Chonky, fluffy, thicc: inside the internet’s obsession with fat cat on diets

More social media accounts are dedicating themselves to specific chonky the bag of cats and their weight-loss efforts

They’re chonky, they’re fluffy, they’re thicc and body pawsitive. They’re round sons, floofs and absolute units.

The new animal trend on the internet celebrates the rotund and plump, with social media users focusing on the adorableness of a cat’s rounded cheeks, a hamster’s many rolls, a dog’s rounded shape and a raccoon’s voluptuous volume.

The Instagram account Chonky Animals has more than 409,000 adherents while the Round Boys and Round Animals accounts top out at more than 455,000 and 487,000, respectively. The Facebook group, This Cat is Chonky, has more than 395,000 members and hundreds of new posts each day.

The trend creates concerns about overfeeding and maintaining a pet unhealthy for the sake of cuteness. While humans can decide if they are healthy at every sizing, animals cannot , nor do they have the ability to tell their owners if they need help. But it has also inspired a wholesome movement toward building sure these animals remain healthy, as well as cute. More and more accounts are now dedicating themselves to specific chonky cats- and their weight-loss efforts.

” A heavy cat is pretty adorable ,” said Mike Wilson, one of the owners of Bronson, a cat who was 33 pounds when he was adopted and is now 23 pounds, one year later.” A big cat on a diet is a guilt-free way to follow an obese cat .”

In addition to Bronson, who has more than 214,000 followers, there’s Bruno Bartlett, the gray polydactyl cat that likes to stand on his hind legs, and his brother, Carlo. On Facebook, Fat Laila’s efforts at fat camp are lovingly documented, as well as her missteps- when she snuck into the closet to steal treats one night.

” There’s a reason why the internet is so preoccupied with fat cats ,” said Lauren Paris, the owner of Bruno and Carlo. “They’re so cute.”

Paris felt drawn to Bruno when stories about a “thicc” cat up for adoption went viral last year. She and her friend wrote a song, Give Me That Fat Cat, ensuring not just the adoption, but Bruno’s Instagram stardom.

However, upon session him, she knew his claim to fame – his chub- could not stay.

” He was so adorable, but he was able to barely move ,” Paris said.” The shelter was doing the best they could do, but he lived in a room with other cats and he would just eat their food .”

Bronson
Bronson has now slimmed down to 23 pounds. Photograph: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Because Bruno was already so public, his weight-loss journey became public as well. Paris posts when Bruno loses a pound, along with tongue-in-cheek hashtags such as” real cats have curves “. She posts pictures of him gazing longingly at human food, or meowing in the background to cooking bacon.

” I’m not going to lie, I think fat cats are cute, but not so cute that they shouldn’t be on a diet ,” Paris said.” Bruno, we look back at old videos of him and we guess,’ oh he’s so cute ,’ but he’s really cute now and he’s going to live a lot longer. That’s style better .”

Wilson and Bronson’s other owner, Megan Hanneman, felt the same way when it came to Bronson’s health. When they met him, he had to lie down to eat.” He merely was like a giant swollen ball ,” Wilson said.

” He was three years old and he weighed 33 pounds ,” Hanneman said.” The standard cat weighs like nine pounds, so he was about the dimensions of the three fairly big cats at three years old. He couldn’t move around .”

Bronson used to cry for more food before Wilson and Hanneman switched him to a wet diet that was less caloric but more filling. Even worse was when he would coax them awake for feedings.” At 3 in the morning, he’d come over and lay on us and purr in our faces ,” Hanneman said.

They enjoy posting about his weight-loss journey because cat weight loss is difficult. If cats lose weight too quickly, they can develop fatty liver disease, and typically sleep 18 hours a day and are hard to exercise, said Shari O’Neill, the chief shelter veterinarian at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Cat are also grazers, so it’s hard to measure out how much food they need to get through a day.

” It’s been a lot of fun sharing tips-off on losing weight and things we’re doing with Bronson, knowing that a lot of people have this issue with their cat, even if it’s not that extreme ,” Wilson said.

But as with anything on the internet, there are trolls. “We’ve seen it all,” Paris said.” We watch,’ You’re mistreat this cat ‘. We also ensure,’ I miss when Bruno was fat ‘.”

Some of the top regulations in the Facebook group, This Cat is Chonky, include no chonk-shaming , no owner-shaming and don’t do politics or medical advice.

” People watch a picture of a fat cat and they think we attained it fat ,” Paris said.” Or when we just started to show his weight-loss photos, people who don’t know anything about cats will say,’ Oh, he only lost two pounds? Well he should have lost more by now .”

She continued:” You don’t know why a cat is fat. You don’t know what diets ought to have tried. You don’t know if it has diabetes or not .”

In between cute pictures of Bronson and videos of his monthly weigh-ins, Wilson and Hanneman also post about adoptable cats around the country that are largely overweight, something Paris thinks is a much-needed effort.

” Something that’s good about this internet trend is that it does draw attention to these pets that would be passed by traditionally ,” she said.” All of these famous chonky cats came from shelters. I think that shines a really good light. Kittens are more likely to be adopted, but if these internet-famous chonky cats are more likely to get adult cats adopted, then we did our undertakings .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘ I wanted a truncheon in my pants ‘: the rise of the penis extension

More and more men are opting for surgical penis enlargement. Is it a confidence boost, or a con?

It has been more than a year since the operation, but Alistair is still furious about the results.” I paid PS8, 000 and they mutilated me ,” he says.” It was butchery. My partner said it looked like a war meander. My erection is basically ruined .”

In July 2017, the 55 -year-old decorator, from London, became one of a growing number of British humen to have a surgical penis expansion. Talk of improvement was once the conserve of promotional spam mail for bizarre-looking pills and pumps; now, it is serious clinical business. British clinics, which have taken consultancy rooms in Harley Street and in UK cities including Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds, report record numbers of patients calling on their services. One practice, the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery, has gone from performing a handful of penis procedures annually when it opened in 1990 to more than 250 in 2017. Between 2013 and 2017, members of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery carried out 45,604 penis enhancements worldwide. Previous numbers are unknown; the procedure was considered such a minority concern that it wasn’t included in surveys. This increase in demand seemingly caters to a growing nervousnes about penis size, but it is by no means a risk-free procedure. For Alistair, dreams of a larger penis were overtaken by infections, lumps and an erection that no longer rises above a 45 -degree angle. And he is not alone. In recent years, the General Medical Council has recorded tales of” wonky penis” and erectile dysfunction following surgery. In Stockholm, last summertime, a 30 -year-old man died after agony a cardiac arrest following an operation to enlarge his penis.

***

At his Harley Street clinic, Dr Roberto Viel is explaining how a typical enlargement works. First, surgeons sever the organ’s suspensory ligament, causing it to hang an inch or two lower, giving the impression of extra length. They then extract fat from the patient’s stomach and inject it into the penis rod, increasing girth by around two inches. Erect, it’s worth noting, it remains roughly the same size, suggesting the motives for many men are not necessarily to enhance either their- or a partner’s- sex experience.

The procedure, which can cost more than PS5, 000, lasts a little over an hour, but causes enough residual discomfort that physicians recommend patients take a week off work. The penis remains bandaged for 10 days. Sex is off the cards for a month. Erection suppressants are prescribed to avoid sews being rent open.

” Operations are very safe ,” says Viel, who founded the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery with his twin brother Maurizio.” Perhaps 95% of our patients are happy. Where they are not, it is often to do with expectations. Some humen want 10 inches when nature dedicated them four or five. I have to say, gently,’ This is not possible. I am not a miracle worker .'”

Photograph
Photograph: Ilka& Franz for the Guardian

William O’Connor, a 38 -year-old mechanic from Northampton, is one of his satisfied clients- and it’s easy to understand why. Think of a large can of aerosol deodorant and you have, roughly enough, his new dimensions.” There was one woman who took one look at it and only went,’ That thing is coming nowhere near me ,'” he says.” But mostly it goes down very well. I’ve seen a lot of eyes light up .”

Though liberally endowed by nature and confident enough in his body to have appeared in some adult movies in his 20 s, O’Connor decided to enhance his girth in 2013.” It was just something I fancied ,” he says with a shrug.” Some humen have hair transplants or belly tucks. I wanted a truncheon in my gasps. My whole life I’ve enjoyed impressing females; this was just an extension of that. You could call it a gentlemanly thing to do .”

O’Connor says he had no concerns beforehand (” My main worry was having the anaesthetic- I’m scared of needles “) and no regrets afterwards. The ache was manageable and there were no complications. He views the procedure as akin to working out.” I’m not obsessed by my body- I have too many other things going on in my life ,” O’Connor says.” But I’m proud of it and I like that it’s in good shape- every part of it .”

The surgery should have no impact on fertility; O’Connor has since married and parent two children( he also has four from a previous relationship ).” I satisfy her after the op, but she was a family friend and knew I’d had it done. I’ve never asked if it was a plus phase .”

***

Amr Raheem is an andrology specialist( meaning his focus is on medicine relating to humen) at University College London Hospitals, as well as a surgeon at International Andrology, a private clinic in the capital city. Over the past 15 years, he has carried out more than 250 expansions.” There is no typical patient ,” Raheem says.” All professions, all ethnicities, married, single, homosexual, straight-out, rich, poor. It’s across the board. And all ages. I’ve worked on humen in their 60 s- I don’t know if they go out and use it afterwards. Early 20 s, I won’t do. These are still boys. They must get to know it before they change it .”

Patients come in all shapes and sizes:” I’ve had men who are already large enough. I had one say he wanted to be like a milk bottle. Impossible .”

If there is one unifying factor, it is a lack of confidence about what nature has provided. The average duration of a British penis is, according to a 2016 King’ s College London study, 5.16 in erect and 3.67 in flaccid. Merely 0. 14% of men have what one University of California study defined as a “micropenis”- that is, less than 2.5 inches when erect. Nonetheless, study after study indicates frustration remains widespread among men.

” These are the men who come to us ,” Raheem says.” They are not necessarily small, but they want to feel more confident. In front of women, yes, but in front of other humen, too, down the gym, that sort of thing .”

Many of his patients, he adds, has already been” avoided sex or situations where they would be uncovered, out of embarrassment. So this builds them happier .”

Not all operations leave happy clients- infections and scarring are both potential side-effects (” This is the same as an operation of any kind ,” Viel says ). Some men report a decline in angle after the suspensory ligament is cut, but according to David Ralph, a professor of urology at UCL,” By and big, patients don’t complain about that. The operation doesn’t change the erect duration at all- this is only for men who have anxiety about how they look in the changing rooms. The median increase in size is 1.3 cm, less than the diameter of a 1p coin. In my clinics, I demonstrate patients one of these and ask if they still think it is worth it. Less than 5% decide to, and of those who do, the gratification rate is just 20% .”

Occasionally, the cut ligament leaves genitals lopsided when flaccid, and pointing off to the left or right when erect, as Francis Tilley, director of London clinic Androfill, explains.” Ligaments are there for a reason ,” he says.” If you start cutting at them, the stability of the penis will be reduced: the erection will be lower and less straight .” Tilley’s practice offers the operation, but its website clearly identifies it as high risk.

One Stockport-based surgeon, Ravi Kant Agarwal, was hit off( though later allowed to practise again) after botching two procedures. One of his patients, the General Medical Council heard, was left with a penis” bent like a boomerang “. Agarwal was criticised for failing to explain potential complications and misleading patients about the possible outcome, as well as for not having anaesthetic backup during the operations.

Alistair decided to have the operation after 40 years of anxiety.” I played Sunday football and dreaded the changing rooms ,” he says.” It’s not so much the length as how thin and scrawny it was .”

Six
Photograph: Ilka& Franz for the Guardian

He married, had children and learned to live with his malaise. Then, four years ago, after separating from his wife, he asked a new partner how he measured up to her ex-husband.” It was a stupid question ,” Alistair admits.” It’s pathetic that I cared at my age- but I did. To start with she told me it was fine, but I maintained pushing and, eventually, she only told me: his was bigger .”

Alistair took out a PS5, 000 loan to add to PS3, 000 of savings, and paid to go under the knife.( Surgery is difficult to obtain on the NHS, though it can be offered for psychological reasons, or to correct a true micropenis .)” It was the worst thing I’ve ever done ,” he says.” The pain afterwards … I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. It was beyond anything they told me to expect. The wound get infected, and when they gave me antibiotics, it maintained oozing pus. The scarring has barely faded even now .” He says the fat injection became lumpy, while his erection no longer stands straight.” It simply doesn’t look right. It’s deformed .”

Not long after the operation, he and his partner- who had repeatedly insisted he should not have it done- split up. As we speak, he is preparing for one of his first dates since their separation.” I’m already remain concerned about what she might think if we get intimate ,” he admits.

***

Thomas Modecai, 37, a teacher from Crewe, has fought with the size of his penis for most of his life.” When I was 14, I shot up to 6ft but my penis stayed the same ,” he says.” I felt like a human with a child’s penis. And it’s affected everything: my relationships, my confidence, even my desire to have children. I fretted they might have the same issue .”

The only person who has ever seen him without clothes is his wife.” But even with her- we’ve been married 14 years- I was still anxious .”

After being dismissed twice by physicians (” One said,’ Don’t worry about your penis, but you’re overweight ‘”), Modecai contacted Andrology International and, in August last year, paid PS6, 800 for a length and girth boost.

” My wife didn’t like the idea ,” he says.” But this had been bothering me for 20 years. I’d already tried pills and potions- useless stuff you consider advertised in spam- and I was exhausted. I needed it fixing .”

Since the surgery, he has felt happier and more confident.” I’m not exactly skipping round the house naked but, you know, maybe once I lose that weight ,” he says.” And we’re now thinking about children .”

I ask for his pre-op dimensions. He doesn’t want his exact measurings reported, but they are surprising: while flaccid, he was smaller than most men; erect, his penis grew significantly. Modecai, it seems, experienced two decades of stress despite the fact that, fully widened, he was bigger than the UK average. This apparent contradiction does not surprise Angela Gregory, a psychosexual therapist based at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.” Penis expansions can be about a lot of things ,” she says.” But the amount of anxiety a man experiences rarely, in my experience, correlates with his actual size .”

The sheer symbolism of what’s in a man’s gasps may be a factor. As Harrison Pope and Katharine Phillips write in their book on male body preoccupations, The Adonis Complex, genitals ought to have equated with” masculinity, procreative effectivenes, and power” throughout history. This has been further compounded by an apparent rise in general masculine vanity. Figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons present the total number of male procedures doubled between 2005 and 2015, with breast reduction, rhinoplasty and neck lifts especially popular. For those in need of rejuvenation, surgery is cheaper and more easily available than ever.

Eric
Eric Bell, 68, is preparing for his third expansion:’ It induces me happy knowing I have something eye-opening down there .’ Photograph: Richard Baybutt

Furthermore, Gregory highlightings two other recent developments: the proliferation of pornography and the rise of TV shows where brutal physical objectification has become, for the first time, an equal-opportunities phenomenon.

” Young humen generally become preoccupied with the size of their genitals when they compare with others ,” she says.” Historically, this was limited to changing rooms or the odd top-shelf magazine. But now there is this almost routine exposure to porn via smartphones. And that is creating a generation of men whose expectations of what they should look like are entirely unattainable .”

Added to that, she says, is the popularity of reveals such as Love Island where objectification comes as standard. In the summer of 2017, one male contestant was described as having” a penis like a baseball bat “; it was, unequivocally, a compliment. None of this objectification is new, of course: it’s just new for men.” But that doesn’t mitigated the impact ,” Gregory says.” For the individual who is going through the trauma of dreading his penis is too small, this is still devastating .”

All this might be leading to more than simple image anxiety; some have pointed to a new mental-health issue they words penile dysmorphic disorder.” It is a minority of men- and we don’t know how many- but it certainly exists and it’s as damaging as any other body dysmorphia ,” says Professor David Veale, of King’s College London, an authority on health anxieties.” These men might seek out surgery, and for a few months they will be happy with the results. But then the same anxieties reappear. So, they seek out further surgery. It becomes a circle. But you cannot keep making your penis bigger. This requires therapy .”

Largely, he says, these cases remain undisclosed.” Those who suffer don’t inevitably realise themselves, and rarely acknowledge it. It is an invisible illness .”

So how can we be sure it really exists?” Because the number of men seeking surgery, or the growth of this strange industry selling pills and other so-called enlargement redress, these numbers do not map up with the numbers of men who actually have a significantly smaller penis than average ,” Veale says.” So, these men are worrying about- and trying answers for- a problem they do not have .”

Veale’s theory chimes with the experience of a retired marketings director I satisfy in a drab Sheffield consultancy room. A lifelong bachelor, Eric Bell, 68, is charming and well-dressed, if, with a beard tinted blue, a touch eccentric. He is also in preparations for his third penis expansion- an operation that, judging from the sizeable member already between his legs, is unnecessary.” I’d just like it a bit fatter here ,” he explains, circling thumb and middle thumb around the top of his shaft.” I’m single, but it induces me happy knowing I have something eye-opening down there .” We expend five minutes discussing the merits of this before he asks his own question:” Can I put it away now ?”

Bell says he had his first enlargement in 2015, a year after agony the trauma of his brother drowning in York’s River Foss.” I suffered severe depression ,” he says.

Are the two things linked? “Possibly,” he says.” I don’t know. I don’t think about it .”

Bell is a patient at Moorgate Aesthetics, which has head offices in Doncaster. When I ask managing director David Mills if this may be one client who doesn’t need any more girth, he waves away the concern. Bell, he says, knows his own mind, and has passed a psychological evaluation. The operation goes ahead.

This evaluation is something all clinics I speak to insist on. It involves a patient meeting with a surgeon or psychologist to have their general mental wellbeing assessed. If there is any hint of underlying concerns, problems or mental health issues, the operation does not go ahead. But, given that such a repudiation would entail clinics losing PS5, 000 a pop, one does wonder how rigorous these assessments are. Is the entire industry merely profiting off insecurity bordering on dysmorphia?

Dr Roberto Viel supposes not.” I tell my patients we can give you a bigger penis, but we cannot build you happy ,” he says.” You must be happy first, in your heart and head. If not, this operation “re not for” you. All it would mean is you are still unhappy – you just have a slightly bigger penis .”

Professor Ralph at UCL believes that some clinics are feeding patients’ unrealistic expectations.” Initially, they don’t see doctors, they watch marketings people. It’s a hard sell:’ We can get you an extra inch or two .’ I’ve been practising in the NHS for 30 years: if it was that easy to increase the length of a normal penis, I’d be in the Mediterranean on my cruise liner now .”

Ralph thinks that” penile stretchers”, marketed under the name Andropenis, can be just as effective; but few humen are prepared to stimulate the commitment of wearing a traction device for six hours a day for six months. He also points out that, for men with an unhealthy BMI, weight loss can be enough to induce the penis appear bigger.

In a last brief conversation with Alistair, he asks if I would ever consider running under the knife. I tell him I’ve seen such a bewildering array of shapes and sizings over the past few weeks, I don’t even know what normal is any more. If it does the job nature intended, I say, that should be enough. For many humen wanting an expansion, it’s probably not so much about what’s in their pants as what, somewhere along the way, has got into their minds- and that can’t be fixed by a fat injection and a severed ligament.

Alistair thinks about this and appears to agree:” Once it’s in your head, it’s difficult to let it go- even after you’ve had surgery .”

* Alistair’s name has been changed.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Body of work: why Billie Eilish is right to stand her ground against dishonor

Billie Eilish has done everything right in her career so far, but thats not enough for a celebrity industry fixated on sex

Billie Eilish has given the music industry everything it could possibly want. An authentic new voice that appeals to teens and their parents. A debut album that has sold more than 2m transcripts in the US alone. A decisive stylistic evolution from the preceding decade’s dominant pop mode. A clean sweep of the four key categories at the Grammys. A copper-bottomed streaming success model. A James Bond theme that rejuvenates a tired franchise and widens her commercial and creative clout.

Until she offers up her prime commodity as a young female pop starring, it will never be enough.

While 18 -year-old Eilish is a beguilingly physical musician, she has never shown her body in service of her art. She opts loose garb because she feels comfy in it, and has denounced the use of her image to dishonor female pop starrings who dress differently. Not that it’s stopped anyone. Denying spectators the traditional metric by which female superstars are judged- sexiness, slimness; the body as weathervane that reveals how tormented or contented they must be when they lurch between the extremes of those states- has created an obsession with her body and what it must stand for.

Eilish’s world tour- which opened last night in Miami- underscores these contradictions:” While I feel your gazes, your disapproval or your sighs of relief, if I lived by them, I’d never be able to move ,” she says in a video demonstrate between sungs, as she removes her top and sinks into a pond of black water.” Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Taller? Would you like me to be quiet? Do my shoulders elicit you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips ?”

As if to prove her phase, the Sun reported on Eilish” stripping to her bra” with zero mention of her speech or its message, and titled their narrative” Thrilly Eilish “. Again: Eilish is 18 years old.

alexa 78 (@ ILOMIL0S)

empowering pic.twitter.com/ IBOl9LF 0rU

March 10, 2020

It’s hard to think of any previous generation of young female pop starring getting away with making such a public admonishment at the height of their stardom. Motown’s girls were taught comportment by an in-house employee. The anorexia that killed Karen Carpenter was framed as an effective diet. To have her art taken seriously, Kate Bush had to endure the objectification of male journalists who typed with one hand. The Spice Girls had to wait until after the band’s demise to discuss their respective eating disorders, lest they disrupt the image of supportive female friendship. Britney, Christina and Beyonce’s millennium-era abs were testament to their drilled work ethic; Katy Perry and Ariana Grande’s burgeoning images were dependent on marketing their sexuality, while Taylor Swift’s taut middle stoked her image as an American ideal. To recognise Amy Winehouse’s bulimia would have complicated a convenient media narrative of debauchery.

In that context, Eilish’s freedom to speak out represents a kind of progress. It’s symptomatic of the control that she has retained over her career, and its impact on her fans is potentially profound. But being anointed a liberating force in the body-image stakes is its own kind of prison, one that preserves physicality as the ultimate measure of a female star’s worth- and the standard by which they can be undermined. The music industry and the media like to pat themselves on the back for stimulating superstars of Eilish and Lizzo, who often joins her in headlines about body positivity, though if these women one day wish to change their physical presentation, they will be accused of betraying fans and squandering their authenticity.

It is a minority of female musicians who are permitted this limiting form of freedom in the first place. Beyond Eilish and Lizzo’s presence at this year’s Brit awards, the photos from the red carpet looked like scenes from 2002: female musicians and influencers bearing aggressively toned abs, low-slung sparkly pants, attires with gaping cutaways to highlight those impacts. The media may praise Taylor Swift for speaking out about the ailment feeing that she experienced until a few years ago, but it still perpetuates the standards that mean record labels will subject young, female pop starrings to the penalizing diets and exercise routines that Swift has described from her past. Female musicians who gain weight rarely return to the prime of their careers. Dua Lipa’s new video features an exercise routine. The narrative around Adele‘s fourth album, due later this year, is already centred on her recent weight loss.

Ever since the pianist Clara Schumann proved herself a concert virtuoso, female artists have had their creative worth tied to their physicality. The standards are so penalizing and contradictory that it is hard not to suspect that they are purposefully engineered that way, to guarantee obsolescence as they succumb to human fallibility, thus clearing the decks to wave in a new phalanx of young bodies to ogle. As long as the industries that depend on its exploitation continue to exist, and new generations of onlookers are trained in envy and contempt for those bodies, this won’t change.

As the industry races to replicate Eilish’s success and the media starvations for more young girls to compel positions, you’d hope they would heed how this therapy has evidently affected her and ensure that no young female superstar is ever again subject to these vicious criteria. As if.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Am I happier because I’m thinner, or thinner because I’m happier?

Looking in the mirror, I feel happy with my new body shape. But thats not what body positivity taught me to do

The first time I felt body euphoria was in an Old Navy dressing room. The floor was sticky with inexplicable customer gunk, a toddler was sobbing in the next stall and I was wearing jeans five sizes smaller than usual.

I gaped at my reflection in awe. It’s not just that the jeans fit; I could also assure my collarbones, which had been hidden under layers of fat and tissue for so long that I forgot I had them. My jaw line was more pronounced, and my belly didn’t jut out the style I recollected it to.

I had lost more than 100 pounds, and I could see the difference right there in the mirror.

With euphoria came guilt. It upset me that I liked my new reflection so much, because I didn’t know why I was happy with it. For years, I had subscribed to the notion that defining women’s worth by their weight was a feminist cardinal sin. Like countless others, I had found self-love and adoption in the arms of the body positivity movement.

It offered me a welcome respite from the stress of constantly looking at myself with a critical eye, as well as a counterattack to the once predominating idea that dishonor gets bodies in shape( it doesn’t ). So why was I so happy at the sight of my new, thinner shape?

I lost more than 100 pounds in two parts over 18 months, during two big stages of my life. The first occurs when I ran from a depressed, overworked college student to a emphasized, fully utilized adult. I replaced meals with coffee and eat once daily- usually the easiest thing I could pop into the microwave after a 12 -hour day. On top of my 9-5 task, my four-hour daily commute constructed finding any time for myself nearly impossible.

My body responded to my new environment by shedding 50 pounds, but even then I knew my weight loss wasn’t healthy. My stress had reached a peak, and all I could do was shrink in the face of it. I had no time for physical activity, and if I was lucky enough to get a day off, I was too depleted to move anyways. The stuff I devoured could scarcely be called food; I feed quick meals rife with saturated fats and sodium that just made me more sluggish. Research backs this up: stressful tasks lead to poor eating, junk food makes us depressed and failing mental health becomes a roadblock to improving health.

I bristled whenever someone congratulated me on my weight loss. To accept outsiders’ compliments on my weight loss was to betray the body-positive ethos I had adopted.

And then, just as easily as I had adopted it, I threw that life away. Less than a year into my first full-time job, I discontinue to travel Europe for five months. Suddenly, I had a limitless resource of something I hadn’t had my entire working life: time. I could expend all day walking, climbing or hiking in a different country. I could stroll through local marketplaces, relishing the hues and odors of the displayed fruits and vegetables, to pick foods that induced me happy and gave me the energy I needed to keep exploring. Regular physical activity, a Mediterranean-style diet and liberty to do as I pleased altered me, and I lost another 60 lb.

When I came back home to the US, my family and friends were shocked by my dramatic transformation and my weight loss was only part of it. Yes, I was smaller, but I also seemed happier. I was more confident and said stuff like:” You know what would be so fun right now? A bike ride .” I even got a cool haircut. My new body was a reflection of the new life I was living.

One of the biggest alters my friends noticed is how experimental and colorful my manner sense had now become, are comparable to when all I wore was an ensemble of leggings and a T-shirt. Being more confident assists, but buying cool clothes is just easier the less fat you are. Albeit I’m still a solid sizing 14, but the realm of possibilities for my wardrobe has vastly expanded from the ironically slim size-2 0-and-up rack I used to shop from. I can set more care into my appearance and feel more secure in the way I present myself to the world because I actually have options.

There’s just one thing, though. My new commitment to health has also bordered on obsession at times. I don’t want to fall back on my old habits, so I pore over the ingredients in everything I eat. I work out regularly, sometimes to the point I can barely move my muscles the next day. And when I can’t bring myself to push my limits again- only one extra define of crunches or lunges- I feel like I’m failing myself.

Maybe getting healthier has made me happier, but being so preoccupied with health can be my downfall. Orthorexia, ailment eating influenced by an preoccupation with “healthy” foods, is one symptom of the larger problem diet culture was born from. Being perfect is a never-ending game of moving goalposts, and we’re compelled to spend the rest of our lives chasing after it.

I’m still plus sizing, but I have become a more” socially acceptable” fat girl worth catering to. For once, I feel like my body has the right to exist because there’s less room for me to take up. Is that anything to be happy about? All I know is that I own a pair of jeans that fit, and I’ll stop to admire my reflection when I wear them.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Parenting here means checking the ingredients of teargas’: my return to Hong Kong

Emma-Lee Moss, who makes music as Emmy the Great, on life, new motherhood and her divided birthplace

It feels as if the entire world’s press is there, standing on the pavement outside the Foreign correspondent’ Club. They’re in Hong Kong to cover the protests, but tonight, the Friday before National Day, they’re off duty. From the bottom of the hill, the bars of Lan Kwai Fong thrum reliably. There is an uneasy peace in the air, as though we all know that, three days from now, the long-running citywide demonstrations will reach a violent new apex.

I’ve walked this route hundreds of hours, and been a parade of different egoes. I’ve been a adolescent trying to score 7-11 brew on the spot where Chungking Express was filmed. I’ve been a visiting novelist ordering drinks at the FCC bar. But now I am the mother and primary carer of a nine-month-old, and my time out has been negotiated. Quite frankly, I am dazzled by the world after 7pm. As I shuffle past the media crowd, I feel a pull, a yearning. In another life, I’d be there with them. When I moved back to Hong Kong in 2018, it was in search of stories about the strange, convoluted city I was born in.

I take the lift up to a wood-panelled room and join a table of thirtysomethings wearing plastic bloom garlands. I am expecting to be the main event tonight, at the reunion of my primary school class. For nine years, I was the only mixed-race person at my local Cantonese school, where I was known widely as gweimui ( literally” ghost girl “). Chinese school is where I developed a persist complex about not fitting in, and where, after being bullied, I fantasised that one day I’d do something so momentous it would appear in a newspaper, and my classmates would see that I was more than only a girl with an English dad and a Hong Kong mum.

This thought was the founding brick of ambition that drove me to become a musician and novelist, under the name Emmy the Great. Now my want has finally come true, but with a caveat. I am at this reunion because person ensure an article about me in an arts magazine, but it wasn’t about any of my albums, or projects, or anything I’ve written. It was about what it’s like to have an English dad and a Hong Kong mum. Some 25 years later, this is still my most noticeable feature.

I look around the table, disoriented by faces I never expected to see again. Surely they will want to know about the amazing life I went on to lead! I prepare the necessary Cantonese vocabulary in my head.” After we left primary and secondary schools, I moved to East Grinstead, Sussex. In England, I wasn’t a white girl any more. I was considered Chinese. In England, I had to assert over and over that I was British- still do. But I was so grateful for the grass and open space that I accepted this identity. I never expected to be back here in Hong Kong, a gweimui once more. And, abruptly, I’m a mother, too! I never sleep. I never go out. I’m caught between expat and Cantonese culture. I’m losing my mind, actually. How are you ?”

But despite a morbid obsession with the incorrects perpetrated on me by a group of 10 -year-olds, I can’t maintain my guess from the topic of the moment. The city has been tense and uncertain since the first major demoes began in June, initially in response to a bill that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China, but now expanded to five demands, including universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police conduct. Parenting has thrown up new challenges, like cry the council to ask for the ingredients of their teargas, and its effect on children. As each new weekend approaches, the population theorizes. Will it be peaceful, or will it spill into violence? Will we wake to news that stimulates us tearful with pride for Hong Kong, or frightened by the scale of the escalation?

Tonight, as China gears up to celebrate its 70 th year as a republic, there is no doubt about which style the news will sway. Someone at the reunion says they are boycotting products from the mainland, including tea. Another, a tiny son who has inexplicably grown into an adult, says he won’t use the MTR metro system any more , now that it’s been accused of enforcing the government’s agenda by shutting down during protests. I spot an opening to admit that, the day the demoes began, I was in England, on tour. By the time I got back, teargas had become the stock police response, and my partner and I decided we wouldn’t attend demonstrations- in case we find ourselves incapacitated and unable to care for our daughter. Instead, I say nothing. I don’t tell them, either, that we are planning to leave Hong Kong for England when our daughter turns one, because I’m self-conscious about having one foot in Hong Kong, and one abroad. This is how it’s always been. It’s how they remember me. And, ever since the protests began, I am wondering if it stimulates me a part of the problem.

***

I can only tell you what I remember. In 1994, Forrest Gump was the English-language film at every cinema for months. Every weekend, my parents would throw their three children into a Volvo and drive to Pacific Place, a mall in the Admiralty district. We’d fulfill our friends, expat families whose children went to see international schools, at McDonald’s, where the kids would climb the Ronald McDonald in the playzone, until we were allowed to go to the CD store and pick out an album. Everybody wore Nikes and had a favourite WWE wrestler and Street Fighter move.

In 90 s Hong Kong, everyone could speak English, even taxi drivers like my Uncle Ron, who had crazy hair and had once cut a demo videotape in a stoner-rock band. But my siblings and I spoke Cantonese, too. On the weekends that we didn’t see our friends, we had dim sum with my mum’s family: Auntie Dora, Uncle sam and Uncle Ron; my two older cousins, too, one of whom had recently taken a new English name, Michael Jordan Lee.

Moss
Moss with her grandmothers, 1988. Photograph: courtesy Emma-Lee Moss

American basketball, Japanese anime, Oxbridge ambitions. In Hong Kong- where the phrase” east fulfills west” is so overused that I’ve seen it advertising a shampoo parlor for dogs – you were at the centre of the world town, a place where global capitalist culture could operate unfettered, dominating the rites and oddities of the Chinese way of life. Watching over everything is was benevolent, late-stage British colonialism; its influence oozed into everything, from the names of English lords on road signs, to the ” Chinglish” that imbued the local Cantonese dialect. Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, was vaguely popular, his final approval ratings still higher than any subsequent leader. It was China that we feared and felt distinct from, even as schoolchildren.

As the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 approached, the expat families began discussing their various plans to leave. Many had one mother who was from Hong Kong, and one from abroad. The handover was an obvious deadline to fulfil any aspirations of living in” the other place”, where you went to visit your grandparents. Our closest family friends went to Australia, Singapore, Germany and Texas. When the day came that the British flag was folded up, and the People’s Liberation Army marched in, we were already scattered various regions of the world, watching on Tv while our moms cried. I didn’t see my best friends, Dan and Ash, again until I was 18. Today, when I text them images of Pacific Place filled with protesters, they joke:” Forrest Gump tickets released again ?”

Looking back, it’s easy to view 1997 as a year of mass exodus from the city, a few moments marked by the loss of foreign professionals( who are still inexplicably “expats” while other temporary workers are “migrant workers” ). But to do that would be to ignore the vast majority of Hong Kong people, who are Hong Kong-born Chinese, speak Cantonese as a first language and were not offered British passports by the departing government. They include my uncles, my aunt, my cousins, my classmates. There are also the minority ethnic groups who are as rooted in Cantonese culture as Hong Kongers. For households like mine, the handover was an opportunity to start again. For those who stayed behind, it was the beginning of a period of uncertainty. The Basic Law- a de facto constitution- promised Hong Kong” a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. This created, in principle, a liminal time between British and Chinese rule during which the question” Who are we ?” became crucial and explosive.

In his volume Generation HK, on the young Hong Kongers who came of age in the post-9 7 period, the journalist Ben Bland describes the end of British rule as leaving an” identity vacuum “. In fact, the end of the colonial epoch also left an opportunity for Hong Kongers to regroup, to allow Hong Kong-Chinese culture to lift itself from the darkness, and to look back and ask what of the city’s history would be preserved, and protected, before it was absorbed into the mainland.

Today, you can’t take a step without hearing the phrase:” This is the real Hong Kong .” It is a thought that emerges when you find yourself in an alleyway inhabited by street vendors selling milk tea from polystyrene beakers; when the sunlight begins to drop over Aberdeen harbour( in Cantonese, Little Hong Kong) and a fisherwoman steers her craft, one hand on her Samsung Galaxy; when teenage couples hold hands at the entrance to Ocean Park( real Hong Kong ), the amusement park that was never defeated by the arrival of Disneyland( not real Hong Kong ). It is an inescapable theory, as tangible as rain, all the more sweet for the fear that it will soon slip away.

For Hong Kongers today face inordinate pressure that goes beyond the cliff edge of 2047. The high live costs associated with its status as a haven for the wealthy have led to an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, which discovers its most extreme expression in” cage homes” for those who cannot afford housing. Meanwhile, whenever Beijing’s influence creeps beyond the promises of the Basic Law, it throws up ambiguities in its wording. The impact is like gaslighting: are we crazy? Or are our liberties being eroded?

The quest for post-colonial identity is something that lured me back to Hong Kong in late 2017. That spring, I had expended a month in Xiamen as part of a British Council scheme, and the effort to communicate in Mandarin( which, it is about to change, I don’t speak ), had somehow unlocked all the Cantonese I’d stored up from my childhood. I was dreaming in Cantonese, and felt a longing to be back in Hong Kong, to see the lanterns at the Mid-Autumn festival.

My mothers, sister and nephew had been back in the city for some time. As well as this, there was a person. While in transit from Xiamen, I had met a British artist who worked at one of the international galleries. We had bonded over our scattered thirties and our love of English woodlands. That Mid-Autumn, we began an adventurous period of walking through the city at twilight, the time when the lighting ricochets off the buildings like mermaid scales in the wind.

It was three years since the Umbrella Revolution and Occupy Central. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the civil unrest had dissipated. Instead, I sensed a defiance in Hong Kong and linked it to the arts. Venues had been shut down by strict building regulations, and lifestyle restrictions that induced earning money from music almost impossible, and yet, as the indie DJ Wong Chi Chung told me, there were more than 800 indie bands based in Hong Kong. Improvisation was key: wall murals around unexpected corners, rooftop farms, pop-up art spaces in old mills. It was a place opposing to find itself, asserting its right to be. It was increasingly where my heart belonged.

In January 2018, I decided to return to Hong Kong. My flight arrived in March. Forty weeks later, my partner and I checked into the hospital where I was born, and I devoted birth to our daughter.

***

” Does anyone is of the opinion that the city’s flaws are their own fault ?” This is the question that nobody hurls me in the subsistence group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes; in the free playgroup run by friendly septuagenarian churchfolk; in the parenting WhatsApp groups and in the void of the mums’ Facebook pages where I have stooped to scrolling for hours through ads for baby products.

Some 18 several months after I arrived in Hong Kong, my quest to understand it has mutated into something terrible. It’s the not-sleeping that did it, I believe. Or those submerged infant memories that abruptly appear in your thoughts when you’ve just had a baby, disorienting enough without the realisation that you’re unexpectedly in the place where you spent that infanthood.

Emma-Lee
‘ Hong Kong was increasingly where my heart belonged .’ Photograph: Theodore Kaye/ The Guardian

I remember bumping into a friend in London, who had just had a baby and was moving back to Finchley, where she grew up. “ Finchley ,” she’d groaned, like Persephone on her route to suburban hell. Now I know how she felt. You are my Finchley, I scream at Hong Kong, silently.

On a baby’s schedule, you are stripped of the things that stimulate you who you are. Hong Kong, which should feel familiar but doesn’t, contains none of the touchstones I need as my identity slips into the blank of what the poet Liz Berry describes as “feedingcleaninglovingfeeding”. I look around and ensure my first home with the bleakest gaze. I find pollution that threatens my baby’s lungs and stops us going outside for days. I consider expensive housing that drew us to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere, where our road to the playground takes us through a construction site and past a sewage treatment plant. I place my family in this picture. Were we and the individuals who left not the prime recipients of the sunny 90 s, before unfettered capitalism and political change took its toll? Every time we fly away, we are opting out of the consequences.

In this new, dark Hong Kong, my uncles are gone, having both passed away while we were in England. No sweet Uncle sam , nor Uncle Ron in his emerald green taxi. In motherhood, I come up against uncomfortable aspects of the culture I shared with them. There is the culture preoccupation with postpartum weight loss, which leads a nurse to praise me when I lose too much weight in the first week of breastfeeding. There are the rigid ideas of what motherhood looks like: installing an art piece I worked on with the data journalist Mona Chalabi, my two-week-old in her sling, the technician tells me that I should be at home, in incarceration. Yet, when I hear expats complaining about such difficulties, I am angry. I cannot let myself relate to them; it feels like cheating on my relatives. In the space between my two demographics, I see how divided the city can be. There are gulfs of language, gulfs of experience. Varying privileges are doled out are in accordance with nationhood.

In the 20 th weekend of protests, graffiti appears on the mountainside:” If we burn, you burn with us .” My writer’s brain finds how Hong Kong and I are in tune. We know how pressure can take a search for identity and turn it into a full-blown identity crisis.

Protest
Protest graffiti in Causeway Bay, 8 November. Photograph: Emma-Lee Moss

In early November, a student dies from injuries sustained while falling from a car park in unexplained situations. In the eruption that follows, there are no easy conclusions left. Protest schedules are abandoned, school is cancelled. There is no playgroup. There is no support group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes. The total number of teargas canisters fired reachings10, 000. My partner is teargassed stepping outside his office in the day, to check if the street is safe for his colleagues. Universities become battlegrounds. At the Polytechnic University, schoolchildren are among those caught inside the campus for days when the police seal off the exits. Then pro-democracy nominees win a landslide majority in district council elections, and there is a respite from conflict. As new councillors get to the urgent task of freeing the final Poly U students, the city wonders what else this national mood will achieve.

Medics
Medics result protesters to ambulances at the Polytechnic University, on 21 November. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/ AFP via Getty Images

In the midst of this, my time in Hong Kong is drawing to an end. I reflect on everything it has meant, this second time around. This precious time with my mothers, the responses to old questions. My relationship and my daughter. In the rawness of new parenthood, and the chaos of the last few months, I almost missed the gifts that Hong Kong gave me, the healing it offered. Even in these nasty days, there is a sense of the possibilities in community- my old schoolfriends and I are less distant in our communications. We have become simply another group of parents worried about the rumours of harmful chemicals in the teargas.

I’ve learned here that you don’t know if people or places will return to your life. You also don’t know when they won’t; I believed I’d make a final visit to the village where I grew up, but it’s next to the Chinese University in Shatin, the site of another major conflict between students and police. I guess this is the fear that follows everybody in Hong Kong today. When the smoke clears, what, if anything, will remain intact? In this place of many living and many rulers, how many times must we say goodbye?

* If you would like a comment on this piece to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in print, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publishing ).

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Parenting here entails checking the ingredients of teargas’: my return to Hong Kong

Emma-Lee Moss, who attains music as Emmy the Great, on life, new motherhood and her divided birthplace

It feels as if the entire world’s press is there, standing on the pavement outside the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. They’re in Hong Kong to cover the protests, but tonight, the Friday before National Day, they’re off responsibility. From the bottom of the hill, the bars of Lan Kwai Fong thrum reliably. There is an uneasy peace in the air, as though we all know that, three days from now, the long-running citywide demonstrations will reach a violent new apex.

I’ve walked this route hundreds of periods, and been a parade of different selves. I’ve been a teen trying to score 7-11 brew on the spot where Chungking Express was filmed. I’ve been a visiting novelist ordering beverages at the FCC bar. But now I am the mother and primary carer of a nine-month-old, and my time out has been negotiated. Quite frankly, I am dazzled by the world after 7pm. As I shuffle past the media crowd, I feel a pull, a yearning. In another life, I’d be there with them. When I moved back to Hong Kong in 2018, it was in search of stories about the strange, convoluted city I was born in.

I take the lift up to a wood-panelled room and join a table of thirtysomethings wearing plastic flower garlands. I am expecting to be the main event tonight, at the reunion of my primary school class. For nine years, I was the only mixed-race person at my local Cantonese school, where I was known widely as gweimui ( literally” ghost daughter “). Chinese school is where I developed a persist complex about not fitting in, and where, after being bullied, I fantasised that one day I’d do something so momentous it would appear in a newspaper, and my classmates would see that I was more than simply a girl with an English papa and a Hong Kong mum.

This thought was the founding brick of ambition that drove me to become a musician and novelist, under the name Emmy the Great. Now my wishing has finally come true, but with a caveat. I am at this reunion because someone watched an article about me in an arts magazine, but it wasn’t about any of my albums, or projects, or anything I’ve written. It was about what it’s like to have an English dad and a Hong Kong mum. Some 25 year later, this is still my most noticeable feature.

I look around the table, disoriented by faces I never expected to see again. Surely they will want to know about the amazing life I went on to lead! I prepare the necessary Cantonese vocabulary in my head.” After we left primary and secondary schools, I moved to East Grinstead, Sussex. In England, I wasn’t a white daughter any more. I was considered Chinese. In England, I had to assert over and over that I was British- still do. But I was so grateful for the grass and open space that I accepted this identity. I never expected to be back here in Hong Kong, a gweimui once more. And, suddenly, I’m a mother, too! I never sleep. I never go out. I’m caught between expat and Cantonese culture. I’m losing my intellect, actually. How are you ?”

But despite a morbid preoccupation with the incorrects perpetrated on me by a group of 10 -year-olds, I can’t keep my supposes from the topic of the moment. The city has been tense and uncertain since the first major demonstrations began in June, initially in response to a bill that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China, but now expanded to five demands, including universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police conduct. Parenting has thrown up new challenges, like yell the council to ask for the ingredients of their teargas, and its effect on children. As each new weekend approaches, the population speculates. Will it be peaceful, or will it spill into violence? Will we wake to news that attains us tearful with pride for Hong Kong, or frightened by the scale of the escalation?

Tonight, as China gears up to celebrate its 70 th year as a republic, there is no doubt about which style the news will sway. Someone at the reunion says they are boycotting products from the mainland, including tea. Another, a tiny son who has inexplicably grown into an adult, says he won’t use the MTR metro system any more , now that it’s been accused of enforcing the government’s agenda by shutting down during protests. I spot an opening to admit that, the day the demonstrations began, I was in England, on tour. By the time I got back, teargas had become the stock police response, and my partner and I decided we wouldn’t attend demoes- in case we find ourselves incapacitated and unable to care for our daughter. Instead, I say nothing. I don’t tell them, either, that we are planning to leave Hong Kong for England when our daughter turns one, because I’m self-conscious about having one foot in Hong Kong, and one abroad. This is how it’s always been. It’s how they remember me. And, ever since the protests began, I am wondering if it induces me a part of the problem.

***

I can only tell you what I recollect. In 1994, Forrest Gump was the English-language film at every cinema for months. Every weekend, my parents would hurl their three children into a Volvo and drive to Pacific Place, a mall in the Admiralty district. We’d gratify our friends, expat families whose infants went to see international schools, at McDonald’s, where the kids would climb the Ronald McDonald in the playzone, until we were allowed to go to the CD store and pick out an album. Everybody wore Nikes and had a favourite WWE wrestler and Street Fighter move.

In 90 s Hong Kong, everyone could speak English, even taxi drivers like my Uncle Ron, who had crazy hair and had once cut a demo tape in a stoner-rock band. But my siblings and I spoke Cantonese, too. On the weekends that we didn’t see our friends, we had dim sum with my mum’s family: Auntie Dora, Uncle Sam and Uncle Ron; my two older cousins, too, one of whom has now been taken a new English name, Michael Jordan Lee.

Moss
Moss with her grandmothers, 1988. Photograph: courtesy Emma-Lee Moss

American basketball, Japanese anime, Oxbridge aspirations. In Hong Kong- where the phrase” east satisfies west” is so overused that I’ve seen it advertising a shampoo parlor for puppies – you were at the centre of the world town, a place where global capitalist culture could run unfettered, dominating the rituals and oddities of the Chinese way of life. Watching over everything is was benevolent, late-stage British colonialism; its influence oozed into everything, from the names of English lords on road signs, to the ” Chinglish” that pervaded the local Cantonese dialect. Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, was vaguely popular, his final approval ratings still higher than any subsequent leader. It was China that we feared and felt distinct from, even as schoolchildren.

As the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 approached, the expat families began discussing their various plans to leave. Many had one parent who was from Hong Kong, and one from abroad. The handover was an obvious deadline to fulfil any aspirations of living in” the other place”, where you went to visit your grandparents. Our closest family friends went to Australia, Singapore, Germany and Texas. When the day came that the British flag was folded up, and the People’s Liberation Army marched in, we were already scattered various regions of the world, watching on TV while our mothers cried. I didn’t see my best friends, Dan and Ash, again until I was 18. Today, when I text them images of Pacific Place filled with protesters, they joke:” Forrest Gump tickets released again ?”

Looking back, it’s easy to view 1997 as a year of mass exodus from the city, a few moments marked by the loss of foreign professionals( who are still inexplicably “expats” while other temporary workers are “migrant workers” ). But to do that would be to ignore the vast majority of Hong Kong people, who are Hong Kong-born Chinese, speak Cantonese as a first language and were not offered British passports by the departing government. They include my uncles, my aunt, my cousins, my classmates. There are also the minority ethnic groups who are as rooted in Cantonese culture as Hong Kongers. For families like mine, the handover was an opportunity to start again. For those who remained behind, it was the beginning of a period of uncertainty. The Basic Law- a de facto constitution- promised Hong Kong” a high degree of independence” for 50 years. This created, in principle, a liminal day between British and Chinese regulation during which the question” Who are we ?” became crucial and explosive.

In his volume Generation HK, on the young Hong Kongers who came of age in the post-9 7 period, the journalist Ben Bland describes the end of British rule as leaving an” identity vacuum “. In fact, the end of the colonial epoch also left an opportunity for Hong Kongers to regroup, to allow Hong Kong-Chinese culture to lift itself from the shadows, and to look back and ask what of the city’s history would be preserved, and protected, before it was absorbed into the mainland.

Today, you can’t take a step without hearing the phrase:” This is the real Hong Kong .” It is a thought that emerges when you find yourself in an alleyway populated by street vendors selling milk tea from polystyrene cups; when the lighting begins to drop over Aberdeen harbour( in Cantonese, Little Hong Kong) and a fisherwoman steers her craft, one hand on her Samsung Galaxy; when teenage couples hold hands at the entrance to Ocean Park( real Hong Kong ), the amusement park that was never defeated by the arrival of Disneyland( not real Hong Kong ). It is an inescapable concept, as tangible as rain, all the more sweet for the fear that it will soon slip away.

For Hong Kongers today face inordinate pressure that goes beyond the cliff edge of 2047. The high live costs associated with its status as a haven for the wealthy have led to an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, which determines its most extreme expression in” enclosure homes” for those who cannot afford housing. Meanwhile, whenever Beijing’s influence creeps beyond the promises of the Basic Law, it hurls up ambiguities in its wording. The impact is like gaslighting: are we crazy? Or are our liberties being eroded?

The quest for post-colonial identity is something that enticed me back to Hong Kong in late 2017. That spring, I had expended a month in Xiamen as part of a British Council scheme, and the effort to communicate in Mandarin( which, it is about to change, I don’t speak ), had somehow unlocked all the Cantonese I’d stored up from my childhood. I was dreaming in Cantonese, and felt a longing to be back in Hong Kong, to see the lanterns at the Mid-Autumn festival.

My parents, sister and nephew had been back in the city for some time. As well as this, there was a person. While in transit from Xiamen, I had met a British artist who worked at one of the international galleries. We had bonded over our scattered thirties and our love of English woodlands. That Mid-Autumn, we began an adventurous period of walking through the city at twilight, the time when the sunlight bouncings off the buildings like mermaid scales in the wind.

It was three years since the Umbrella Revolution and Occupy Central. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the civil unrest had dissipated. Instead, I sensed a defiance in Hong Kong and connected it to the arts. Venues had been shut down by strict building regulations, and lifestyle restrictions that induced earning money from music almost impossible, and yet, as the indie DJ Wong Chi Chung told me, there were more than 800 indie bands based in Hong Kong. Improvisation was key: wall murals around unexpected corners, rooftop farms, pop-up art spaces in old factories. It was a place fighting to find itself, asserting its right to be. It was increasingly where my heart belonged.

In January 2018, I decided to return to Hong Kong. My flight arrived in March. Forty weeks later, my partner and I checked into the hospital where I was born, and I dedicated birth to our daughter.

***

” Does anyone is of the opinion that the city’s flaws are their own fault ?” This is the question that nobody hurls me in the support group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes; in the free playgroup run by friendly septuagenarian churchfolk; in the parenting WhatsApp groups and in the void of the mums’ Facebook pages where I have stooped to scrolling for hours through ads for baby products.

Some 18 months after I arrived here Hong Kong, my quest to understand it has mutated into something terrible. It’s the not-sleeping that did it, I guess. Or those submerged baby memories that abruptly appear in your thoughts when you’ve just had a baby, disorienting enough without the realisation that you’re unexpectedly in the place where you spent that infanthood.

Emma-Lee
‘ Hong Kong was increasingly where my heart belonged .’ Photograph: Theodore Kaye/ The Guardian

I remember bumping into a friend in London, who had just had a baby and was moving back to Finchley, where she grew up. “ Finchley ,” she’d groaned, like Persephone on her route to suburban hell. Now I know how she felt. You are my Finchley, I scream at Hong Kong, mutely.

On a baby’s schedule, you are stripped of the things that construction you who you are. Hong Kong, which should feel familiar but doesn’t, contains none of the touchstones I need as my identity slips into the blank of what the poet Liz Berry describes as “feedingcleaninglovingfeeding”. I look around and find my first home with the bleakest gaze. I assure pollution that threatens my baby’s lungs and stops us going outside for days. I watch expensive housing that drew us to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere, where our route to the playground takes us through a construction site and past a sewage treatment plant. I place my family in this picture. Were we and the others who left not the prime beneficiaries of the sunny 90 s, before unfettered capitalism and political change took its toll? Every time we fly away, we are opting out of the consequences.

In this new, dark Hong Kong, my uncles are run, having both passed away while we were in England. No sweet Uncle sam , nor Uncle Ron in his emerald green taxi. In motherhood, I come up against uncomfortable aspects of the culture I shared with them. There is the culture preoccupation with postpartum weight loss, which results a nurse to praise me when I lose too much weight in the first week of breastfeeding. There are the rigid ideas of what motherhood is like: installing an art piece I worked on with the data journalist Mona Chalabi, my two-week-old in her sling, the technician tells me that I should be at home, in imprisonment. Yet, when I hear expats complaining about such difficulties, I am angry. I cannot let myself relate to them; it feels like cheating on my relatives. In the space between my two demographics, I see how divided the city can be. There are gulfs of speech, gulfs of experience. Varying privileges are doled out are in accordance with nationhood.

In the 20 th weekend of protests, graffiti appears on the mountainside:” If we burn, you burn with us .” My writer’s brain watches how Hong Kong and I are in tune. We know how pressure can take a search for identity and turn it into a full-blown identity crisis.

Protest
Protest graffiti in Causeway Bay, 8 November. Photograph: Emma-Lee Moss

In early November, a student dies from injuries sustained while dropping from a car park in unexplained circumstances. In the eruption that follows, “there arent” easy conclusions left. Protest schedules are abandoned, school is cancelled. There is no playgroup. There is no subsistence group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes. The total number of teargas canisters fired reachings10, 000. My partner is teargassed stepping outside his office in the day, to check if the street is safe for my honourable colleagues. Universities become battlegrounds. At the Polytechnic University, schoolchildren are among those caught inside the campus for days when the police seal off the exits. Then pro-democracy nominees win a landslide majority in district council elections, and there is a respite from conflict. As new councillors get to the urgent task of freeing the final Poly U students, the city wonders what else this national mood will achieve.

Medics
Medics leading protesters to ambulances at the Polytechnic University, on 21 November. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/ AFP via Getty Images

In the midst of this, my time in Hong Kong is drawing to an objective. I reflect on everything it has meant, this second time around. This precious period with my parents, the answers to old questions. My relationship and my daughter. In the rawness of new parenthood, and the chaos of the last few months, I almost missed the gifts that Hong Kong gave me, the healing it offered. Even in these awful times, there is a sense of the possibilities in community- my old schoolfriends and I are no longer distant in our communications. We have become simply another group of mothers worried about the rumours of harmful chemicals in the teargas.

I’ve learned here that you don’t know if people or places will return to your life. You also don’t know when they won’t; I thought I’d make a final visit to the village where I grew up, but it’s next to the Chinese University in Shatin, the site of another major conflict between students and police. I guess this is the fear that follows everyone in Hong Kong today. When the smoke clears, what, if anything, will remain intact? In this place of many living and many rulers, how many times must we say goodbye?

* If you would like a comment on this piece to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in publish, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publication ).

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‘They have you in a cultish grip’: the women losing thousands to online beauty schemes

It sounds too good to be true earn money selling makeup on social media. And for many, it is. What really happens when you join a multi-level beauty business?

When a Facebook friend told Lindsay about a “genius” business opportunity in January 2015, the Manchester-based NHS laboratory assistant was already struggling for money. She had spent the last two years caring for her elderly father, and the stress meant she frequently missed shifts at work. Unwell with chronic fatigue syndrome and struggling to pay the household bills, Lindsay was instantly curious about her friend’s offer.

” I hardly had any money coming in, and I was looking at everything, doing all the maths, and there only wasn’t enough ,” Lindsay says now from the red brick terraced home where she lives alone with her dog, Freya. The Facebook friend- who Lindsay has never fulfilled, but added on social media because they were both fans of the musician Jean-Michel Jarre- told her she could earn between PS50 and PS500 a month if she signed up to a beauty marketings business called Younique.

” I guessed even if I stimulate PS100 a month, that’s something … I don’t have a big craving, so my food merely costs PS20 a week at most, if I’m splurging out a bit ,” Lindsay says. Though she is just 36 years old, she strolls with a cane and has a full head of grey hair. Her illness- which is characterised by extreme tiredness and joint pain- entails she fights to maintain her home. Paint is peeling from the walls, and an old mattress sits in the hallway.

After receiving her monthly paycheck, Lindsay clicked on the link sent over by her Facebook friend and signed up to become a “Younique presenter”. Founded in September 2012 by an American brother-and-sister team, Younique is a direct sales beauty company. Presenters sign up via the website and purchase products that they then sell on, earning a cut of the profits. Though there is no membership fee, members must regularly buy stock to retain presenter status. Lindsay paid PS69 for a starter kit, and then another PS125 to become a “yellow status” presenter. Younique has eight different presenter statuses- whites, the people at the bottom, earn a 20% committee from their marketings, while ambers, the next up in the scale, earn 25%.

This commissions-based model is somewhat similar to Avon, the 133 -year-old company that recruits” Avon ladies” to sell beauty products door-to-door. Yet unlike Avon dames, Younique presenters buy and sell through social media- usually Facebook.” We are the first direct sales company to market and sell almost exclusively through the use of social media ,” Younique’swebsite reads, adding that its founders, Derek Maxfield and Melanie Huscroft, made the business to ” uplift ” their members.” Derek and Melanie firmly believe that all women[ the company targets females] should feel valued, smart-alecky, and empowered through the chance for personal growth and financial reward !” the website says. But in her three years as a Younique presenter, Lindsay lost approximately PS3, 000.

From 2015 to 2018, Lindsay spent PS40 to PS60 every month on stock to retain her yellow presenter status. Though she initially made some sales at research hospitals where she worked, Lindsay was let go from the NHS in spring 2015 because of missed shifts caused by stress. She had been caring for her mothers since 2011- her mom passed away from cancer in 2012, while her father had Parkinson’s and suffered from three strokes before his death in 2018. Though she stopped stimulating Younique marketings after losing her job, Lindsay wanted to retain her presenter status because she was planning to go to university and hoped to be able to sell to fellow students. Meanwhile, Younique maintained fostering her to buy stock.

” They would email saying,’ You’re in danger of your account being suspended ‘,” she says.” They were worded in such a way to tell you,’ Oh, you only need to spend so much to keep yourself active .'” Lindsay says she didn’t notice how much fund she was spending on stock because it was a slow” drip, drip, drip” of payments.” But then you look at it all together. I could have saved up, I could have done roof repairs on the house .” In 2015, Lindsay attended a Younique training session in Glasgow where she was told not to” come with excuses” about being unable to sell products.” It was made clear to me at that point, I had no get out clause for not constructing sales .” Unsold makeup now sits in Lindsay’s car, in her closets, and in a large plastic receptacle in her living room.

***

Younique is not just a direct sales company- like Avon, it is also a multi-level marketing scheme( MLM ). Multi-level marketing is a business strategy where revenue is generated from both product marketings and forced recruitment of new distributors. A Younique presenter can earn money by selling makeup, and also by persuading other women to join the company. Structurally, MLMs are akin to pyramid schemes- once someone signs up under you, you become their “upline” and take a portion of their earnings. If they sign up people beneath them, you also take a cut of those profits- a handful of people at the top get rich from thousands at the bottom.

Over the last five years, MLMs have become increasingly popular in Britain. The Direct Selling Association( DSA ), the only recognised UK trade body for the sector, estimates that approximately 400,000 people in the UK are involved in direct selling, although many do so on a casual basis. Forever Living allows women to sell aloe vera-based drinks, gels and beauty products; Arbonne consultants sell skincare; Herbalife representatives flog weight-loss products; Juice Plus reps sell diet drinks; Nu Skin offers creams. Haircare MLM Monat is currently recruiting” EU Founders “.

Social media means MLM presenters now sell to- and recruit from- the entire world. On Facebook, posts from uplines like Lindsay’s friend promise “rocking” marketings, “instant” pay, and the chance to run” your own business “.

” The main distinction between MLMs and pyramid strategies is MLMs actually have a product ,” says Daryl Koehn, a prof of business ethics at DePaul University in Chicago.” In pyramid schemes, you’re just selling the opportunity to make money .” Yet Koehn argues that even when MLMs have products, they become pyramid schemes if there is a high cost of entry or if presenters build up inventory they can’t sell.

In 2011, Jon M Taylor, an employee at the US Consumer Awareness Institute, compiled a short ebook on MLMs for the Federal Trade Commission. ” After read these chapters, the reader may wonderif it is appropriate to refer to MLM, with its inherent flaws, as a’ business’ at all ,” he wrote.” Some who are familiar with MLM’s abysmal statistics feel it is more appropriate to refer to virtually any MLM as a scam .”

In theory, anyone can sign up for an MLM. In practice, Koehn says the model appeals to” people who have fewer opportunities “. Like Lindsay, many people who join MLMs have disabilities, or poor health, and are unable to work full-time. Those who sign up are taught to target new and single mothers.” We were encouraged to pick on stay-at-home mums, people who had just lost a job ,” says Rachel( not her real name ), a former Forever Living” business proprietor” in her late 40 s. She was recruited to Forever Living in 2016 as” a freshly single mum very willing to try anything to make a living for my kids”, who were seven and nine at the time.

Rachel’s upline, a “trusted friend”, told her to write a list of everyone she knew and “profile” them, listing their aspirations and weaknesses.” You’re encouraged to find out what it was they actually want in life and then use that to promise that[ Forever Living] would fulfil their want ,” she says. She was also given a recruiting script that included phrases such as” lifestyle-changing opportunity”,” control your own destiny”, and” earn in excess of PS40k a year “. She was told to avoid the word “job”, partly because 9-5 chores were presented as negative by the company, and partly, she believes, because Forever Living did not offer the consistent wage, paid holidays and sick pay that a traditional chore would.

It took six months for doubts to emerge, when she realizing that the praise she initially received from her upline (” You’re wonderful. You’re perfect for this job ,”) was just a standard script used for all new recruits. Still, she bided with Forever Living for nearly two more years.

” They said your business is a rollercoaster, you just have to stay on it while it goes up and down ,” she explains,” But actually, it just went down, down, down .” Rachel’s uplines said her mindset was to blame when business was bad- connecting her to seminars and success narratives, and telling her that she had to attend online training sessions or she would fail.” There was a lot of emotional blackmail ,” she says.” I would feel really guilty if I didn’t attend fortnightly meetings .” She says her upline encouraged her to “stay away” from people who criticised the company, including her own family.” They said if you don’t work on your mindset, your business will fail ,” she says.

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‘ I was sucked in. I believed everything they said. And I wasn’t making any money .’ Photograph: Ilka& Franz/ The Guardian

Rachel had joined the company just after splitting from her husband, and says that Forever Living provided a new world for her to occupy. She was in multiple Facebook groups where women vied to sell products, shared advisory opinions and scripts, and formed friendships. She was told to be ” a product of the product” by buying Forever Living products for personal use.” I set all of my passion and all of my period- oh my goodness, the amount of day ,” she says now.” I altogether gave up other things. And I wasn’t making any money .”

After quitting, she was devastated over the friendships she lost- many of her Forever Living colleagues blocked her on social media when she left the company, and the isolation entailed she suffered a ” mild depression “. She also still struggles with guilt from signing up a handful of women beneath her.” I have since apologised to them all. Some of them are still trying to offload products that they’ve got hanging around their house. I feel really awful. But I also think, I can’t stay guilty forever, because I was sucked in. I believed everything they said .”

Rachel felt trapped:” they have you in this grip, this cultish grip ,” she says. “Cult” is a word that every woman I speak to for this piece uses to refer to their time in an MLM.Many sell” mindset develop” sessions to their presenters.” Never let anyone say to you that you won’t succeed ,” reads a slide from a presentation Rachel paid PS30 to stream.” The greatest comeback is to SHOW them your success .”

Fiona, a single mom of two from Merseyside, lost more than PS1, 000 selling Arbonne cosmetics in 2016. She says her upline, a local woman who she satisfied while working as a teach assistant in a school, pressured her to “prey” on new mothers in soft play areas; after she persuaded another single mother to join, she was told to pressure her into buying more products.” It didn’t feel right ,” she says. Fiona’s upline also told her to take out a credit card to buy stock- she is still paying off the debt.

During her 10 months at Arbonne, she was encouraged to set an alarm for 6.40 am so she could listen to a motivational talk devoted live by an upline.” It’s like brainwashing ,” she says, explaining that, like Rachel, she was told to become a” product of such products” by buying Arbonne for herself.” It’s really easy to get depicted into it, especially because at the time, as a single mum, I wasn’t seeing an awful plenty of other people .”

Members are encouraged to influence others by inflating their success on social media.” There’s a lot of lies ,” Lindsay says,” We were told if you’re going somewhere nice, post it with,’ Thanks to Younique, I’m staying here .'” Rachel says people who were struggling would post pictures of cars, spas, and prosecco to appear as though their business was flourishing. Fiona says people were even encouraged to post pictures of their children if they were home sick from school, adding captions like,” So grateful I have a home-based business which allows me to carry on working while I care for my kids .”

Despite the social media scripts and many motivational sessions, Rachel says she never received any financial educate or recommendations from Forever Living. It was only after she did her second year’s tax return that she realised she hadn’t made a profit and decided to quit.” You’re not coached on how to manage your finances because if they did that, people would realise they weren’t making any money .”

A UK spokesperson for Forever Living says via email thatthe company offers financial train through an independent accountancy company intermittently throughout the year.” The Forever network has been constructed over 40 years through collaboration, support and family values ,” they said.

” Forever does not condone pressure of any description, misrepresentation of lifestyle, the business opportunity or promises of income levels, the company has clearly defined escalation procedures to deal with any such allegations .” An online company policy handbook lists prohibited activities for Forever members, and refers to the DSA’s dispute handling service. The spokesperson adds that Forever representatives are” prohibited from placing orders until 75% of previous stock has been sold “. This is done on what the company call a ” self-certifying ” basis, ie the seller tells them they have sold or used at least this much stock.

When asked about Fiona’s experiences, an Arbonne spokesperson based in Northampton says via email that their sales scheme is” not a pyramid strategy; it is a standard, legal marketings strategy “.” Arbonne upholds the highest standards of integrity and we do not condone deceptive, unethical or illegal practises of any kind ,” the spokesperson says.” Our Business Ethics Standards Team( BEST) conducts regular training sessions with Arbonne Independent Consultants, continuously monitors their business practices … and takes immediate action if questionable activities originate .” They add that any unethical or improper behaviour can be reported at BEST.Arbonne.com. Fiona says she was not made aware of this reporting procedure.

***

If Lindsay was at the bottom of the Younique pyramid, then Lisa was at the top. The mom of three lives with her husband and children in a spacious semi-detached council house in a cul-de-sac outside of Halifax. A confident 36 -year-old, she is immaculately put together, with sleek long black hair and stylish, minimal makeup. She first heard about Younique in 2014.

” Because I have three children, I needed a undertaking that would fit around them ,” she says from her living room- there are professional portraits of the children on the walls, a bookcase full of sports trophies, and, on the table, a feel pencil suit her daughter recently made at school. Lisa joined Younique on the first day of its UK launch and went on to earn more than PS6 0,000 before she quitted in 2018.

” It was quite strange because I immediately had 38 people in my team ,” she says, explaining she had recruited 12 of these people, and the other 26 were people they in turn signed on.” We’d all joined on the same day but suddenly I was in charge .”

While white and yellow Younique presenters only earn commission from their marketings, after recruiting five women, members reach pink status. Pink status presenters earn 25% from their marketings plus 3% committee from marketings made by females beneath them. By the time she left Younique, Lisa had reached the highest level, black status, and had more than 3,000 people beneath her. She calculated that 95% of her fund was earned from commission on other women’s sales.

” I made a lot of a money, a lot of money to me, and it meant I could stay at home with my kids ,” she says, adding that she also felt a boost in confidence.” I ran from not being able to pick up the phone to an unknown number to talking on stage in front of thousands of people .” Lisa frequently spoke at Younique training sessions and conventions.

Yet although Lisa feels Younique changed her life, her perspective changed in 2018. Lisa says that during a Black Friday sales month in November, she slowly realised people felt pressured to buy stock they couldn’t sell.” The leaders would always say nobody’s forcing anybody to buy anything, but if you’re recruiting women who’ve lost a circle of friends because they’ve had children, or they haven’t got self-confidence, they’re going to buy to be part of a group .”

Kirsty, a 27 -year-old from London, tells me:” I got suckered in to Younique due to the promise of’ sisterhood’ being so strongly pushed on to me. I suffer with bipolar so I don’t really make a lot of friends that easily ,” she says by telephone. A Facebook friend told her she would have access to a group chat of 300 people who supported each other.” That was appealing ,” she tells me. Yet Kirsty speedily saw the group chat “toxic”. ” One female said her husband was telling her to get a regular task because they were losing money, but the group was bizarre, telling her he was controlling and abusive ,” she alleges.” It also got actually bitchy- one daughter wasn’t inducing enough marketings and they made her feel bad in front of everyone .”

Ironically, while women are often drawn to MLMs to make friends, they often end up with fewer than when they started.” One of the issues with MLMs is that you’re told to target your friends and relatives ,” says business prof Koehn.” People are trying to monetise social relationships .” Rachel lost friendships because she” pestered people every five minutes” to sign up for Forever Living. She was told that if someone said ” no”, she should write their name in a volume called ” no for now” and ask them again in a few months.” Because I was encouraged to pester people every five minutes to sign up, friendships disappeared .”

But confederations built within the business are also fragile- often falling apart once women quit.” Some people blocked me immediately ,” says Lisa of her decision to leave.” We spoke every day and all of sudden, we can’t be friends .” Rachel was particularly affected when she discontinue.” That was the thing that really got me in the end ,” she says.” I guessed I’d stimulate friends and then when I did leave, I had nobody .”

***

When so many women feel exploited by MLMs, why have these companies not been held to account? In America, clothing MLM LuLaRoe is currently being sued by Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson, who says that” LuLaRoe tricked customers into buying into its pyramid scheme with deceptive asserts .” LulaRoe said during a statementthat the claims are completely without merit and that the company will oppose vigorously against them.In July 2017, the Chinese government shut down hundreds of multi-level marketing companies, which it described as” business cults “. Yet in the UK , no authorities are currently investigating them.

Mumsnet decided in 2017 not to allow MLMs to advertise on the parenting site.” We was just thinking about it long and hard because we know that home-based, flexible possibilities are very popular ,” says founder Justine Roberts,” but many Mumsnet users have posted about what they see as MLMs’ invidious marketing techniques and the effects on vulnerable someones, and we came to the conclusion that business models based primarily on recruiting have too much potential to be exploitative .”

Elsewhere online, hundreds of ordinary people are now campaigning against MLMs on social media.” I think the authorities are doing an perfectly embarrassing chore at governing MLMs ,” says John Evans, a 39 -year-old from Sussex who runs the 11,000 -member Facebook group MLM Lies Exposed. He was inspired to start the group after a friend tried to recruit him to an MLM. When Evans criticised the MLM model, his friend stopped speaking to him.

” MLMs are extremely clever at manipulating people. There’s lots of psychology involved ,” Evans says.” The people who sign up lose money, but they’re not stupid. They’re victims .” Evans says he has seen countless horror tales in the five years he has run his Facebook page.” Some people are thousands of pounds down from these companies and they end up in the sunk expense fallacy where they just maintain plugging away, maintain urgently trying to dig themselves out of this financial hole ,” he says.

Evans is particularly concerned when MLM reps stimulate false medical asserts about products on social media. A representative for Trading Criterion explains MLMs become an issue for the body if a company breaches consumer protection regulations, by, for example, attaining misleading asserts about products. In 2017, Trading Standards Cornwall shut down the business of former Miss England finalist, Charlotte Thomson, who had been selling weight-loss coffee Valentus, saying the product wasn’t licensed for the UK market. Thomson said she was ” devastated” and stopped selling the product. To date, Trading Standards has not looked into any MLMs on a national level.

Evans and others would like to see MLMs better regulated to ensure companies are open and honest when recruiting presenters. A spokesperson for Younique said that Lindsay, Lisa, and Kirsty’s experiences” do not accurately reflect those of our hundreds of thousands of Younique presenters around the world , nor our organisation’s values most fundamentally “. The company says it does not allow us presenters to attain” improper asserts” about earnings or products, and has a team of compliance officers to ensure all presenters abide by company expectations.

” Younique presenters are not required to build product inventories at all ,” they go on.” Additionally, we aim to safeguard our presenters’ fiscal security by enabling unused products purchased by them within the prior year to be returned for a full rebate should they wish to terminate their relationship with the business .”

Younique, Arbonne, and Forever Living are all members of The Direct Selling Association( DSA ). I put the claims in this article to them, including accounts of uplines constructing false claims about earnings and pressuring downlines into buying stock, and the DSA says they are investigating the allegations. Susannah Schofield, director general of the DSA, warns that people should” beware of individuals making outlandish claims about direct selling being a chance to’ get rich quick’- anything that lookings or sounds too good to be true probably is “. She adds that direct sales is “an effort-based” business. ” And with anything in life, if it’s valuable you’ll have to work at it to achieve success. Most people working in direct selling are good at what they do, and find the extra few hundred pounds a few months they make an extremely useful addition to their family’s income. There are not many ways of earning that sort of money from home, on a highly flexible basis .”

Lisa now works for another MLM, but merely sells products and refuses to recruit unless someone approaches her directly and asks about the business. “‘ It’s incredibly hard to get a job after being a stay-at-home mum for eight years, network marketer for four ,” she says.

Lindsay works at McDonald’s, though struggles to get frequent shiftings. She lost her Younique presenter status in July 2018 because she couldn’t afford to buy any more stock. She feels unable to sell the old stock she bought back to the company because it is scattered around her home.” I’m alleviated that I get out, but I’m angry that I still assure people recruiting ,” she says. She now sells handmade fabric cushions and lavender pouches on online marketplace Etsy, and is currently applying for Personal Independence Payments.

” It actually builds me angry with myself ,” Lindsay says, when I ask about the money she lost.” I’m annoyed with the person that got me into it, but I should have done more research. I always thought I was too smart for that sort of thing and I got so altogether taken in .”

* If you would like a comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in publish, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publication ).

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Can you afford to be green when you’re not rich? I kept a diary to find out

Politicians and corporations have placed the burden of environmental responsibility on the consumer but how easy is it to go green when youre barely getting by?

How easy is it to go green, to construct deliberate, eco-friendly selections when you’re barely getting by? Can you be green and poor, as I am?

This is the question I ought to have mulling as politicians and corporations have placed the burden of environmental responsibility on the consumer: stop using plastic straws, carry reusable shopping bags, recycle everything.

I live in an environmentally conscious place: a rural town with flourishing local food businesses, a farmers’ market and many organic farms. But it’s also a small town in central Appalachia, in the poorest county in my country: Ohio. Many people here go hungry. They can’t afford food, let alone organic food. A gas station is the closest source of “groceries” for some people without autoes. You can’t stroll everywhere if you live in the country.

For a week, I kept a diary with some of the choices I made toward being green.

ehrp

Monday

I make my son’s lunch for camp. I got rid of most plastic in the kitchen several years ago- I don’t buy disposable plastic bags, plastic wrap or plastic storage containers- but reusable cloth bags don’t hold much, and most don’t maintain food from going stale, even for a few hours. There’s mold spotted on one of the cloth purses I take out of the drawer, even though I rinse, bleach and dry them. Any disposable plastic bags I have- because my mom sends snacks in them for her grandson, for example- I clean and carefully dry.

I bought my parents beeswax wrap, which I love: reusable, washable food wrap that molds around leftover food, utilizing the heat of your hands, and recently my mommy purchased newspaper and aluminum drinking straws. But it’s been a bit of a struggle to persuade the older members of family to induce green choices: it’s new to them, and it seems like extra work, because it often is.

My son, a rising third-grader, told me that his school can recycle cans only if the cans are totally empty. But there’s no place or opportunity to dump the liquid in the cafeteria, and he doesn’t have enough time in his 15 – to 20 -minute lunch period to drink a full can of seltzer or juice without chugging it and getting a stomachache. This is an issue of anxiety for him, so I stopped packing cans.

I feel that most mothers are trying to do their best, despite our often-difficult circumstances in this region, but it’s hard to balance children’s needs, finances and eco-consciousness.

It’s hot the summer months, usually intense and early, even for swampy Appalachia. Camp is just a 10 -minute drive away, but we couldn’t stroll it in this heat and with an eight-year-old who is already not thrilled about going to camp so his single mom can work. The rainfall cools things off enough to open the windows.

Today’s expenses: beeswax wrap, $18.99 for three wraps

Tuesday

Illustration
Illustration: Dev Murphy

So many of my decisions are made by time. There’s a bus station by my house, but the bus comes irregularly, and I merely have so long before my son returns from his second day of camp, hungry and wanting dinner. I drive 10 minutes to the small Aldi.

Shopping at a discount grocery like Aldi constructs it difficult to meal prep because you can’t really plan on what’s going to be there. But when I was laid off from my full-time job in March, I swore I would mainly shop there, or a similarly priced store. Doing so has cut my grocery bill by at least $ 40 a few weeks. I haven’t been able to find full-time work yet, and I get by with a lot of freelance writing and editing, which entails I need to keep my grocery bill low.

But Aldi doesn’t have everything I need, like breakfast burritos and tofu for my largely vegetarian kid, so I have to made Kroger, too. Fortunately it’s on the way back home. I’m not squander gas, only time, but I do spend a lot of fund for simply a few items at Kroger: the eco-friendly dish soap that is not available at the discount store, the recycled paper towels.

I spend $50 at Aldi for the largest proportion of our snacks for the week. And I expend $59 at Kroger for merely … things. I’d like to buy local meat- I feel it savours better, has fewer hormones, and I like supporting local farmers- but to do so, I would have to go to yet anothe r grocery store, this one clear across town. This third, smaller store has issues with shelf stability: items don’t sell quickly enough not to go bad sometimes.

Often, I shop at the health food store. It’s expensive but locally-owned, and along with herbs and vitamins, they have organic food, frozen meat and vegetarian food. My son and I can walk there, and usually do. Merely a few months ago, another, much bigger health and organic food store opened, which is even closer to our house. I’ve only been in the new store once. It looks like a mini Whole Foods and is priced as such. What this community needs isn’t another pricey organic food store; I worry it could set the older, more established local health food store out of business, and it still doesn’t bring affordable, fresh create to the people who need it most.

I bring my own reusable purses to Aldi, which is a requirement and it helps- if you have to buy or bringing shopping bags every time, you will remember to bring them. And I use another of my own purses at Kroger. After unpacking groceries, I return the suitcases to my car and keep them there.

Today’s expenses: $59.28 at Kroger for 11 items , $50.06 at Aldi for 21 items

Wednesday

My son and I live alone in an old house, over a hundred years old, which I rent. As a renter, there isn’t a lot you can do. My house has new windows on the top narrative, but the original ones on the bottom, most of which don’t open. In the winter, I seal the windows to keep in heat, and seal the drafty kitchen door, closing it off for the season. I change the furnace filter regularly and have blackout draperies on many of the windows, which can help keep the house warm or cool.

But in the summer, like in many old homes, the downstairs is OK and the upstairs sweltering, too hot to sleep. I have two window air-conditioning units, given to me used. I feel terrible about running them, but am forced to sometimes to escape the high humidity, and 90 -plus degree heat we have had this spring and summer.

One of my neighbours has a fantastic, almost full-roof display of solar panel, but she owns her home. I can see her panels glistening in the sunlight from my porch.

Today’s expenses: blackout draperies, $34.95 for two; furnace filter, $36 for two

Thursday

Illustration
Illustration: Dev Murphy

I am someone who was raised in the country, and while I don’t think I ever really made it into the middle class as an adult, my circumstances certainly lessened when I became a single mom, then lessened again when I was laid off. For me, having a dishwasher would be a marker of success. I’m not there yet.

I have thought about buying a standalone dishwasher, but our older kitchen is extremely small. I don’t have the counter space for a counter dishwasher. So, even though I have read a dishwasher can actually use less water, I have to wash dishes by hand.

I wash all of our clothes in cold water in the washing machine. I don’t wash my own shirts or jeans every time I wear them, both to conserve water and electricity and to extend the longevity of clothes. But my son’s clothes, stained with dirt, grass and paint, I have to wash often.

I hang most of our wet clothes to dry, which is another time-suck and one of my least favorite chores, but prevents the energy utilization of the dryer and maintains some shirts from shrinking.

Today’s expenses: hand washing dishes: about 50 pennies a batch ; washing clothes in cold water: about $1.50 a loading

Friday

My son and I are traveling this weekend: flying, which is not an environmentally conscious thing to do. We don’t travel often, but this is a special, long-planned trip to visit family in Colorado, route too far to drive with a small child and my 18 -year-old Honda. I would love to replace my vehicle. I know a new model would be more gas efficient, but it’s not possible for me right now financially. A hybrid, or any new or utilized vehicle, is simply out of my reach.

One of the impacts of our current eco-consciousness is some people feeling bad for decisions largely out of their control- and many people not feeling bad for actions they can control. I feel guilty for flying to see loved ones. Do executives at Coca-Cola feel guilty for their massive plastic pollution?

Somehow I doubt it.

The inventor of Keurig K-Cups, a source of mounting plastic pollution, did publicly express remorse for his invention. I was gifted a Keurig coffee maker, but utilized the refillable attachment, putting in my own ground coffee rather than the plastic cups. When that coffee maker broke, I started employing a simple French press.

You can purchase carbon offsets to try to mitigate some of the environmental damage done by flying. The notion is to invest in green options, like gale farms. This is not something I have done before, and I have to admit, it’s a little overwhelming and confusing, especially as many carbon offset companies work directly with airlines and other corporations now.

We’re taking a direct flight to Denver, which helps cut down on more unnecessary traveling pollution, and we carpool to the airport. I bring empty reusable water bottles for myself and my son, and fill them up after security.

I’m disappointed to see the recycling and trash can at my airport appear exactly the same: the recycling can is overflowing with trash. Some airlines mention, as the flight attendant collect items after the drink service, that they recycle those cans and little plastic cups. But do they?

Today’s expenses: glass French press for coffee, $28.00

Saturday

I haven’t buy much new dres for years. Proportion of that is out of necessity. Not merely can I not afford it, I live in an area without many shopping alternatives. We have a mall, but more storefronts are empty than occupied. The closest Target is across state lines. The biggest clothing retailer in my township is Goodwill, and all my friends and I shop there, and at other, local charity-based thrift shops.

It’s normal in my town to wear utilized things- something I believe should be normalized everywhere : not to be sporting the latest trend, but to be wearing a piece that meant something to someone you know, that has a story or history. For an item to take up space in this rapidly filling world, it should really matter.

It’s so typical to wear employed clothes where I live that my friends and I hold clothing swap parties, where we bring bags of clothes that don’t fit any more or household items that we no longer need, and shop one another’ closets. Once, it would have mortified me to be out wearing a dress that a friend pointed to and said: that used to be mine . Now it’s a source of pride. Clothing connects us. It’s more than only fast fashion. That shirt brought me luck , person said when I held up a red T-shirt at a clothing swap. Maybe it will bring you luck too .

I didn’t buy anything new for my journey to Colorado. My sneakers are several years old. I rinse them carefully, and replace the laces. I do have to buy new shoes for my son often, as kids grow quickly. I sometimes buy items from ThredUp, an online resale garb shop, and I sell clothes to them as well, usually saving up credit for trade so I don’t have to expend a dime.

In Colorado, after eating at a eatery, I feel nervous asking for a box for leftovers, fearing the most difficult: Styrofoam. But at every restaurant in Colorado that we patronize, the carryout boxes are recycled or recyclable cardboard.

I don’t think we talk enough about how the America consumer’s attempts to go green involve so much uncertainty and absence of agency. Starbucks, for example, gives me a plastic fork for a sandwich I order and certainly don’t need a fork to eat with. They don’t ask first if I want a fork, and should. I leave the fork unwrapped and dedicate it back. But will they just throw it away?

Small choices like this feel huge- but many of them aren’t even selections we as individuals can construct. I can’t bringing my own takeout receptacles to local eateries in Ohio – it’s a health hazard, according to the restaurants. On our Colorado trip, my mom was amazed at a store that sold soap and shampoo by the barrel – you bring your own containers to fill. There are no stores like that near me.

There are no bins or instructions about recycling in the Airbnb we have rented. So we pitch all the empty cans, bottles and cardboard into a couple of grocery suitcases, and at the end of our trip, trek them back down the mountain to my boyfriend’s mother’s house in the city( sorry, Judy ), where they can be recycled.

Today’s expenses: a pair of kids sneakers, utilized, about $16 ($ 35 -4 0 new )

Sunday

A couple of years ago, inspired by several classmates, my son decided he was going to go vegetarian. Recently, he has started eating some meat again: chicken fingers, pepperoni pizza, but for the most part, we only eat meat two or three times a week. This does a lot, both for health- my dad’s physician commended my son for getting his grandpa to eat less meat, and my dad’s subsequent weight loss and lower cholesterol numbers- and for the environmental issues.

But eating vegetarian isn’t always easy, especially in rural Appalachia, and it isn’t always cost-efficient or healthy. Many of the meat substitutes I have bought my son- soy bacon, bean burgers- expense more than meat, and are much harder to find, requiring special trips.

Which means more gas. And more time.

Time is a resource, especially for women, people of color, people who are incapacitated and people who are poor, and to ignore the impact of time on environmental choices is to ignore the reality of many people’s lives. People have to work multiple jobs, have to travel for run or groceries, don’t have recycling available, don’t have enough childcare to spend precious hours hanging laundry or cleaning plastic bags.

A lot of things aren’t easy in my Appalachian home: finding work, procuring and affording a place to live. Why did we believe being green would be any different?

When it comes to the environment, I am not alone in feeling a predominating sense of remorse and concern. I have felt this a lot of the time, since I was a child and first heard in school about the depletion of the ozone layer.

We live in a time of such dreaded. We walk with and through dreaded constantly. Dread is our companion in 2019, and also the feeling of futility. So many news sites have tossed about data and studies on how long until we run this planet into the ground. The dates vary, but it’s not long. Not long at all. It’s overwhelming to suppose the burden of maintaining the world alive remainders on the shoulders of consumers. And frankly, it shouldn’t. Not entirely.

People need help from the companies that got us into this mess in the first place with their products and pollution. People need incentives- but also, assistance on how to be green. You have to offer and clearly label recycling bins, for example. Fresh, affordable produce needs to be available before we can focus on organic.

In order for people to construct eco-conscious choices, there has to be an eco-conscious choice available for them to stimulate . For many places, especially in rural and impoverished America, those choices simply don’t exist , not yet.

Today’s expenses: veggie hot dogs, $5.79 for four

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Can your phone keep you fit? Our writers try 10 big fitness apps- from weightlifting to pilates

There are a dizzying number of apps promising to get you in shape even if you cant get to a gym. But can any of them keep our writers moving?


Centr

Price PS15. 49 a month.
What is it? A full-service experience from the Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth: not just workouts, but a complete meal planner- with food for breakfast, lunch and dinner- a daily guided meditation and a daily motivational article.
The experience I immediately regret proclaiming myself “intermediate” as the app launches into a punishing pilates workout. I am not very flexible at all, and it is about to change that my baseline fitness leaves much to be desired in terms of core strength.
More frustrating is the fact that the various workouts are introduced as videos. Clearly, this is supposed to emulate a real pilates class, but when my phone tells me to lie face-down on the floor I can no longer ensure the screen. It is frustrating to have to repeatedly break out of the pose to check the next movement.
Worth a download ? Only if you are single, enjoy cooking and are willing to hand control of your life to an app.
AH

Aaptiv

Price $14.99( PS11. 40) a few months or $99.99 a year.
What is it ? A cheery selection of audio workouts with curated tunes.
The experience Before I start, the app asks me my fitness level, how many times I work out a week, how many weeks a month, what days I work out on, what machines I have access to, and what equipment I have to hand. None of this stops it from absolutely destroying me with bodyweight exercises– but it is the thought that counts.
The teachers are great, with the right level of enthusiasm( read: grating in any other context ). I am glad to have clear verbal instructions for how to do the exercises, rather than wishing I could just read a list of workouts from my screen. Video walkthroughs, available before and after the workout, assist clear up any persisting concerns about form.
Worth a download ? If you want to get fit to the tune of PS7 5 a year, this is the app to expend your money on. AH

Alex
Alex get in the spirit. Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Fitocracy

Price Free; coaching from$ 1 a day.
What is it ? A bizarre mixture of a mediocre workout app and personal trainer upselling.
The experience You get what you pay for, and as a result the free version of Fitocracy is odd. The main workout app lets you defined a goal, then pick workouts from a listing, but the presentation of the workouts is much simpler than its competitors: only a list of exercisings and reps, which you check off as you go.
The problem is that much of the app is effectively broken, with visual artefacts- graphical flaws- all over the place. Digging in, the cause is clear: genuinely, the app is a gateway to a coaching business, where you can spend anything from$ 1 to $250 a month on a one-on-one consultation with a personal trainer.
Worth a download ? If you want free, there is better; if you want a coach, head to your local gym. AH

StrongLifts

StrongLifts
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price PS17. 49 a year.
What is it? A simple and direct approach to strength.
The experience A popular approach to learning to lift free weights, 5×5 involves doing five sets of five reps of heavy weights, with three different exercisings, three times a week.
It demands precisely what it does and no more. You need a gym, a squatting rack, a barbell and a bench. You don’t need to memorise a list of different exerts , nor wonder which equipment you are going to need today , nor, truly, think.
StrongLifts is the best introduction to this type of workout there is, basic coaching and tracking, as well as just enough motivation to get you to lift the next define. It is my personal favourite: in a year, I have gone from struggling with a 20 kg bar to reliably squatting my own weight.
Worth a download ? Yes, if you have access to a gym and don’t know what to do when you are there. AH

Nike Training Club

Nike
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price Free; PS13. 49 a month for the premium version.
What is it ? Slick branded workouts with a generous free offering.
The experience Nike Training Club, the workout sibling to
the more popular Nike Run Club, feels less human than its challengers. While the personal trainers are front and centre, they mostly exist as silent models demonstrating the best form for each exercise.
That may suit a certain type of self-motivated student. Less helpful, for me, is the approach to equipment. I feel as if Nike expects me to have an incredibly well-stocked home- with multiple dumbbells, a skipping rope and a bench- or induce myself tremendously unpopular at the gym by seize six things at once. That said, most of the app is available for free- a price you can’t beat.
Worth a download ? Yes, if free is the magic number. AH

Sweat: Kayla Itsines Fitness

Sweat
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price PS14. 99 a month or PS88 a year.
What is it ? The chance to have your workout( for the home and gym) and diet scheme organised by not only one Instagram influencer, but five- inspired by everything from
powerlifting and muay thai to yoga.
The experience Kayla Itsines was one of the first internet exercise influencers. She rose to fame with the Bikini Body Guides, her series of fitness ebooks( the name hasn’t aged well ). Itsines still offers the BBG programme, but it now includes differences for different fitness levels. This feels like an app that could stay fresh for well over a year. I like that there are adjustments for various exercises, that it is easy to sync to Spotify, and that it put so much emphasis on rest and rehabilitation to enhance healing.
The meal-planning features are disappointing, though. There is no option to swap indicated recipes, but as some of the suggestions are as unimaginative as” egg and salad roll”, I imagine quite a few people would want to.
Worth a download ? Yes- for the exercising, at least.
CK

Sworkit

Sworkit
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year.
What is it? It is all about workout on Sworkit, and there is a hell of a lot of it. You can choose from a variety of plans or one-off workouts, customisable by time or focused on body parts( Sworkit is quite to be used in firming hoboes ).
The experience This has one of the best interfaces for exercising of the apps I tried. It works in landscape, counts you in before the next exercise starts and has a preview window to mentally prepare you for the next move. You can alter music within the exercise window and set how long you want to exercise for, with sessions beginning at five minutes. It also has a great voiceover feature: think of the sort of thing a gym instructor might say, such as” keep your toes pointing outward “. The app sends out push notifications to encourage you to exercise, but the upkeep of a plan does not depend on exercising every day. So, novices can define their own pace.
I can’t work out if the instructor figures on Sworkit are AI or humans, but either way I liked them. Sworkit has tried to make its teachers diverse- there are men and women in a variety of sizes. It is a small thing, but I appreciate not always having to follow someone with the figure of a goddess.
Worth a download ? Yes, especially for novices. None of Sworkit’s conferences involve equipment, so if you ever work out at home or while travelling, it can’t be beaten. CK

Fit Body with Anna Victoria

Price $16.99 a month.
What is it? The Instagram influencer Anna Victoria rose to fame with her downloadable workout plans known as the FBGs( or Fit Body Guides) and pictures of smoothie bowls. Here, she brings together her fitness and food advice in one app, offering 12 -week exercise and nutrition programmes, including a customisable snack planner.
The experience The app offer a series of 12 -week plans to last you 60 weeks( for home or gym, for weight loss or sculpting etc ), a forum for users, a journal to log notes and a healthy-meal planner, which aims to spoon-feed the user into eating well( the nutrition segment generates your recipes and grocery list for the week as well as reminding you when to drink water ).

Coco
Coco tries out the apps. Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

I couldn’t get to grip with all of this, but when I tried it out there were some excellent features- a nutrition guide that is not just about calorie-counting( although the variety of the dishes may bore food fans ), plus educational videos( such as breathing does and don’ts) to help newcomers to regular exert. The downsides? The app doesn’t work in scenery mode, so checking the demo during workouts is difficult. Also, workouts often involve equipment. I am not convinced the app would work for total novices( push-ups in week one for a woman seems ambitious , not to mention the amount of vicious burpees ), while scanning future weeks leaves me know … … if it might get boring.
Worth a download ? Unless you are a fan of Victoria and her style, I can’t see it delivering enough. CK

Freeletics

Price PS1. 78 a week for educate; PS2. 66 including nutrional information.
What is it? Touted as a digital personal trainer, this app has a cultish fanbase thanks to its detailed personalised fitness plans.
The experience You can join in with the short but intense fitness challenges, or a variety of running, bodyweight or gym workouts. Users can opt for workouts anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes long, and can select sessions based on parts of the body. So far, so normal. But it is the Coach programme that stands out. The personal plans are created by algorithms that pool the data of users with similar stats to chart your journey. Key to this is regular logging; you will record your details when you first start( height, weight, general fitness level) and log after each workout, telling the app how tough you received it.

Freeletics
Freeletics Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Freeletics promises its workouts will be hard, but not so hard that you give up. It is the feedback moments that allow it to alter your plan accordingly, based on the behaviour of other users who the hell is similar experiences. As with a real coach, “theres plenty” of demo videos and tutorials to guide you through, plus helpful nudges to drink water and sleep well. The Coach can even see if you are overtraining. Freeletics also has a reasonably busy meetup community, some of the social elements of exercise that can be lost when training at home. Plus, the exercises don’t require any equipment
Worth a download ? Perfectly, if you have some experience of exercising- it could be a little overwhelming for a total newbie. CK

30 Day Fitness Challenge

Price Free; from PS1. 99 a week for the premium version.
What is it ? A 30 -day programme with levels from beginner to pro.
The experience Month-long challenges have become a staple of modern fitness. This app capitalises on the idea that people can do anything if it is in short bursts, hence the idea of daily sessions for 30 days.
Most of the challenges are focused on a specific area- there is the” flat belly challenge” and the” slim limbs challenge”- but nearly all involve a full-body workout. The video tutorials are clear and there are 400 workouts in the library if you feel like doing something completely different outside of the challenge. The objective outcome should be that your overall fitness is improved.
Worth a download ? Absolutely- 30 -day challenges may not be for everyone, but, unlike many other apps, there is plenty to do for free. CK

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Can your telephone maintain you accommodate? Our writers try 10 big fitness apps- from weightlifting to pilates

There are a dizzying number of apps promising to get you in shape even if you cant get to a gym. But can any of them maintain our writers moving?


Centr

Price PS15. 49 a month.
What is it? A full-service experience from the Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth: not only workouts, but a complete dinner planner- with food for breakfast, lunch and dinner- a daily guided meditation and a daily motivational article.
The experience I immediately regret declaring myself “intermediate” as the app launches into a punishing pilates workout. I am not very flexible at all, and it turns out that my baseline fitness leaves much to be desired in terms of core strength.
More frustrating is the fact that the various workouts are introduced as videos. Clearly, this is supposed to emulate a real pilates class, but when my phone tells me to lie face-down on the floor I can no longer insure the screen. It is frustrating to have to repeatedly break out of the pose to check the next movement.
Worth a download ? Merely “if you il” single, enjoy cooking and are willing to hand control of your life to an app.
AH

Aaptiv

Price $14.99( PS11. 40) a few months or $99.99 a year.
What is it ? A cheery selection of audio workouts with curated tunes.
The experience Before I start, the app asks me my fitness level, how many times I work out a week, how many weeks a month, what days I work out on, what machines I have access to, and what equipment I have to hand. None of this stops it from absolutely destroying me with bodyweight exerts– but it is the thought that counts.
The instructors are great, with the right level of enthusiasm( read: grating in any other context ). I am glad to have clear verbal instructions for how to do the exercises, rather than wishing I could just read a list of workouts from my screen. Video walkthroughs, available before and after the workout, help clear up any lingering concerns about form.
Worth a download ? If you want to get fit to the tune of PS7 5 a year, this is the app to expend your money on. AH

Alex
Alex gets in the spirit. Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Fitocracy

Price Free; coaching from$ 1 a day.
What is it ? A bizarre mixture of a mediocre workout app and personal trainer upselling.
The experience You get what you pay for, and as a result the free version of Fitocracy is odd. The main workout app lets you set a aim, then pick workouts from a list, but the submission of the workouts is much simpler than its competitors: merely a list of exercises and reps, which you check off as you go.
The problem is that much of the app is effectively broken, with visual artefacts- graphical glitches- all over the place. Digging in, the cause is clear: really, the app is a gateway to a coaching business, where you can spend anything from$ 1 to $250 a month on a one-on-one consultation with a personal trainer.
Worth a download ? If you want free, there is better; if you want a coach-and-four, head to your local gym. AH

StrongLifts

StrongLifts
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price PS17. 49 a year.
What is it? A simple and direct approach to strength.
The experience A popular approach to learning to lift free weights, 5×5 involves doing five decides of five reps of heavy weights, with three different workouts, three times a week.
It demands precisely what it does and no more. You need a gym, a squat rack, a barbell and a bench. You don’t need to memorise a list of different exercises , nor wonder which equipment you are going to need today , nor, genuinely, think.
StrongLifts is the best introduction to this type of workout there is, basic coaching and tracking, as well as just enough motivation to get you to lift the next set. It is my personal favourite: in a year, I have gone from struggling with a 20 kg bar to reliably squatting my own weight.
Worth a download ? Yes, if you have access to a gym and don’t know what to do when you are there. AH

Nike Training Club

Nike
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price Free; PS13. 49 a few months for the premium version.
What is it ? Slick branded workouts with a generous free offering.
The experience Nike Training Club, the workout sibling to
the more popular Nike Run Club, feels less human than its challengers. While the personal trainers are front and centre, they largely exist as silent models demonstrating the best form for each exercise.
That may suit a certain type of self-motivated student. Less helpful, for me, is the approach to equipment. I feel as if Nike expects me to have an incredibly well-stocked home- with multiple dumbbells, a skip rope and a bench- or attain myself enormously unpopular at the gym by seize six things at once. That said, most of the app is available for free- a price you can’t beat.
Worth a download ? Yes, if free is the magic number. AH

Sweat: Kayla Itsines Fitness

Sweat
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price PS14. 99 a month or PS88 a year.
What is it ? The chance to have your workout( for the home and gym) and diet plan organised by not only one Instagram influencer, but five- inspired by everything from
powerlifting and muay thai to yoga.
The experience Kayla Itsines was one of the first internet exercise influencers. She rose to fame with the Bikini Body Guides, her series of fitness ebooks( the name hasn’t aged well ). Itsines still offers the BBG programme, but it now includes fluctuations for different fitness levels. This feels like an app that could stay fresh for well over a year. I like that there are adjustments for various exercises, that it is easy to sync to Spotify, and that it put so much emphasis on rest and rehabilitation to enhance healing.
The meal-planning features are disillusioning, though. There is no option to swap indicated recipes, but as some of the suggestions are as unimaginative as” egg and salad roll”, I imagine quite a few people would want to.
Worth a download ? Yes- for the exercise, at least.
CK

Sworkit

Sworkit
Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Price $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year.
What is it? It is all about workout on Sworkit, and there is a hell of a lot of it. You can choose from a variety of plans or one-off workouts, customisable by period or focused on body parts( Sworkit is quite invested in firming hoboes ).
The experience This has one of the best interfaces for exerting of the apps I tried. It works in landscape, counts you in before the next exercise starts and has a preview window to mentally prepare you for the next move. You can alter music within the exercise window and defined how long you want to exercise for, with sessions beginning at five minutes. It also has a great voiceover feature: think of the sort of thing a gym teacher might say, such as” keep your toes pointing outward “. The app is sending out move notifications to encourage you to exercise, but the upkeep of a plan does not depend on exercising every day. So, novices can set their own pace.
I can’t work out if their teachers figures on Sworkit are AI or humen, but either way I liked them. Sworkit has tried to make its teachers diverse- there are men and women in a variety of sizes. It is a small thing, but I appreciate not always having to follow someone with the figure of a goddess.
Worth a download ? Yes, especially for beginners. None of Sworkit’s conferences require equipment, so if you ever work out at home or while travelling, it can’t be beaten. CK

Fit Body with Anna Victoria

Price $16.99 a month.
What is it? The Instagram influencer Anna Victoria rose to fame with her downloadable workout plans known as the FBGs( or Fit Body Guides) and pictures of smoothie bowls. Here, she brings together her fitness and food advice in one app, offering 12 -week exercise and nutrition programmes, including a customisable dinner planner.
The experience The app offer a series of 12 -week plans to last you 60 weeks( for home or gym, for weight loss or sculpting etc ), a forum for users, a journal to log notes and a healthy-meal planner, which aims to spoon-feed the user into eating well( the nutrition section makes your recipes and grocery list for the week as well as reminding you when to drink water ).

Coco
Coco tries out the apps. Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

I couldn’t get to grip with all of this, but when I tried it out there were some excellent features- a nutrition guide that is not just about calorie-counting( although the various forms of the dishes may bore food devotees ), plus educational videos( such as breathing dos and don’ts) to help newcomers to regular workout. The downsides? The app doesn’t work in scenery mode, so checking the demo during workouts is difficult. Also, workouts often involve equipment. I am not convinced the app would work for total novices( push-ups in week one for a woman seems ambitious , not to mention the amount of vicious burpees ), while scan future weeks leaves me know … … if it might get boring.
Worth a download ? Unless you are a fan of Victoria and her style, I can’t see it delivering enough. CK

Freeletics

Price PS1. 78 a week for educate; PS2. 66 including nutrional information.
What is it? Touted as a digital personal trainer, this app has a cultish fanbase thanks to its detailed personalised fitness schemes.
The experience You can join in with the short but intense fitness challenges, or a variety of running, bodyweight or gym workouts. Users can opt for workouts anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes long, and can select sessions based on parts of the body. So far, so normal. But it is the Coach programme that stands out. The personal plans are created by algorithms that pool the data of users with similar stats to chart your journey. Key to this is regular logging; you will record your details when you first start( height, weight, general fitness level) and log after each workout, telling the app how tough you procured it.

Freeletics
Freeletics Photograph: Alicia Canter/ The Guardian

Freeletics promises its workouts is difficult to, but not so hard that you give up. It is the feedback moments that allow it to alter your plan accordingly, based on the behaviour of other users who had similar experiences. As with a real coach, there are plenty of demo videos and tutorials to guide you through, plus helpful nudges to drink water and sleep well. The Coach can even see if you are overtraining. Freeletics also has a fairly busy meetup community, providing some of the social elements of exercise that can be lost when training at home. Plus, the exercises don’t require any equipment
Worth a download ? Perfectly, if you have some experience of exerting- it could be a little overwhelming for a total newbie. CK

30 Day Fitness Challenge

Price Free; from PS1. 99 a week for the premium version.
What is it ? A 30 -day programme with levels from beginner to pro.
The experience Month-long challenges have become a staple of modern fitness. This app capitalises on the idea that people can do anything if it is in short bursts, hence the idea of daily sessions for 30 days.
Most of the challenges are focused on a specific area- there is the” flat belly challenge” and the” slim arms challenge”- but nearly all involve a full-body workout. The video tutorials are clear and there are 400 workouts in the library if you feel like doing something completely different outside of the challenge. The objective outcome should be that your overall fitness is improved.
Worth a download ? Utterly- 30 -day challenges may not be for everyone, but, unlike many other apps, there is plenty to do for free. CK

This article contains affiliate connections, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate connection, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.

Read more: www.theguardian.com