anything to anybody.

We judge universities, colleges, six forms and high schools by the grades they produce, the difficulty level of the courses and, to some extent, the cost of the education. We shouldn’t. We should only judge educational establishments by the pupils they produce.

Maybe pupils is the wrong word, a more appropriate one would be people.

It struck me quite early on that Lincoln want their students to grow, not grow up, but recognise their potential. At the end of the day, they understand their youth and aren’t in a hurry to turn them all into the faceless mass of business suit twats. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I felt like my personality was squashed at Nottingham yet was reborn at Lincoln.

My confidence too. I’m still too negative. I still wanted to quit at every turn of the course, every time it got tough. Except, I didn’t. You could argue I didn’t quit Physics either, and that would be technically correct. But I view my Physics degree as essentially the same as quitting. I wasn’t living, or caring, for that, I was merely existing. I became a faceless student; walking to campus every day, walking back, studying a little bit, spending the rest of the time mourning about how empty my life had become. The difference at Lincoln was staggering. When it got tough, I had a mini-breakdown and then Emma would shake me back into reality and I’d work harder to get it done. Hey, I’ve never denied that Emma deserves this degree more than I do.

My confidence has returned. I no longer think I can’t do anything, I believe I could do everything if I wanted to. It’s funny how big an effect mental health can have on an individual. The only reason I succeeded now where I failed before is because I felt better about it. The mind is so delicate, too delicate for any of us to comprehend. As I said, Nottingham broke me. So then, it has to be said that Lincoln made me.

It’s not been perfect (well nothing is). Our results were always late back, which was never ideal. And sometimes it felt like we were ignored for the needs of the undergraduates. But I can genuinely forgive those. Even then, it was still ten times the experience I had at Nottingham.

What Nottingham always had in its favour was the social experience. I’ve written a lot about how I surprised myself with how many friends I made, and how good they were. Martyn and Stefan were my main two, and fortunately, I’m still in contact with both. Martyn introduced me to Josh, which in turn led to me knowing Emma. And Lincoln, despite my first-day worries, was exactly the same. I can’t speak highly enough about everyone on my course, I genuinely have positive memories with all of them. Yes, even Klammer. I’ll miss all of you.

And Lincoln, despite my first-day worries, was exactly the same. I can’t speak highly enough about everyone on my course; I genuinely have positive memories with all of them. Yes, even Klammer. I’ll miss all of you.

I’ve got so many good memories from my year. Simple things, such as the girl who turned up to our first lesson (that Law one) drunk, who then a week later offered me the chance to go on a dog walk with her and eventually I was spending every day in Lincoln with her, to the extent that I now see George as a female name, not a male.

Hey, and I don’t think either Danny or I would finish this final project without each other’s stresses.

And it’s you guys why I’m actually quite upset while writing this. It’s stupid, I know, and this awful rambling of a post that doesn’t really have a purpose must surely be close to concluding, but yeah, I can’t shake the feeling that now the real hard work starts and it won’t be as fun without you lot.

But then, I can face those challenges with my head held high. I didn’t think I would write the news articles, I didn’t think I could get my first feature done, I didn’t want to write another essay, I didn’t think I could get work experience, I didn’t think I would survive a second week of it, I didn’t think I would finish my final project, I didn’t think I would ever be in a position to hand it in. All of that is done now, and when I return to Lincoln to hand it in later this week, it will finally close the education chapter of my life.

Am I scared? Oh fuck yes, of course I am. I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t. But am I also excited? I reckon I am. I’m good enough to be a journalist. My writing was praised more than it was criticised this year, and it’s improved along the way (even if it hasn’t on this post).

Am I proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes.

I never thought I’d get this far.

When I left Nottingham, I wrote a post called something like ‘a satisfactory look back at my eye-opening experiences’. That wording, although unknown to me at the time, was perfect. Satisfactory. I was satisfied to finish that degree. I am delighted to finish this one. I’ve even improved my mood writing this.

It’s amazing what someone can do with confidence.

Oh and Seb, please don’t ever shave your moustache.


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Josh and Tanya’s Wedding

So, as many as you are aware, I was best man for Josh on his wedding to Tanya on Saturday. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, even with my many responsibilities. Emma has taken some great photographs from the event, which if you are interested in you should check out her page. She will be putting them up as she edits them, and more will be appearing in various posts on various people’s pages.

As part of my best man speech, Emma and I went around getting stories from those who know Josh and messages for him and Tanya. It got a great reaction from all present, and as a result, I’ve put the final version of it up on YouTube. I’ve made this blog post to shamelessly promote it!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to it, helped with the filming, editing and getting interviews for it. We really appreciate it, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Sorry to anyone who knows Josh and wasn’t in the video – we got to as many people as we could, but if you want to give your own message to Mr and Mrs Hockley-Still, please comment on this – we will make sure they see it.


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Introducing … Josh Still

Josh Still is on the eve of the biggest day of his life: his marriage to Tanya Hockley. The 23-year-old lives with Tanya down in Stone Cross, near Eastbourne, works for Conservative MP Nus Ghani, has degrees from LSE and Yale; and has a huge passion for sport. It was a wide-reaching conversation …

  1. How, when and where did you met Tanya?

Tanya and I met in America – I was studying at Yale, and she was on a placement there. We met at a mutual friend’s British-themed party, which is definitely something quirky to tell people

  1. What was the first thing you guys spoke about?

I don’t remember our first words, but I remember we spoke at length that night about the dissertation Tanya was writing about whether a robot could have a soul. I remember saying ‘what if humans don’t even have souls?’ I don’t know if I’d still say that now…

  1. Given what you’ve just said – do you consider yourself a Christian?

Yes, I’ve now been confirmed as such. That’s not to say I don’t have questions and doubts – I think that’s very normal, and signing up to dogma will never be my thing. I’ll also always be very sceptical of authority & systems that enable certain human beings to exercise too much power over others. There’s been too much of that in the church, and even the most cursory reading of what Jesus actually taught will tell you that’s not what he wanted. I think my faith is more personal to me – I don’t pay too much attention to what bishops & archbishops etc. are saying. Because while I say yes, I don’t think it’s the only way. I think all religions essentially do the same thing & ask the same questions, but that every culture & human society does/did religion in its own way. Maybe they all glimpse part of the broader truth?

  1. What advice would you give to people who are sceptical about the idea of religion?

I don’t want to tell people what to believe. I don’t think you need faith to be a kind and caring person, which is ultimately what matters. What I would encourage though is for people to always challenge the simplistic narrative that they’re fed. Our society & our media deride religious views as antiquated and irrelevant, which when you look into it more closely, isn’t really fair. As society modernises and becomes ever more capitalist and technologically driven, we’re becoming ever more anxious & depressed personally, and our jobs at work are becoming more insecure. We’re told that appearance; money and status are what matter. A tiny elite control so much of the wealth. Distrusting other people & being cynical are considered virtues. I think both as a society, and especially as individuals within it, we could use a bit more religion. It proves that there is a better way to live life, and gives us a message of hope and redemption.

  1. Has Tanya, or your experiences down on the south coast, directly impacted your thoughts on any other issues?

Yeah I think so. I’ve developed and matured as a person, no doubt. And intellectually, I’ve changed a lot as I’ve learned more about the world, but I think my core principles are the same. It’s just while I once thought that socialism was a good way of achieving them, and religion wasn’t, actually I think I got it the wrong way round. I now hate the idea of a government filled with people following their own agendas & interests telling me how to live my life & particularly if it’s ever run by the modern-day intellectually stunted left-wing activists that have decided that they know the right things to think, and so freedom of speech is now outdated. That will never be true. Different opinions are good, unpopular opinions will always be how you improve society & unpleasant opinions are the price that you pay for that. In the media, I always make sure I read the most controversial columnists from all viewpoints, because they’re the ones that have something interesting to say. I know I’m a bizarre mix really – I’m a contrarian religious advocate of the freedom of the individual who wants to leave the EU but let more refugees in. Which is crazily different, but I actually like that, and I look forward to seeing how my mind changes as the facts change in the future!

  1. What about the idea of marriage?

It’s good for us, and I like the idea of God blessing our union. Whether it’s best for everyone else is for them to decide, but I do find the modern trend of increasing divorce very sad.

  1. How do you think you will feel when you see Tanya walking down the aisle?

I’m sure I’ll cry. I cried on the train reading the end of a tale of two cities the other day, so I’m sure I will at the happiest moment of my life

  1. What are your plans immediately after the wedding?

Night at the ritz, 2 weeks honeymoon exploring America & being off work – sounds good to me!

  1. And then, general future plans – do you want the typical happily married with 2 kids and a dog or do you see you guys following a different path?

I’m not sure about the dog … But yeah, I’d want kids in a few years. I think it’s one of the most innate and powerful human desires that we have

  1. Do you have any ideas for names?

Yes, but I’m not giving them away yet!

  1. You’ve been to university on both sides of the pond, how did the experiences differ?

I think both could have been better. The academic systems were very different, and I found Yale’s harder – but maybe that’s because it was Yale! But I didn’t like the undergraduate drinking culture, nor the idea of what university is now – for middle-class people to get good jobs. It should be about education. And Yale was just too powerful – it owns like half of new haven, and their fees are ridiculous. But it pretends that if it can stop its students saying mean things about Native Americans, it’s all lovely and progressive. Absolute bull.

  1. For people who have never travelled there, just how different is America?

Well, we speak the same language & we have a shared history. So it’s closer to us than most European countries are. In a lot of ways, it’s the same but with different twists. But the cities look very different – the roads run in straight lines, there’s lots more cars and, of course, lots more ghettoes and racial segregation in a way we don’t understand here

  1. What is it like working for an MP? What are the most difficult aspects, and what are the more enjoyable ones?

I think the difficult and the enjoyable aspects are both to do with meeting people. MPs attract the local fools, who it’s never fun to deal with. But you also meet some incredible people too, which can be really quite humbling. And incredible when we can actually do something to help them.

  1. Do you still get a sense of wonder every time you walk into parliament, or is it now just your office?

It’s now just an office. And I hate that! I still do like taking people on tours though – if you’re ever interested (ed – I told him I was)!

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  1. Do you ever miss Nottingham?

Of course. I grew up there & love coming back. Most of my friends & family are up there too, as you know. I think Nottingham will always be a part of who I am. And Nottingham forest – a big club that wants to be successful, but doesn’t always succeed, and is small enough to be an outsider rather than part of the elite. I identify with that.

  1. Talking about Forest, just what can they achieve?

Quite a lot actually. I want you to shoot me if I ever become one of these fans that’s happy to accept middling along in 16th place for the next 5 years. Look at how sporting a city Nottingham is – we could sustain a PL club without question. And our squad, if they all stay fit, is definitely good enough to compete for the top 6. I want us to aim high. But we need to finally appoint a good manager rather than the dross we’ve had to put up with for most of the next 15 years, and then Fawaz has to back him with money and time, and hire people who know how to run the club and leave it to them. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Look at Wes Morgan, captain of a Premier-League winning side. He was in League One with us for 3 years so it shows you just what can be achieved. And we’ve produced players like Lascelles, who’s now a PL regular, and discovered Antonio, who is too. It can definitely be done!

  1. How do you feel about sport in general? Has it reached a point where it’s too based around money and winning or is it still an enjoyable spectacle?

Well, now I’ve stopped going to Forest so much, I find myself rapidly losing interest in football generally – which I think has sold its soul. But I think sport will always be a big love in my life, and I’m trying to get more into sports like tennis, rugby, county cricket, ice hockey etc. which have been far less corrupted by money so far. And I’m really enjoying it. Not to mention tennis, the best sport in the world, which is superb both for gender equality, and for the fact that only about the top 50 men and women in the world earn big money. Which I’m fine with, as they have insane ability. But the rest have to earn a living, so they’re more relatable for the fans.

  1. Finally, a bold question which I like asking people , how can we make the world a better place to live?

I don’t think there’s a set template. I think that everybody needs to do it in their own way. Take a look at yourself and discern what your calling is in life, and listen to the best parts of your nature, and you’ll know what to do. There’s a million and one different ways to help people and to change the world, and we need people to do all of them!

Josh and Tanya will get married tomorrow (14th May 2016) at St Luke’s Church in Stone Cross.


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The Next Month

The end of March and the beginning of April was a very busy time for me. Under pressure to organise some work experience for my course, I had something arranged only to see that fall through. A frantic day of sending emails off to various places looked to have led nowhere when most ignored and two rejected me. Fortunately, The Cricketer, who had initially rejected me, got back to say they were happy to have me on board.

Off I went to London, to experience 2 weeks unlike any I have had before. The outcome was that I got something printed in their magazine (go buy it!), but more importantly, I’d had a very good time. In April, I headed over to Manchester to look after my Mum’s cats while she was in NY and Washington and required that time to catch up on my Easter Holiday work, which I couldn’t do while in London.

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It’s not like it stops there either, for this month is busy, busy, busy. The vast majority of my university work is due in on the 13th May, and then on the 14th I am the best man for my good friend Josh on his wedding day. With preparation, such as the speech (written – just needs practising and amending), to do for that – it’s unlikely I’ll be writing many blogs. I apologise sincerely for that, and promise to get back on the wagon once the wedding, and uni, is over.

I might well put stuff up on Hardman’s Thoughts in this time, I want to if I have time. But I can’t guarantee it, hence the need for this post.

So, I’ll leave you with some pictures from the stag, which took place on Friday night and Saturday lunchtime. It consisted of a FIFA tournament (which Martyn won and I came second in) followed by going to see Mansfield – Notts County (a resounding 5-0 win for Mansfield!). I’ll have more on the wedding as we get closer to the date!

All pictures were taken by Emma Still, and you can buy her work on Etsy, check out her Instagram or book her using the email: emma.still@btconnect.com

 


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Introducing … Emma Still

Emma Still, 19, has lost over four stones in a year. The only aspects of her life she directly changed were diet and exercising. However, it’s had a much greater effect on her entire life. It’s easy to say she’s happier; it’s more realistic to say she’s completely changed her entire perspective on life and health. She’s written a blog on her transformation, and it’s well worth a read.

  1. You mention self-esteem throughout the blog and I was wondering if there’s a connection between that and the weight loss. Namely, is that the reason this diet has succeeded where your others haven’t?

From my experience, weight loss and self-esteem do seem to have some sort of connection. I’ve always been happier and more confident when I’ve lost weight and miserable when I put on weight. Therefore, when I put on the 2 and a half stone in 2014 and was the heaviest I had been I was at my worst. However, weight loss isn’t the only contributor to self-esteem because I would still say that my self-esteem isn’t the best. I mean, I still find it difficult to talk to people I meet for the first time. You can’t depend on weight loss to boost your self-esteem because a lot of other factors contribute towards it. I think this diet succeeded where others haven’t mainly down to the fact that I felt like I wasn’t restricting what I eat too much. Yes, I cut out sugar amongst other things but there are so many alternatives that mean that I still eat almost everything I want to (especially brownies). My self-esteem was of course a factor because it was so low that I knew I needed to make a change because otherwise I would still be where I was today. It was gradually boosted over the course of the year down to the weight loss and a general love of my diet so it could well be the reason why this succeeded.

  1. A lot of this success is down to your change in diet. Which recipe book, and indeed recipe, is your favourite?

I have recently written a blog post on my three favourite bloggers/authors. These are The Green Kitchen, Anna Jones and Tanya Maher (Better Raw). They have each show me how to eat better whilst extremely enjoying what I eat and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for them. I’ve included some of their recipes in my recent blog post. There are other bloggers that I love as well but I could list them forever so it’s best to ask me personally for the full list. My favourite recipe book is joint between The Green Kitchen and The Green Kitchen Travels mainly because they are awesome recipes whilst containing beautiful photography, which is important to me. However, my favourite recipe is very difficult for me to choose because I have so many recipes that I love. Anna Jones’ Tomato and Coconut Cassoulet in her book A Modern Way to Eat is pretty ace and I tend to eat it every week. I also love pizza and eat that every Friday night using the pizza dough from Honestly Healthy’s first book and then making the topping from Anna Jones’ pizzette. Quite honestly, I don’t think I have a favourite.

  1. Where is the best place to buy these books?

That would have to be Amazon because they always do discounts on these cookbooks as they were all the trend in 2015. However, Waterstones stock all the books as far as I’m aware and I love Waterstones as a store so they’re always good to support even if the books are a bit pricier.

  1. Can you explain your exercise regime in more detail (i.e., what does the interval run consist of, when do you run, do you do anything on top of running)?

I run three times a week (1×16 minute interval run, 1×30 minute, 1×35+ minute) – normally with at least a day break between each run. Usually, it’s a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday although there are times when I’m busy and can’t do a certain day so have to change it. The interval run consists of a 5 minute warm up jog followed by 1 minute sprinting then 1 minute jogging for the next 11 minutes. The 35 minute run we are gradually building up every couple of weeks so we can eventually run further and further. The other days I go walking for at least 10,000 steps which I have an app on my phone to track it. I wouldn’t enjoy the gym or many other forms of exercise so I don’t want to force myself to do them because I wouldn’t keep it up.

  1. What is your favourite form of exercise and what exercises would you recommend to novices?

Nowadays, I actually love running. At the beginning I absolutely hated it because it made me feel so unfit as I was out of breath after about a minute. I’m a very self-conscious person and didn’t want anyone to see me out of breath and sweaty. Now I can run 30 minutes without really breaking much of a sweat and I really enjoy being in the fresh air, as it tends to clear my head. I also love swimming but I don’t go enough because it can be quite expensive to go all the time. Plus, after losing 4 stone I can say that my swimming costume almost certainly won’t fit now!

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For novices, I recommend the couch to 5k by Change4Life because that’s what helped me. It’s a 9 week programme which builds you up gradually to be able to run for 30 minutes. It seems daunting at first but honestly, if I can do it then anyone can because as I said I could barely run for a minute at the start.

  1. Exercising and cutting sugar out of the diet can be hard work. How did you keep going when it was easier to just stop?

Most people can’t go cold turkey like I did because you have to have a hell of a lot of will power to do it. I was completely desperate though on the borderline of being classed as obese and of course my high blood pressure. The way I dealt with getting rid of sugar, dairy, gluten and alcohol from my diet was to just remove the temptation from the house. I’m notoriously bad at feeding myself because I’m quite lazy so if I had bad food in the house then I would eat it, as it’s the easy option. The other way I combated my cravings was to find alternatives to everything I missed. Sugar is easily replaced with dates, honey, agave, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and many others. I’ve reverted back to eating dairy and gluten because I can’t personally remove them completely from my diet. However, I’ve substituted milk for homemade almond milk, yoghurt for coconut yoghurt (which I either make myself or buy from the supermarket) and cheese can be replaced with nutritional yeast. The only dairy I eat is feta, goats’ cheese and halloumi and gluten wise I try to eat wholewheat products all the time. I drink alcohol rarely nowadays but I drink it on special occasions and if I fancy it then I’m not going to stop myself from drinking. I just don’t really want to drink it much anymore. I certainly don’t judge people who do – I’m really not preachy about my diet.

  1. Is it true that you’re difficult to feed?

When you look at my diet from an outsider’s perspective then it looks daunting if you’ve got to feed me. Honestly though, I’m really not that difficult to feed. Okay, I don’t eat sugar, processed food, most dairy and other things along those lines but ultimately day in day out I mainly eat very basic ingredients. My diet is plant based so if you buy in some fruit and veg or pulses like lentils and beans then you can feed me. I’m not a fussy eater so most likely I’ll eat what you give me. You don’t need to worry about feeding me but if you are then just talk to me about it – I’m very down to earth about my diet as I realise it seems really difficult to someone not used to it.

  1. What advice would you give to people who want to lose weight?

My advice would be to find what works for you. I can’t tell you how to do it because what has worked for me you may absolutely detest. You have to find your motivation to do something about it. However, you need to realise that life is more important than a number on the scales because you should start by being happy with the way you look. You’re never going to look “perfect” because there is no such thing. Like I could still complain that my stomach isn’t flat enough and that is how I feel sometimes but I’ve lost so much weight and I’m healthy so should I really be concentrating on one little flaw? No. So stop weighing yourself all the time and just aim on finding what makes you happy. I found a diet and exercise regime that I love and look where I am now.

  1. How big a factor was your “graduation” from school?

Quite frankly, huge. I’m an emotional eater and it’s fair to say my comfort eating may have been a cause for my weight gain. My two best friends left my school after GCSEs so when I got into sixth form I had barely anyone. I was completely isolated especially seeing as I had fallen out with a few girls a couple of years previously that had turned a lot of people against me. Of course, I was partly to blame for my isolation because I’m not the most talkative and I don’t like to force myself upon people so I didn’t try extremely hard at infiltrating a friendship group. It was difficult though because most friendship groups had been formed years before and they weren’t exactly looking for a new member. I spent my lunchtimes working or in the toilet (I know how sad that sounds but I didn’t feel like I had anywhere else to go) and I left any opportunity I could. No one really tried to involve me in anything and I’m pretty sure most people at that school either didn’t like me or were completely indifferent to me. They made me feel like I was worthless. The sixth form itself wasn’t exactly the best place either: too strict and too focussed on academic subjects. If I ever get successful then none of it is down to my school. In fact, I’m trying to completely disassociate myself with it. My self-esteem has massively improved since leaving in May and I can safely say I’m glad I’m shot of it.

  1. On top of this, you’ve started a photography degree. I know that this is very time consuming. You’ve managed to keep up the exercise, so how would you recommend that people stay active while working?

Some days it is difficult. I don’t eat the best I could; I haven’t done as much exercise as I’ve wanted to or something along those lines. It’s in my personality that I tend to beat myself up about it but my advice would be definitely don’t beat yourself up about it – don’t be like me. If there is one day that you have slipped then it isn’t the end of the world. If it is turning into more than one day then address the issue. You’ve got to be organised more than anything. I have to arrange my running around how my timetable for the week looks. Often, I get up early and do my exercise, which takes a lot of dedication but it’s worth it. It’s better to push yourself to do the exercise than to beat yourself up about it later. Also, I park a little way away from uni so I can go on a little walk before my lessons.

  1. What do you say to people who say photography isn’t a proper degree?

Erm, I’d probably swear at them? Haha no, I just think that is a very ignorant opinion. When people discovered I was going to do a photography degree whilst I was at school I got very judgmental looks and questions. The best was: oh so you’re going to just be taking pictures for three years? It’s not as simple as that. I want a career in photography so why would I take a degree in a really pointless subject that I’m never going to use again? It’s an important degree and an important job and people should stop judging people based on what they’re studying or what university they go to or what their job is. I couldn’t care less if you’re a doctor or an artist – both jobs are as important in our society. It’s more important that you’re a good person than what you do for a living. What I do isn’t “easy” either. It’s not just point and shoot like most amateur photographers do so please educate yourself on photography before telling me it’s not a proper subject and it’s easier than other jobs.

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  1. Finally, what does the future hold in terms of diet, exercise and job prospects?

The wonderful thing about life is that it will all probably change. I’ll find new foods that I love, new exercises that make me feel great and find a job that makes me happy. I can’t say what the future holds but of course I have some aspirations. I’m constantly discovering new ideas surrounding my diet so it will most likely change but not much because I think I’m content with the fundamental principles of it. Exercise wise, I would love to start swimming more when I have a bit more money coming in and of course I want to keep running and walking. I would also love to take up yoga and improve my strength a bit as I’m so weak to the point that I find it difficult to pick up saucepans sometimes. I also want to start meditating more to try and improve my self-esteem and general confidence. Concerning my job, I have always wanted to work for myself. I want my own business and be successful and happy with what I do. My main aspiration is to be a food photographer/stylist so my food blog is very important to me as it is definitely in the industry I want to break. I’ve started selling my photographs on Etsy as a mini start to launching a business so hopefully that’ll go somewhere.

Emma blogs on WordPress, has a Facebook page for her photographs and an Instagram account which she updates daily (to go along with her Etsy account).

If you want to contact her for anything than email her at emma.still@btconnect.com.


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Ramble #3

Announcements

This is just a quick note to say sorry for not posting anything since the 24th November, university work has been piling up and up and I haven’t had any time to write anything, although I’ve been writing a lot. I also had a month full of gigs, so my blogging time was very limited. The UEFA European Championships draw happened last night, throwing together some fascinating groups and I promised you I’d cover that, and so I will – at some point in the next week that will be up. 

Furthermore, some of my university work I’m actually quite proud of and so they might begin appearing on this blog at some point in the near future. This degree is much more enjoyable than my first, I’ve met some wonderful people and I’m actually enjoying the work. Nowadays, I look forward to going in rather than dreading it. The whole experience at Lincoln is one I’m enjoying much more than Nottingham. 

Finally, Everton’s form is frustrating to say the least. Yes, reaching the league cup semi-final is wonderful but to draw with Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Norwich in a row is incredibly disappointing. Going forward we are as good as any side in the country, but defensively we are looking weak and unsteady. We need Jagielka back, and we need him back quickly. We won’t outscore opponents every match (proven in the last three), so we need to defend better. A new goalkeeper is a must in Jan. Martinez is still the right man for the job, but he needs improvement quickly.

Mind you, that draw with Bournemouth looks better every week. Having beaten Chelsea and United in consecutive weeks, Bournemouth are proving there really are no weak sides in this years premier league. I always enjoy our league, but this year particularly so. It’s just frustrating to know that if we had a more reliable defence, we would be up there with the best.

Anyway, I digress. Sorry that I haven’t posted anything recently, however I promise I’ll have some proper stuff up soon. In the mean time, check out my other blog over at http://www.aftertheencore.wordpress.com, that will have some of my university work first (and hopefully some reviews of Kodaline and Alt-J). Maybe I’ll introduce you guys to some of my uni friends via a Q&A at some point too, because with more writing friends comes the possibility for more guest bloggers. We’ll see how that develops.

I’ll get to you again before Christmas, but if I don’t get a chance to say it, enjoy the holidays.