Beauty fundraiser for residents of Grenfell Tower

Like many of you earlier this week, I sat in silence, with tears streaming down my face, watching in disbelief the inferno that engulfed residential Grenfell Tower in North Kensington late at night, when most people were fast asleep in the seeming safety of their beds. 24 floors, 120 flats, over 600 residents – men, women, children. A disaster of this magnitude touched many people, as some rushed to help, others, like incredibly brave firefighting teams, were already at the scene, alongside policemen & emergency services, fighting fires and trying to save those people who were trapped inside. When life is good, we all take it for granted, when human tragedies like that happen we unite over the innate need to do something, to help, to hug people, to wipe the tears and give survivors hope that they aren’t alone. We can’t make horrible memories disappear or bring back to life those people who lost their lives, but we all can do something to help elevate the pain, fear, anger and despair. Many people, famous or not are coming together with the initiatives to fundraise the funds for those in desperate need in a middle of the city we all call home.

As some of you might know, I write a lot on the subject of beauty. As part of my work I receive products from brands for testing, but I also buy many beauty products myself, accumulating too many products over time. Some are given as gifts, some I start using, but quickly realise that while they are lovely, they might not work for my skin. Lately I was looking at a large bag of beauty products and contemplating what to do with them – do I gift them? Do I donate them to a shelter? What’s the best way to share them, without taking advantage of brand’s generosity or making any undue profit for myself?  After watching the news & thinking about life & loss, as I held my own kids hands tightly after the school run, I just knew that I want to do something with this beauty stash to help those people who suffered unimaginable loss – of family members & loved ones, of their homes, that were supposed to be their safe harbour and of the things that they held dear, like photos, favourite toys or simple things that we all use daily, yet take for granted but without which we feel a bit lost – toasters or kettles, a favourite armchair, a dress that makes us feel like a million dollars, a pebble from the beach, picked up during the holiday, a baby tooth or lock of hair, a favourite book…..

So here is my idea that I put forward for your consideration: below is the list of products that I have. All full-sized, most brand new, some gently (partially) used, but hygienic & not contaminated – each will have details next to its name, as well as the size. Here is what I want to do. If you want any of the products below, or several of them, please make a donation of at least £10 pounds for each product that you want directly to the JustGiving Fund for the residents of the Grenfell Tower – I attach the links to JustGiving Fundraising pages at the end of this post. In turn, I will send you the product or products, each valued at more than £10 pounds to your home address, if you are a UK, Scottish or Irish resident (lets discuss postage, if you want to order something to be sent to Europe, America, Canada, Asia or North Pole – I will be happy to find a solution that will be satisfactory to you), covering postage & packing myself. If I know you, please just let me know the amount of your donation, so I can keep a tally and will know how much our joint effort will raise for those people who desperately need it. If I don’t know you personally, please DM or e-mail me confirmation of your donation, as well as the address to which you want me to post the products and I will do it as soon as I can. Many people consider beauty superficial & I want to change that perception by raising funds for those people who really need them right now. At a time of loss, like many people, I want Grenfell Tower residents to know that they aren’t alone in this world & that they will be able to rebuild their lives in time.

Beauty Products List

Tropic Skincare Good Skin Day Serum, 30 mms, external packaging opened, internal untouched

Tropic Smoothing Cleanser, 120 ml, brand new

Kahina Giving Beauty Travel Basic Set, includes Facial Cleanser 30 ml, Argan Oil 30 ml, Facial Lotion 30 ml. Brand new

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub, 118 ml, new

Ren V-Cense Youth Vitality Day Cream, 50 ml, brand new

Nourish Argan Anti-Ageing Peptide Serum, 30 ml, brand new

Nourish Skin Renew Cleanser, 100 ml, brand new

Nourish Kale 3D Cleanse, 100 ml, brand new

Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C BB Cream SPF 20, shade: fair, 50 ml, used one one occasion only

Therapi Honey Skincare Rose Otto Propolis + Ultra radiance Cream, 50 ml, brand new

 

Bodhi & Birch Neroli Luce Revitalising Face Oil, 15 ml, brand new

Bodhi & Birch Body Oils Mini Collection (3 x 15 ml), brand new box set

Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying Face Exfoliant, 100 ml, brand new

Osmia Purely Simple Face Cream, 1,7oz, gently used

Balance Me Radiance Face Oil, brand new

Dr. Scheller Argan Oil & Amaranth Anti-Wrinkle Intensive serum, 30 ml, brand new

Skin Oil Beauty Drops, lavender, 30 ml, brand new

Skin Oil Beauty Drops, geranium, 30 ml, gently used, more than 2/3 full

Melvita Natural Lift Youthful Skin Cream, 50ml, new

Mallow & White Sooth Face Mask, 30g, brand new

Antonia Burrell Radiant Light facial Oil Serum, 15ml, brand new

St. Ives Apricot Face Scrub, 30 ml, brand new

Max & Me Circle of Protection Body Oil, 10ml, brand new

de Mamiel Atmospherique Pure Calm Cleansing Dew, 100 ml, gently used, more than 2/3 full

Flow Kosmetikka Cloudberry Anti-Age Facial Serum, 20 ml, brand new

Philip Kingsley Elasticiser, 40 ml, brand new

Mun Akwi Purifying Cleanser, 100ml, gently used, more than 2/3 full

Nubo Bio-Regenerating Concentrate, 30 ml, brand new

Weleda Skin Food, 75 ml, brand new

Perricone MD Chia Serum, 30 ml, brand new

Lilfox Cleopatra Restorative Milk & Honey Beauty Mask, 1 oz, very gently used, more than 2/3 full

Laurel Facial Serum Sun Damage Repair, 30 ml, brand new

Once the product has been chosen by someone via their donation, I will put the line on it, so you know that it’s gone. Products will be send on the first come, first served basis.

Books:

Emma Cannon’s Total Fertility, lovingly used but in good condition

Goop Clean Beauty by the editors of Goop, gently used

Glop Goop Parody by Gabrielle Moss, gently used

Let’s get together & raise some money for those that really need the funds to start rebuilding their lives, while getting used to live with the loss or horrors that they endured. Beauty can be meaningless, if it doesn’t have a soul & I truly believe that together we are stronger in facing the future, even when it is uncertain. People who lived in that tower weren’t well-off and right now might feel that their lives didn’t matter to those whose actions, in some way, led to the unimaginable tragedy that happened in the middle of a summer night in London. There is a lot of anger, understandably & I sincerely hope that our joint effort will help in a small way to change things for the better, compared to what they are now.

As an additional incentive for you to donate, I promise that I will enclose some samples for you, alongside the product or book you want, while my stock of the samples lasts. I hope this initiative resonates with you & by our joint fundraising effort we hopefully will help give the residents of the Grenfell Tower to get the things that they need now or in the future, which they will be able to choose by having financial means to do so. I hope that my initiative will show the strength of our emotion & the feeling of love and affection that we are united by, no matter our sex, age, race or religion. Tragedies happen to good people and together we help each other survive the unimaginable horrors and sorrow that otherwise would break hearts completely. This tragedy tore at the fabric of London, like several terrorirism acts in the last few weeks – something that sadly more and more people around the world can relate to. Lets come together and shelter those who suffered from even bigger storms. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this and for hopefully donating to the cause that we can all relate to, while luckily hugging those that we dearly love together & saving our blessings.

Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund for Grenfell Tower Residents

The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation


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CRiL reviews: Emma Cannon new book ‘Fertile: Nourish & Balance Your Body Ready for Baby Making’

In a world obsessed with youth & good looks, it’s difficult not to get sucked into the whirlwind & keep focus on the things that truly matter, like our emotional & physical health & wellbeing. When we are in our 20s, the issue fertility remains far from our minds, in fact many of us dread getting pregnant & would rather enjoy freedom, fun & building up professional experiences & career. By the time we reach 30s & 40s, when many women long to become mothers, the subject takes centre stage, but we have to face the fact that our past lifestyle choices might have had a negative impact on our fertile state. A recently published book ‘Fertile’ by the fertility expert & writer Emma Cannon is a knowledgable guide to the state of your body & mind, irrespective of your age & motherhood ambitions. In a nutshell, it will help you be in tune with your feminine force.

Emma is serene & charming. No matter what is going on outside her treatment room, she radiates inner calm that is often missing from modern lifestyle. I have seen her during my pregnancies & every time left her treatment room with a calmer head & body, with the treatment effect lasting for days. Her three previous books have helped several of the women that I know to get pregnant, at times when doctors were shaking their heads. Yet, no matter the rate of success, Emma’s feet remain firmly on the ground, with no airs & graces when it comes to her multiple talents. She is driven by innate desire to help as many couples as she can, as well as women in general, who need to fine-tune the optimal functioning of their bodies.  In addition to her work in the clinic & writing books, Emma publishes a blog, full of practical & relatable advice that is relevant to women of different ages, irrespective of their lifestyle choices. No less importantly, Emma takes responsibility for advice that she gives, so suffice to say that the publication of this book intrigued me.

Fertility – engage in it, yet keep a lightness to your touch

This beautifully photographed hardback, with a cheerful yellow inner cover, offers practical advice & fact- checked information alongside delicious recipes by nutritionist Victoria Wells, who works alongside Emma in the clinic in Chelsea.

Emma’s now classic ‘Baby-Making bible’ came out when times were perfectly aligned for Emma, after she beat cancer & her heart was brimming with joy. In a way it was her love letter to life, to the future, to the women & her own daughters. ‘Fertile: Nourish and Balance Your Body ready for Baby Making’, Emma’s fourth book, is a bit different, as it has ‘hidden depth & deeper meaning’, according to Emma. Her latest book combines many years of experience in the clinic, as well as Emma’s personal journey as a woman, alongside deliciously nurturing recipes created by Victoria & tested by both women, as the importance of food should never be underestimated when it comes to physical & mental well-being.

The book is divided into two part, ‘A Fertile Life’ & ‘Recipies’. In the first part Emma focusses on such topics as fertile living & fundamentals, like a menstrual cycle, examining body-mind-gut connection, egg quality, miscarriage, IVF support & male fertility. I tend to read lots of books, blogs & magazines as part of my own writing research & often coverage of several of the above subjects seems to be lacking, particularly when you read on the subject of female fertility. Somehow, even in our day & age, fertility issues are more often ‘blamed’ on women, as opposed to looking at the subject with a 360 view. Emma is one of those fiercely passionate women who values knowledge & experience above social media followers number and I would rather my own daughter takes advice from Emma in the future, than from some ‘influencer’ or foodie blogger, whose professional scope is limited to say the least.

When you tend to the garden you don’t seek to control it; take the same approach with[...] read more

One fine half-day at Grace Belgravia

My first impression of Grace Belgravia, which I visited shortly after it opened four years ago, was mixed to say the least. I was whizzed through it in about ten minutes flat. Staff was morose, apart from the sunny & welcoming gym trainers. Best of all,  I wasn’t even offered a glass of water. But my recent half-day visit more than made up for initial shortcomings. Talk about a place transformed!

Grace Belgravia was masterminded by businesswoman Kate Percival, who started to re-evaluate a lot of things when she turned 50. Instead of doing something indulgent for herself, she set out to create a peaceful oasis that brought together health, wellbeing, beauty, fitness, nutrition and many other things under one spaciously airy roof. The result of her team’s labours is a place where women are able to nurture themselves, enjoy stillness, as well as have informative conversations. I had the pleasure of having lunch with Kate on the day of my visit and while you can feel blades of steel underneath her beautifully controlled exterior, she is an inspiring woman, who brings women of different ages together under one roof and gives them a calm space to do things that not only matter to them, but make them feel good, both inside and out. You can workout, see a variety of specialists, including doctors, making sure your health is where you want it to be, attend events, pamper yourself, read a book, while drinking a smoothie, or have lunch with a girlfriend or dinner your other half – it offers all this and more.

On the day of my visit I was still feeling somewhat fragile, after weathering a flu-like cold on my feet the week before, doing my usual rounds of work, school runs and after-school activities. My energy was low and I craved peaceful comfort. I arrived at a discreet black door, was buzzed in, climbed a curved staircase and was met by Grace’s receptionist. She gave me a form to fill in (it took three pen changes, but we got there swiftly in the end) and a rubber-like bracelet to wear, which would allow me to move effortlessly from one zone of the club to another. After filling in the form, I was shown around (with calm charm & plenty of useful tips) and was left to my own devices in the quite changing room, where a spacious locker was allocated to me for the duration of my stay.

I changed into my fitness gear and went into the gym, where two male instructors were already guiding their clients through the paces. I was starting my day with an hour-long reformer pilates session with Georgia, alongside two other Grace members. I have done pilates on many occasions, but have to admit it was my first session on the reformer, so it looked a little daunting. Georgia, slim, calm & pretty, quickly explained the process and off we went. When you work on the reformer it might not seem more difficult than a regular pilates practise, but I promise you WILL feel the effect later! It does work more extensively on your muscles, yet you feel quite serene while doing it. The gym in Grace is divided into three separate areas/rooms – you have treadmills with the amenities in one, the gym in another, where you also have an area designated for reformer pilates and a studio, where you can do a variety of classes. The room where I was working out has utility decor, with metal panels on the walls and the ceiling, creating a fairly neutral environment where the focus is easily achieved and nothing distracts you. Well, other people working out with a gym instructor one-to-one might – I tend to talk with my gym instructors when working out and I don’t whisper, so others might find loud-voiced sirens like me distracting. Having said that, there is a nicely communal feel to the gym space, when you do your own thing, but can allow your eye and mind to wonder to someone doing something else. My class went by quickly and yet we managed to work the whole body without feeling exhausted and I left the class with a gentle smile on my face.

I had about twenty minutes before my treatment and took time to ‘nose’ around the changing room and beauty area, before changing into a bathrobe and walking into the waiting area next to the treatment room, inhaling the soothing smell of eucalyptus emitted from the sauna. I was about to have an hour and fifteen minute long treatment called


The Capri
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New Year, your DNA – iamYiam

As always new year starts with bombarding us with suggestions for the ‘new you’ – new diets, food fads, supplements, gym memberships – which on most occasions do nothing, but overwhelm us at the time when we need to gently transition from the season of festive indulgence back to busy lives in a cold time of the year, when body needs nurturing, not detoxing. Granted, some of those marketing tools have become somewhat less aggressive, but it still ends up putting you under pressure to ‘perform’. Instead of that, what I want to put forward for your consideration is the one tool in your arsenal that can help you make the right decisions for YOUR body thanks to the science and which can lead to profound changes and long-term benefits for you that you will see and feel. Say hello to a


DNA kit
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How NOT to get overwhelmed by January

Since the first of January knocked on our door, I have been receiving a bountiful stream of e-mails about detoxing, healthy living and the way to help with New Year, New You resolutions. While I actually subscribed to those news alerts in the first place, I find that a few days in I am actually geting stressed and somewhat overwhelmed by those e-mails, that seem to pull me into different directions. Instead of too much information, I actually crave calm and focus! I don’t want a ‘new’ me – there was nothing wrong with the ‘old’ me in the first place, what I DO want is a better version of myself, the one that gets back on track of daily life after the festive indulgence, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Doing it quickly and taking on too much is a root to failure, so instead I am taking things slow and easing myself in gently into 2017.

Below are a few suggestions that I hope will resonate with you and if they don’t, please feel free to comment and share what works for YOU, making return to work and hectic schedules easier !


  • Start the day five minutes early, allowing yourself to meditate, dream or just enjoy


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Reflections on 2016

This year has been anything, but predictable. Tempers flared, unexpected political change swept us off, hearts got broken, conflicts escalated, joy seemed to dimmer in the world, yet we all seem to be marching forward. So, as we close the page on 2016 and start anew in 2017, I thought I would look back & reflect, get grounded in present and move forward with positivity, aspirations and hope.

Lesson in politics: first we had Brexit and I never felt such vibes of utter despair in London. The town was quite, people clutched their coffee or water cups, as kids got dropped off at schools and a new work day loomed ahead. Then America went to vote and the result felt like a groundhog day. A few days after the results of the US election got announced and confirmed, I went to a book group hosted by a friend, where I watched two American women reflect on what happened. Yes, there were simmering anger undercurrents, yet they both talked of the lessons learnt, open dialogue and moving forward talking to each other, learning from past mistakes. I left the group that night deep in thought and full of admiration for those two women, who even though they belong to an older generation & in theory might find change hard, seemed to draw lessons and have strong desire to learn, in order to change things for the better in the future. I think this can apply to all spheres of life. A lot of things in life happen outside of our control, but it is up to each one of us to decide on the best actions to take when we don’t get the result that we desire. Blaming others doesn’t help and neither does being angry for long. What helps is taking the time to understand why this or that happened and what we can do next time to hopefully get the result that resonates with us.

Lesson in business: as in the past, I tended to step on the rakes yet again. I have a propensity to get excited about businesses, ideas and work of others and get behind them with my support. Yet what often happens is that people accept that support, at times not even bothering to thank me, let alone reciprocating when it comes to the work that I do. When I recently mused about it to my acupuncturist before the start of the session, he asked me if that made me feel angry. If I got asked this question a year ago, I would have probably instantly said ‘yes’. Surprising myself, without even thinking, I actually shook my head and sincerely uttered ‘no’. Thing is, I give my support willingly and if that support isn’t reciprocated, I only have myself to blame for the expectations I might harbour. Others can’t do to us what we don’t allow them, so if I felt disappointment, I could only lay the blame at my door. The way forward is to sit down and think whether I want to continue supporting those people or brands or wish them luck and take a step back from them, stepping into my own limelight. I have ambitions, I am good at what I do and I am capable of swiming in my own lane. What I send out to the universe I will get back.

Lesson in health: this year quite a few people I know or know of through friends became ill. Some of them are older, so maybe it wasn’t a total surprise, but it made me think how we all rush and talk of being stressed, but not many of us, myself included at times, actually take the time to address our own life balance. Giving advice to others is always easier than following it yourself, right? Our bodies are smart and send us signals when we overdo things, yet often we simply don’t listen. Signals become more urgent and if we don’t react, a big boom can happen. This summer I took the time to digitally detox & contemplate my own lifestyle & work choices. Did the world stop? Hell no, most people probably didn’t even notice my scaled down presence on the social media, but I came back to London feeling so innately happy, I just grinned from ear to ear most of the time.

Then I started running again and got to the end of the year running almost on empty. And you know what? I will slow down for the festive time – this post is my last one for 2016, I will indulge and spend time hugging those I love. And then in January I will shift up a gear & move in my own lane, at a speed that works for me, making sure I integrate daily ‘love myself’ ritual, which includes mental self-care, fitness & nourishment. I am a giver by nature, but I can’t support others, if I don’t nurture myself & we, women, can be pretty bad at that. I become snappy and frustrated and it is often my loved ones who bear the grunt of it, while the outside world observes a happy face. I don’t pretend to be who I am not, but I am no longer tolerant of letting myself down and mirroring it on those I care about. My family and friends mean the world to me and they appreciate me for who I am, on good and bad days. Well, they deserve more of good days. So while I won’t be detoxing my body in winter, I will aim to do sport more regularly and consistently, I will meditate daily and I will continue my daily gratitude practise, when at the end of the day I write down or list mentally five good things that happened to me that day and for which I am grateful. No matter how trivial, this is what allows me to finish one day positively and start another one in the same way. As Jason Wachoub, founder of Mind Body Green, said in his recent BoF talk, the best sport for you is the one that you actually end up participating in. It’s not about trends, it is about finding what works for your body and fuelling yourself physically, emotionally, nutritionally and mentally. My ‘Bible’ for the year ahead is the book recommended by Emma Cannon called ‘Live Long Live Well’ by Peter Deadman & this is a subject that I want to write more about next year.

Lessons in life: Life is what we make of it, or so the saying goes. We are who we surround ourselves with. And if the relationship doesn’t work, think what needs fixing, as well as how the other person views it. My husband recently returned from a business trip and said to me something that actually deeply touched me. We had an argument recently about something that I felt quite strongly about and I huffed and puffed about the subject for a while. Yet something clearly hit the nerve, as he looked at me after that trip and said pensively and sincerely:’ You know what? I now understand exactly what you meant that day! Recently I ended up repeating the same thing to someone and it felt so right & so true’. This truly was a gift and I felt a very profound shift and gratitude for his listening ability. After all, most of us are good speakers, but are we good listeners? In a way I learnt a lesson from him too, that listening is such an important skill, the importance of which should never be underestimated. It is something that I try to drum into our kids, yet sometimes need to be better practised at myself. You can’t force change – be it on yourself, or on others. You start with baby steps and then change takes hold – all you have to do is be determined to do it!

I admire honesty and integrity and authenticity. I admire people who are able to give to others, without asking anything in return. This year I asked one of the editors whose work I greatly admire to mentor me. She kindly declined, giving me her reasons. A couple of days later, I wrote her a long letter, telling her that I understand the reasons that she gave me and was grateful for her honesty. I also asked her to lunch or dinner, as I wanted to know what she thought about my career path and prospects within the industry that she knows so well. I never heard back from her, even though I know that the letter was delivered to her office. Do I admire her work? Yes, without a doubt. But my admiration for her personally diminished a bit, because even in the busiest schedule you can find the time to extend a little bit of generosity to the other, who clearly follows the work that you so.

Or maybe the lesson here is this: sometimes it’s better not to approach someone you admire because without meaning to, they might disappoint you or you will feel let down, when in actual fact they never owed you their time in the first place. Let alone a sliver of a conversation. But your stepping towards them will leave a scar that might take time to heal. So before you take that leap of faith, think twice if you should or rather, what are your expectations? If you genuinely have none, someone’s indifference to an excited stranger will pass unnoticed, like a fleeting glimpse into the crowd that won’t alter your life. Don’t idolise people, don’t expect them to be kind or caring and don’t presume that because you admire their talent or work they might be inclined to pay attention to YOU – but be thankful, if they do. When that happens it will have a wonderful mutual impact, even if you never see each other again or your paths won’t cross. After all, in one way or another we all have benefitted from kindness of strangers and hopefully reciprocated it back to another person. Only recently I bumped into Jilly Cooper, a writer who I have adored since my late teens and whose books have always brought laugher and joy to me. I haven’s seen her for many years, yet she gave me the most wonderful smile when I reminded her of our meeting many years ago and proceeded to question my how my life has changed since then. I will cherish those few minutes in her company for the rest of my life, as well as her generosity of spirit!

If you do a kind deed & the recipient lets it go unnoticed, especially when the person knows you, walk away and don’t make the same mistake again. Having said that, don’t let your heart harden – there are people out there who will value, appreciate or mentor you. Or smile at you when you really need it, but least expect it. Have high expectations of yourself, work hard, network and do your best to seek like-minded people with whom you look in the same direction. The world is not such a bad place after all, when you are part of the tribe that celebrates individuality, as well as team work. And if you need any inspiration from some amazing people, leaf through Richard Reed’s, founder of Innocent Smoothies, new book called ‘If I could tell you just one thing’.

‘If you put your head on a pillow late at night and think it hasn’t been a good day, wake up next day and change something. It might be your ideas or[...] read more

Elvie – a very personal female trainer

We live in times of oversharing and overexposure, but I belong to a group of people who believes that certain things should be kept private, like secrets that a girlfriend entrusts you with or images of you in underwear meant for the eyes of your other half only. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude and neither do I judge people who share themselves with a world, no holds barred, it’s just I do value my privacy, as well as retaining a sense of a little female mystique.

IMG_4573-1

Having said that, there are important subjects that seem to be discussed behind closed doors or in hushed tones, yet they deserve the spotlight, so more people know about it and have a chance to learn or share their own experience. Our pelvic floor muscles, small but mighty powerful, stretching like a hammock between tailbone and pubic bone, in my view deserve that spotlight as much, as our abs or butt. This muscle group remains hidden, yet plays a variety of important roles, including lifting & holding our pelvic organs, assisting bladder and bowl control, supporting our back and abs & contributing to sexual sensation during intimacy.

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If you scroll through social media, there are plenty of images of women exercising, but hardly any advice or visuals on exercising your private, but no less essential muscles – your pelvic floor. We generally have fairly strong pelvic floor muscles and most of us neglect them, without giving it a second thought until we give birth, become older, do certain type of sports or gain weight and then notice that things change and not for the better. When I was expecting my children a few years back, you were given a brochure about Kegel exercises during your prenatal checks and possibly had some mumbling from a doctor or nurse post delivery, about the importance of exercising your pelvic floor. This was quite unlike the experience of some of my French girlfriends, who were talked to in details by their doctors about the importance of keeping those muscles in order not to pee when running or jumping, or having an enjoyable intimate relationship with your other half. In France this is a golden standard of post-natal recovery, where all new mum have free access to pelvic floor physiotherapy. If you ask me, a few years after having my kids, pelvic floor muscles are still one of the most neglected muscles groups, yet this little but powerful set of muscles, is so important to women and that’s the reason why Elvie got me so curious.

Chiaro Am1a

I first came across this funky & stylish gadget (or rather, exercise tracker) at the Be:Fit London in the spring and started the conversation with the brand and their knowledgable team (thank you for being my educator Anna !). The more we talked, the more intrigued I was, but the question at the forefront of my mind was ‘does it actually work, or is that just another gadget to make an appearance on the market?’ After all, it retails for £149, so an average woman might bulk at the price, while not flinching to spend upwards of that on a new bag. Do we value out exterior more than we value our inside ? Having said that, Elvie has sleek packaging and even sleeker design, it does draw your eyes towards it and makes you ask ‘what is it?”. At the same time, it is discreet and comes with its own free App, that you will need to download, so you can monitor your own progress in real-time.

Copy of Elvie_April_20164647

Elvie was designed for women, with an intention to give you more than simple Kegel exercises (I remember getting my Kegel instructions from none other than Cindy Crawford and Kathy Koehler, in Cindy’s post pregnancy DVD that I still have somewhere), that we all do once in a blue moon, but most never stick to. Tania Boler, Elvie’s CEO, wanted to give women a fun, five-minute workout that delivered results, as well as a competitive incentive to improve your own result, as this is not a muscle group that you can examine in the mirror.

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Elvie is made by the British wearable technology company called Chiaro, founded by Tania, who is the CEO and Alexander Asseily, co-founder of Jawbone, & not a group of men in suits, who think they know women better than women do. Tania not only has degrees from Oxford and Stanford, but also a PhD in sexual and reproductive health, as well as published research on the subject. After having her first child, not only she was shocked to discover how common the problems with pelvic floor are (one in three women tend to have it in varying degrees), but how few effective options accessible to women are out there. Her plan? Well, she applied and won UK Government R & D grant to create an elegant solution that makes pelvic floor exercises a fun & quick part of female fitness routine. Elvie exercises were designed with guidance from physio therapists and experts from Oxford & Imperial College and the whole concept is now endorsed by brand’s ambassadors, like Nikki Rein, founder of BarreCore pilates chain, was recently recommended by Violet Grey and even more importantly, gynaecologists.

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When you first get your hands on Elvie, you will need to charge it (the charge lasts several weeks, but does depend of how regularly you use it), as well as download a free Elvie App. Once it is charged, place it inside your body gently & carefully, with a little ‘tail’ remaining outside (you have instructions in the accompanying little brochure, answering all of your initial questions & giving instructions). Elvie will then connect to an App (don’t forget to turn the bluetooth on!), which will guide you, via your phone screen, through a fun, five-minute workout, that will change when you are ready for the next challenge. Unlike the Kegel exercises, of which I only know a couple of variations. Elvie’s force & motion sensors will measure your pelvic floor muscle movement & help you visualise the exercise in real-time. The App will also track your progress, correct your technique and guide you through different levels of progress, as your muscles re-gain strength – in general, when exercising you PFM regularly, improvement can be expected in over 70% of cases. With Elvie’s guidance, you will perform the exercises correctly and with regular use ( Elvie’s team recommends using it at least three times a week), you can expect to notice the following:

– develop & maintain muscle tone of PFM (pelvic floor muscles)

– regain/improve bladder control

– improve confidence

– enhance sexual sensation & pleasure

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When not in use, you keep Elvie in a smart carry case (which acts as a charger as well), that can pass as a speaker, even though I try to keep it out of kids eyesight, as they are bound to ask what it is for. Elvie is 100% waterproof and is made with a medical grade silicone, which goes through vigorous testing before it reaches the consumer. It also comes with an optional cover, so you can adjust the sizing for a better fit, if need be – there you have a thought that one size can fit most, but not all of us. Plus a trainer that is compact, discreet and comfortable to use.

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I have expressed some initial concerns over hygiene, especially for those women who have IUD, as you don’t want to introduce an infection and then suffer the consequence. Hygiene is important here, so make sure you clean your hands before and after, plus clean Elvie with warm, soapy water and then let it dry naturally, before putting it back into the holder. Anna, who works for Elvie, addressed those concerns, saying provided I follow advice above, I should have no problems and have to say that after using Elvie throughout summer & now into the autumn, I can report that nothing unbecoming has happened.

You are also advised to consult the doctor before using Elvie if you are pregnant, particularly when you are in your first and last trimester and you shouldn’t use it for at least six weeks post delivery – the best thing is to talk to your doctor about it. Also, please be aware that due to the intimate nature of the product, returns aren’t accepted, unless the product is faulty and then it is covered by a 12-months warranty.

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Elvie is compatible with iPhone 4S, 5 & 6, as well as Android phones 4.3 7 above, all of which should support blue tooth low energy. Some of you might question that in terms of your intimate wellbeing and I was told that Elvie uses Bluetooth low energy, which is 1000x less powerful than our WiFi connection to the smartphone. Also important to note that bluetooth is located in Elvie’s ‘tail’, which remains outside of your body.

Interestingly, I don’t find Elvie exercises boring, even after doing them for a few months. You are required to utilise your brain as well, as you do the exercises, while different aspects of the pelvic floor muscles are challenged. I actually get somewhat competitive and examine my results with interest every time. It is a validation of sorts that I am exercising this muscle group correctly and in doing so regularly will hopefully prevent multiple problems that women might experience as they age. Some of you might be familiar with being careful not to laugh too hard or jump not too vigorously on the trampoline after having kids. Others say they come ‘prepared’ for intensive gym classes or that simple sneezing occasionally makes them loose a little bit of bladder control. If you experience any of the above or just want to make sure your pelvic floors are kept on good form, Elvie is here to help!

Multiple studies show that giving women real-time feedback is the most effective method for Kegel exercises, with direct force measurement being the ‘gold standard’. In that sense Elvie is a pioneer female product, as it measures force directly & not via air pressure changes or electric stimulation. When you exercise your muscle groups you want accuracy, thus making sure that you are doing the exercises correctly to maximise the benefit and this is exactly what you get. As you contract the muscles, Elvie’s internal mechanism allows for the accurate measurement during movement, so you have a fairly personalised & optimised training geared towards YOU.

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I found the device fairly easy to use to use (initially I was a little nervous, as considering the intimate nature of the device), but several months after I was sent Elvie for trialling, I continue using it and have become quite competitive with myself in terms of results at the end of each workout. I tend to use it three to four times a week and while I luckily didn’t have any significant PFM weakness after having my kids, I certainly feel that it has improved the tone of this muscle group. Unlike my Jawbone UP, that I recently sold online, as it was gathering dust (it was given to me as a gift by a family member, but within a few months I simply got bored with it), Elvie is stilling strong and thus far I haven’t experienced any significant issues to put me off using it.

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What I do want to highlight is that you can use Elvie lying down or standing up – that’s a personal preference, I prefer to use it standing up and somehow I feel that I am more alert and focussed on the exercises, but you might enjoy doing it while watching TV or just dreaming on the sofa. Ultimately, the decision is yours on how to best exercise this small, but so important muscle, that does play a big part in our female confidence.

Vanity is not always a bad thing, particularly when it comes to your wellbeing. I pride myself for looking after my health, in a way investing into my own future, as I don’t want to be a burden to my loved ones or society for that matter in my later years. So taking control of my health and taking steps to make sure I am happy and healthy is important to me. Elvie now plays part in the process too!

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