HELLO SUMMER! How we’ve missed you. Okay, so we’re not quite there yet. It’s still a bit freezing out there, but it’s undeniably the right side of winter. Hurrah! Holidays booked, weekends spent barbecuing and drinking Pimms to look forward to and letting the kids loose outdoors, free from the constraints of Michelin Man-style puffa coats, gloves that never fit and hats that don’t stay on. But with the freedom of summer comes the inevitable fear of bearing your winter flesh to the world. The flaky, pasty and pallid skin that has been safely concealed beneath clothes for the last seven months, the extra poundage that has accumulated during the long winter, so easily disguised by big jumpers and coats and of course, the hairy bits that have been cultivated since autumn.
We all want to feel confident in our own skin in the balmy summer months and relax without feeling self-conscious. Luckily there are a few simple steps that we can take, without any drastic lifestyle changes or expense.
Get Your Summer Skin Back
This is the easiest of problems to fix, in my opinion. There are a gazillion and two products out there to help the difficult transition from winter to summer. The key to obtaining soft and supple skin is regular exfoliation and gentle moisturising. As tempting as it is to whack on a load of heavy-duty, thick moisturiser in an attempt to stick the flaky bits back down again, they will just keep coming back like dandelions through a bowling green. You need to buff away the dead bits, and moisturise the new bits, slowly and over a period of time. ‘The Dew Puff Konjac Sponge’ is a great option. It’s an exfoliating sponge made from pure plant fibre – an Asian Root vegetable called “Konjac” in case you were wondering. It removes the dead skin cells without any harsh chemicals, and you can use it every day on face and body. Standard exfoliators should only be used once or twice a week, as over-exfoliating before sun exposure can make you skin more susceptible to sun damage. An added bonus is it wont leave any gloopy residue in your shower. Follow with a light body moisturiser or oil to prevent your skin drying out.
Buzz Away The Fuzz
Hairy bits. Sadly unavoidable and deeply unattractive. Waxing is by far the most efficient hair removal system. The thing is, it’s frigging painful, costly and you actually need to book an appointment in a real-life salon, attend, bare your various body parts to a nigh-on stranger and make polite small talk throughout it all. Luckily for us there are alternatives. Braun Silk Epil 9 wet and dry Epilator is a great little companion. It’s a multi-functional epilator and shaver in one. It has a very wide head, which makes the process of plucking much faster. It can be used in the bath or shower safely and the heat of the water softens the skin and opens the pores making the pain much more acceptable. It comes with an array of extras – a shaver, massage pads and exfoliation brushes. It can be used on legs, underarms and the bikini area (you’d be braver than me on that one). The hair regrowth time is slower than with a regular razor and the massage movement of the head exfoliates the skin simultaneously, leaving you buffed in areas you never dreamed buff-able.
Fake Bake it!
Now that you’re all plucked, buffed, smooth and shiny, it’s time to getting your tan on. ‘Fake Bake Flawless’ is my favourite self-tanner. It’s a thin liquid consistency in a spray bottle. It’s a dark, rich brown colour when it goes on, allowing you to actually see where you’re applying it, ensuring you don’t miss a bit. It feels like Fake Bake Flawless dries instantly. This is due to the alcohol content, which evaporates quickly. I would however allow ten minutes before rolling around in white bed sheets (or getting into your fluffy white dressing gown and slippers) just to be on the safe side. It develops into a jolly sort of honey-tan colour, the more times you apply it, the deeper the tan. As with any self-tanner there is always the risk of Donald Trumping it, so go slowly at first. It comes with a ‘wax on – wax off’ style mitt, that they suggest you spray the lotion onto first, rather than directly onto your skin, which I suggest you use, just believe me on that one. Another great benefit of self-tanning is it’s a marvellously effective way of masking cellulite…just saying.
Fight the Flab
All of the of the above can help us on our way to feeling ready to ready to wear summer clothes, although it is more about what you put into your body and the amount of exercise you do that really makes the difference. Move more, eat less, it’s very basic science that leads to weight loss, and sadly there are no quick fixes. You have to use up more calories than you’re taking in – calorie deficit. We all know that right? So why is it so bloody hard to lose weight, especially after having kids? Having worked as a personal trainer in Central London for several years, and having two young kids myself, I fully appreciate the internal battle that goes on when trying to shed the pounds. After kids, we’re time poor and cake rich. Ultimately your brain is your biggest enemy or ally in the battle of the bulge. If you can get Mr Grey Matter on your side, you’re onto winner, because anyone can eat less and move more, but not everyone can muster the willpower to do so. There are a few very simple changes you can make in the right direction towards weight loss.
Don’t set unrealistic goals
Losing 5 lbs in a week is very difficult, unsustainable, and not really very good for you. Besides, it probably won’t happen and then you feel deflated, like you’ve failed and be more likely to give up. A couple of pounds a week is a much more realistic goal.
Even if it’s a half a squashed up banana rejected by your toddler and a couple of spoonfuls of soggy cereal. Putting something in your tummy first thing, will kick-start your metabolism for the day and make you less likely to be so Hank Marvin later on.
Don’t pick at the kids’ food
This is one that I’m particularly guilty of. The odd sausage here, a forkful of cheesy pesto pasta there. Easily done, but before you know it you could have added a whole extra meal to your day. The no-picking rule I find works well for me, not even a sneaky quick dip of carrot and humous because once you’ve started, you know that the leftover birthday cake is gonna be the next to get it.
Stock up on healthy snacks like fruit and raw veg, crab sticks, popcorn etc. If you’re hungry, eat, you’ll be less likely to over-indulge later.
Don’t stock crap
If the chocolate and crisps and crappy foods aren’t there, you can’t eat them. It’s not as if you can quickly pop out to the shops and get something, seeing as having small kids is like permanently having heavy suitcases chained to your ankles.
Lay off the carbs in the evening
Simply put, if you eat a bowl of pasta the size of your head as your evening meal, then sit on the sofa and don’t move, the carbs will be converted to fat easily because you are not burning them off. If you eat a bowl of protein and vegetables the size of your head and sit on the sofa and don’t move, the body will not convert the excess protein to fat as easily as it would do with the carbs. Save the carbs for earlier on in the day when you are far less likely to be sitting on the sofa and not moving.
Get an app
Get an app that tracks your steps and records what you eat. “My Fitness Pal” is a good one. It has a massive database of foods, with recorded calories (even all the well-known restaurants and brands); you can even scan the barcode of many foods to check the calorie content. If you keep a visual track of what you eat and have a rough daily limit, you’re much more likely to keep it under control. 10,000 steps is the daily recommended activity level, with small kids you’d be surprised how many god damn steps you take, you’re probably already marathon-ready.
Allow yourself treats
Seeing as the new ‘out out’ is a Saturday night in, in front of Britain’s Got Talent with a big fat takeaway, go for it. It’s not really going to make a massive difference if you’re looking at the week as a whole. I think if you’re good 80% of the time you should allow yourself to be bad 20% of time. Otherwise there really isn’t much point going on…
It’s tricky one. Alcohol is bad for us, we all know that. It dehydrates our bodies and our skin. It’s extremely fattening – a large glass of wine contains the same amount of calories as Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut, depressing but true. It makes us less productive the next day and it interferes with the fat burning process making it even harder to lose weight, not to mention the water retention. But it is just so much fun! Maybe after a few glasses of vino calapso with the massive Saturday night takeaway, we’ll care much less about our flabby, pallid, flaky, cellulite-y, hairy selves anyway!
About Gemma Waugh
I’m a Film Industry make-up artist and hairdresser who qualified with BA Hons from London College of Fashion in 1999. I’ve been working internationally since I was 18 years old. I’m also the mother of two young boys.
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Image credit: Flickr Bermi Ferrer, Blanes Lolailo Flip flop, April 3 2008