Meera Meera On the Wall

Like a fly, only Meera

Category: Lifestyle

A Few of My Favourite Things: 2011

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that 2011 has been, as a good friend of mine said when she wished me a Happy New Year, “a bit of a toughy for everybody” – economically, politically, personally, it’s been a turbulent year to say the least. But even in the hardest times, making the best of a situation or finding something to make us smile can help to keep us going.

I’ve put together a list of my 2011 highlights – things that made me smile, inspired me and, let’s be honest, distracted me:

Favourite Film: Crazy Stupid Love

I don’t know how many times I watched this film this year, but I never stop enjoying it. I don’t think there’s a single thing I didn’t like about it, and I’m an avid hole-picker. The story was lovely, it was beautifully shot and styled, the casting was perfect – and I finally got the Ryan Gosling ‘thing’ (boy, did I!). Maybe I loved it so much because, on the one hand, its take on relationships was often very true-to-life – especially the messiness of it – but on the other, there was a gratifying gloss that makes you wish your life was a little bit like that – I especially loved that the goofy girl (ignoring the fact that she’s beautiful) got the gorgeous guy (previously a cad and a bounder, but never mind that). This is one of those films I don’t think I’ll ever watch too many times – accompanied by cupped chin, googly-eyes and sighs.

Favourite Brand: Mario Badescu

I started using Mario Badescu this year, and it’s transformed my approach to skincare. Whereas previously I’d attack my skin with abrasive treatments in an attempt to deal with acne and other problems, Mario Badescu’s products taught me to coax my skin back to behaving as it should, at its best. The products are gentle, natural and tailored to specific skin types, and my skin has – unsurprisingly – responded very well to being treated kindly. I’d recommend these products to anyone, because there’s something for everybody – the website has a skin analysis service so you can find out which products are best suited to you. In the UK, they’re only available on BeautyBay.com. My two must-have products are:

Perfect cleanser for gentle daily exfoliation - keeps your skin clear and glowing.

Miracle product that heals blemishes and fades marks. A godsend.

Disclaimer: No, they’re not paying me! I just love the products and I’m a very enthusiastic beauty – enthusiast… who believes in sharing what they love! Speaking of which…

Favourite Start-Up: What’sInMyHandbag.com

The first time I heard about this site, I was so psyched! As a total beautybrain (not to be confused with birdbrain, ahem), I’m always on the lookout for new products recommendations – I will literally chase someone down the street to ask what perfume or lipstick they’re wearing, and I’ll surreptitiously (in fact, probably totally obviously) peer over my book to watch ladies on the train doing their makeup. I love the idea of peeking into someone’s makeup bag, so my obsession with WIMH’s concept is a total no-brainer. So far they’ve featured exclusive recommendations by industry insiders and beauty professionals, and they promise that 2012 has lots of exciting features in store. Can’t wait!!

Favourite Website: BeautyEquation.com

I discovered this website early on this year, when I first heard about Nigel Barker’s book of the same name. Nigel, who I knew as a fashion photographer and one of the resident judges on America’s Next Top Model, turns out also to have a very unique and holistic perspective on beauty – something that is beyond rare in an industry that will sooner eat you alive than tell you to feel beautiful on the inside. Nigel’s book is a personal, no-holds-barred, step-by-step guide to revealing the best you from the inside out. I was really moved by this book, which makes you face up to a lot of home truths in the process of self-betterment, and was intrigued by his website, BE One, which takes the approach one step further by allowing readers to write from their own perspectives about issues that matter to them. Although there are official contributors, anyone is welcome to post to an incredibly kind, non-judgmental and safe community that is unfailingly supportive. Nigel’s emphasis on bettering not only ourselves but the world we live in is very inspirational, as are the many readers who respond to and share this feeling. It’s more valuable than I can possibly explain to be reminded that the world is filled with goodness.

Favourite Place: India

I had a couple of months earlier this year to spend how I liked (the perks of quitting your job in the worst job market in recent history), so I returned to the good old mothership to spend some quality time with my family. I hadn’t been back in a few years and couldn’t believe how much has changed in such a short period of time – there is so much excitement there, so much possibility, and it’s a very exciting time for India. Coming back to the UK afterwards was pretty depressing, as the doom and gloom here contrasts starkly with the positivity of outlook in India.

I’m very proud of India, I think it’s been underestimated for a long time and it’s on the verge on world domination – put it this way, India’s experience of the recession was something like 8% growth instead of 10%. Pretty unreal in comparison to our soul-crushing deficit – OK, now I’m depressed again. Quick, onto something fun!

Favourite Music Video: LMFAO ‘Sexy and I Know It’

I loved LMFAO even before I saw this video, but this sealed the deal. These guys have blown up in the last year, and probably have minions catering to their every whim – including finding them the sexiest girls for their video. They could have used their ‘party rock’ single Sexy and I Know It as an excuse to feature dozens of scantily-clad gals prancing around for 4 minutes – instead, they had a field day indulging their inner goofballs. As a result, I have a big crush on Redfoo and SkyBlu and would happily watch them dork out – I mean, ‘work out’ – any day :

Enjoy the video and let this prepare you for a light-hearted, fun-filled 2012 – if there’s one thing this year has taught me, it’s that it’s bad for your health to take life too seriously. Thank you, LMFAO and everyone else who has reminded me there’s always something to smile about.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Here’s to an amazing 2012 (I’m toasting you with champagne and pizza), thanks for reading and see you in the new year.

Meera xoxoxoxo

Beauty and the Beholder

Lately, I’ve been rethinking my blog. I started it earlier this year because I was fed up with the negative way that beauty is presented to us and, as a result, how we end up looking at it ourselves. Beauty is packaged to us as something that we all want to achieve, but in the process causes us to be so racked by insecurity, resentment and self-loathing, that we end up missing it altogether. Who wants that?! Apparently, most of us. We all want to look like somebody else, some unreal, unattainable ideal that we know we can never be. We also end up tearing down not only ourselves, but those around us who don’t meet those ideals. It’s an aspiration that breeds a negativity that’s toxic to our self-esteem – I gotta say, that doesn’t seem very aspirational to me. But we still get sucked into it, because that’s the prevailing mentality.

So I started my blog wanting to engage in an alternative dialogue on beauty – one that’s inclusive and individual, that encourages us to pay attention to what’s beautiful about ourselves rather than wanting to be beautiful like other people. In the last few months this intention has fallen by the wayside a little, so I’m bringing it back on track for the new year. Hopefully this’ll be a regular feature – I’m going to start with myself, and I look forward to talking to all the beautiful people I know and enjoying a different perspective on beauty.

Testing, testing…

Me - the crash test dummy

How do you define beauty?
To me, beauty comes from being the best version of yourself – taking care of yourself, inside and out, being kind (it shows on the outside) and being genuinely self-confident. I also find imperfection really beautiful – ‘interesting’ is far more beautiful than ‘flawless’ because it’s multidimensional.

When do you feel most beautiful?
When I’m kind to my body and myself – living a healthy lifestyle and being in good shape are important, and being at my best intellectually and professionally. Knowing myself from the inside out lets me focus on how to be the best ‘me’, as opposed to aspiring to be like anyone else – which inevitably depresses me. I also love my beauty routine, so clear skin and good makeup also don’t hurt!

When do you feel least beautiful?
When I’m not being good or true to myself. Being lazy, physically and mentally, makes me look and feel stagnant. I had trouble with my skin this year, which made me feel horrible – but honestly I felt the worst when I beat myself up about it.  On the whole, this has been a really tough year personally and professionally and my self-confidence has taken a real hit so I feel far from beautiful. I’m working on that.

Who is the most beautiful person you know? What makes them beautiful?
I’m lucky to know a lot of incredibly beautiful people – the most beautiful are self-assured and kind-hearted. I’d love to know how they get to (and maintain) that state, so I’m really looking forward to exploring their perspectives via this feature on my blog.

Any must-have beauty products?
I’m a total product fiend, whether I need it or not I can’t get enough of the stuff. I do have some staples though:
Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids (AHAs and BHAs) – a good skincare routine is crucial, beginning with knowing your skin type well. I swear by A- and BHAs to gently exfoliate the skin on a daily basis; they are non-abrasive and clear the skin, fade marks and promote cell regeneration. My favourites are Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion and Olay Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir .
Concealer – my skin marks easily and I’m prone to dark circles, so I depend on good concealers. For blemishes, formulas containing witch hazel and salicylic acid are perfect multi-taskers. Under-eye concealers should be emollient, so as not to tug or dry the delicate skin, and illuminating to brighten dark areas.
Green tea – This is my go-to drink and I would definitely consider it a beauty product, as it’s so good for the body. I’ve discussed its benefits at greater length in a previous post.

What’s your best beauty tip?
Be kind to yourself, be healthy and stimulate your mind, but don’t try to change. Just work on how to be the best you can be – for you, not for anyone else. Aesthetically, know how to enhance your own beauty by playing up your best features and using products that agree with your skin type and colouring.

 

Merry Christmas!! I wish you many things for a great 2012 but above all, health and happiness. Love, Meera xx

Health and Beauty Benefits of Green Tea

I recently read a great article on HealthBeautySpot.com about green tea which I wanted to share. I’m such an advocate of drinking green tea that I’d recommend it to anyone as one of the best and easiest steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

The article tells us that green tea is said to possess anti-ageing, metabolism-boosting and cholesterol-busting properties that help to keep your body healthy and trim. I can’t tell you for sure if this is true – I’ve been drinking a lot (up to 5 cups a day) of green tea for over a decade, so I wouldn’t be able to confirm noticeable results from a comparative viewpoint. However, based on my natural and genetic predispositions towards a number of health issues, I surmise that green tea has made a huge difference to me.

Firstly, no one in my family is genetically blessed with a naturally fast metabolism – if you want to be slim, you have to work hard for it. I have a very healthy appetite and have always been a bit lazy on the fitness front, but up until recently I’ve got away with it. My family has always been baffled by my frame, which, genetically, should have let me down by now. In light of this, I attribute my metabolism to my regular green tea intake. As for anti-ageing, I’ve enjoyed respite from afflictions that have plagued many members of my family from a young age, and although I’ll be thirty in a couple of years I still get sternly mistaken for a teenager when I try to go to the movies or buy a bottle of wine. I’m also a fan of skincare products that contain green tea which, used topically, is a potent antioxidant and defends skin from environmental aggressors. My skin always looks and feels better when my skincare regime includes green tea. Aside from the aesthetic benefits, green tea also benefits the heart by lowering cholesterol and it strengthens bones, protects internal organs and will keep your mind sharp.

I couldn't fake this if I tried - a picture I took recently of a particularly happy cup of green tea.

Obviously, there’s only so much that leaves steeped in hot water can hold at bay and now I’m finally embracing a more active lifestyle. Even though I have a serious weakness for cake and something of an aversion to my running shoes, I’ve always believed that we have to be conscious about what we put into our bodies – and as far as that goes, green tea is an excellent choice. Here are a few of my own tips, which I follow for best results:

Tip: Add a slice of lemon to your green tea. Vitamin C aids the body’s absorption of goodies, whether from green tea, daily vitamins or any healthy meal. (Bet Popeye wishes he knew the difference a glass of OJ would have made to his can of spinach.)

Tip: To avoid the bitter taste green tea can have, don’t use boiling water – especially if you’re adding lemon. I always pour in a bit of cold water first then top it up with hot water.

Tip: Drink green tea with fatty food. The antioxidants in the tea will help to counteract the damage to blood vessels that occurs after consuming a high-fat meal.

Read more about green tea and its uses in the article, and get brewing!

http://healthbeautyspot.com/health-and-beauty-benefits-of-green-tea/

Operation Bikini – Day D

So my friend/harbinger of doom brought me the wonderful news today that, apparently, it takes 2 weeks for the body to acclimatise to any changes to fitness and/or diet. I haven’t looked up what this means exactly but I surmise that, basically, my body will be finally bikini-ready precisely when I’m leaving Barcelona. In a nutshell, Operation Bikini was always going to be a big flop. It can’t be done, people.

That said, I do feel better for the past week of healthy eating and exercise (you know, aside from the debilitating cravings and all the self-loathing). Even if I don’t look all that different, I feel different – lighter, tighter and more comfortable. So I guess the objective has been achieved in some measure.

The actual measuring will have to wait as I didn’t have the foresight to record my current stats before I had my dinner – my full tummy might throw things off a bit, so I’ll take them tomorrow morning.

Today’s activities have comprised a long walk/hike and skipping; I’ll do some yoga before I turn in. My meal plan was going well today until I received a gigantic parcel from friends in Japan, containing all sorts of yummies :s I confess I helped myself to some karintou, a sort of brown-sugar cracker – totally delicious and not at all healthy. For dinner, mother dearest made some yummy and super-healthy dhal, and was very sweet to take my diet into consideration by swapping chapatis for fulkas (virtually the same thing but without the oil). I do believe filling up on lentils and wholewheat flatbread is an excellent diet plan 🙂

Breakfast: Oatmeal, banana, PB (yeah, it’s getting a little bit old)

Snack: Nectarine

Lunch: Soba noodles, miso soup

Snack: Karintou, almonds

Dinner: Dhal and fulkas

Dessert: Probiotic yogurt w/ blueberries

I’ll check in again tomorrow – from Barca, eek! Speak to you soon 😀

**Epi-log**

Final Stats:

Bust: 82.5 cm (1 1/2 cm)

Hips: 86.5 (3.5 cm)

Butt: 99 cm (2 cm)

Thighs: 56 cm (1 cm)

Waist: 68 cm (approx 1 1/2)

Verdict:

Yes, there was a loss, however slight, and yes, I felt better after just a week of a healthy diet and fitness regime. All variables considered the Rodial Crash Diet Sticks weren’t – predictably – worth £50 for a week-long weight-loss plan. The rest of it, the no-brainer part, was worth it so I’ll stick to it as diligently as I can. I’ve noticed that my tendency to snack has reduced considerably, and I’ve been putting more thought into what, and when, I eat.

The hardest part will be maintaining it – as the colder months close in, so does the hankering for comfort food! And the prospect of exercising outside becomes ever more un-enticing :s Must keep reminding myself that a slammin’ bod is not just for Barcelona, it’s for Christmas too!

Operation Bikini – Day 7

So it’s Day 7, which I suppose technically means that my week is up – but I’ve got a couple of days left till my holiday, and I think a couple of days from this past week to make up, so I’m granting myself an extension. I’m a little bit concerned at the moment because my chest is actually hurting, as if I over-did it filming that video. I’ll see how I feel after a good night’s rest. I just love it when things go to plan. 😐

My appetite has been diminished today, so I’ve been rather forlornly picking at my food. Today’s sad little menu:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, banana, PB

Snack: none

Lunch: Ham and lettuce pita pocket

Snack: Probiotic yogurt, peach

Dinner: Celery with cream cheese, turkey and a tomato

I think that half the battle to recovery might be won by convincing the boyfriend to switch the fan off at night – definitely felt worse for it this morning, but talking someone out of a habit might be one of this week’s more difficult challenges!

Operation Bikini – Day 4

I just realized I forgot to include my waist measurement at the start of this week – whoops :s I’ll add it to the stats I posted yesterday and re-measure at the end of the week, doubt it’ll change all that much.

I was fairly stiff yesterday and thought I could do with some stretching out, so I opted for power yoga which fairly wore me out although I didn’t feel like I achieved that much. I think I just hit a wall where I had to stop rather than overdo it. I’ll pick it up again today and see if going gently gets me further.

With regards to diet, I’m realizing that I do best throughout the day when I start with a filling and energy-packed breakfast – yesterday’s oatmeal and blueberries didn’t quite cut it for me and my appetite was erratic throughout the day, so I’m back to the banana and peanut butter variety today. As I mentioned in my video, I’m really feeling those cravings at the moment and there’s a box of brownie mix I’m trying very, very hard to ignore (I swear I can hear it knocking against the cupboard door). The deprivation is getting to me, so I treated myself to a big, fat, sweet – date. Like the dried fruit, not dinner-and-a-movie. Unsurprisingly, it was quite underwhelming.

So, today:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with banana and PB

Snack: Almonds and a date

Lunch: Brown rice, mackerel, steamed veggies and edamame.

Snack: Nothing that will satisfy me

Dinner: Baked sweet potato

I’ve been advised by a dear reader (thank you, Asif!) not to work out today – tempting, so tempting! I’m reluctant to limit myself to yoga again, but it’s been raining all day again so I may not have a choice. All the more reason to sit here hugging my hot water bottle…

Update: Well, I caved. I can’t tell if I was just craving or actually hungry, but either way I had to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (in a wholewheat pita pocket, so it’s not a total bust). I really can’t work out today either, I’m feeling too under the weather – will still attempt some gentle yoga later. Oh, this is a disaster 😦 I hope tomorrow will be more productive (or reductive, as it were).

Mixing It Up

I cook every day and I love it almost as much as beauty and writing, but I’ve never shared my recipes because I have a very haphazard cooking style – I make it up as as I go along and I don’t measure, and improvisation doesn’t translate well to recipes :s That said, my dinner was yummy, healthy and easy and I didn’t want to keep it to myself! So if you don’t mind throwing in ingredients without precise measurements, here it is:

Mama’s Mediterranean Omelette

Roughly chop: Garlic; Onions; Tomatoes; Mushrooms; Aubergine; Anything else that goes. Wash and set aside a handful of spinach.

Soften garlic, onions, mushrooms and aubergines.
Add tomatoes and a splash of water.
I add ketchup to intensify the flavour; you can also throw in chilli flakes, paprika and herbs.

Once heated through until all the ingredients and flavors have blended together to a nice consistency, take off the heat.
Add the spinach to wilt, and stir in a spoon of low-fat crème fraîche.

Once the filling is ready, make a one-egg omelette.
Spoon filling into the omelette and fold over.

Voila!

Operation Bikini: Day One

In just over a week, I’m going to be on the beaches of Barcelona with my girlfriends, all three of them who look like they belong in a Lynx ad. Whether I’ll be frolicking gaily in the surf or sat sulking in a towel-swaddled heap will depend on the outcome of Operation Bikini: after a sedentary summer of self-indulgence, I’ve suddenly found myself in a panic at not being bikini-ready. Although until recently it looked unlikely that I would be able to make the trip, now that all systems are go (with a week to go), I’ve set myself a goal to fit into my too-tight bikini by the 1 September.

I’ve upped the ante on the challenge by pursuing a healthy approach ie. not panic-starving myself for the next week. I’m going to shed a layer through eating right and exercising every day – I’ll only deprive myself of my biggest vice, cake, but that aside I won’t modify my existing diet too much.

In case that sounds too optimistic (or delusional), I’ve also enlisted a bit of extra help that’ll hopefully help kick my butt into shape. I’ve heard a lot about Rodial Crash Diet Sticks and I’ve always been curious, so this week will be an experiment into whether these self-proclaimed “miracle sticks” are as good as their hype.

First off, “Crash Diet” is a bit of a misnomer – it implies something drastic, when in fact the only reason I considered a product like this is because it contains only natural ingredients that stimulate a sluggish system. Packed with metabolism-boosting caffeine (derived from green tea, guarana and green coffee,) diuretic cactus fruit and ash tree, and detoxifying dandelion and fennel, it’s supposed to offer a perfect last-minute solution to shedding a few pounds. In theory, over the next 7 days (2 sachets a day), I should be “sipping [my] way to a faster metabolism and draining excess water retention and burning fat at the same time”. Sounds too good to be true, but I’ll keep you posted over the course of this week.

As a supplement, this probably won’t be much good if I’m not putting in the hard work – diet and exercise. For the next week, I’m going to do 1-2 hours of running, skipping and yoga every day. I might even throw in some Zumba and resistance training to mix it up. My diet will comprise low-G.I. foods that’ll keep me going for a long time and eliminate cravings – I’m a serial snacker prone to sugar crashes, so I’ll aim to stick to a healthy meal plan that keeps my tummy full and my energy levels up.

Today:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with bananas, peanut butter and honey

Snack: 5 almonds

Lunch: Grilled pork and veggies

Snack: Watermelon

Dinner: Mackerel, brown rice and edamame

Dessert: Chopped peach and probiotic yogurt

Ideally, I’d have the brown rice at lunch so I’m not packing myself with carbs before bedtime, but my mama is cooking lunch today so I’m not going to be a diva. I’m sure there’s plenty that a professional would find wrong with this meal plan, but this diet isn’t about being militant – it’s about being the best version of me under regular circumstances. I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂

Starting stats:

Height: 5’7.5/175 cm

Weight: 56 kg/123.5 lbs

Bust: 84 cm/33 in

Hips: 90 cm/35 in

Butt: 101 cm/39 in

Thighs: 57 cm/22 in

Update: I caved before lunch and had a couple of rice crackers. Also, lunch had too much salt and more than a little fat. Great start – I might need to rethink the brown rice after all.

Light and Loveliness

I had to share this wonderful quote by Roald Dahl that I read in this month’s issue of Vogue:

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and sticky-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Carry this thought with you like a charm and always feel your own beauty within. Inner beauty never goes unnoticed. Call it a glow, an aura, whatever you like – it emanates something enchanting and contagious that physical beauty can’t rival. I always remember a girl I went to school with who captivated me simply with her serenity and sweetness – she was quiet and shy, and probably thought not many people noticed her, but her loveliness made a huge impression on me. There’s no faking genuine goodness – people with pureness of heart make the world a happier place by spreading that warmth to those around them.


Another enduring impression, for entirely the opposite reason, is the worst piece of advice I was ever given: after an encounter that left me feeling a little low, someone said to me, “The problem is you’re too nice. If you want to get on in life, you need to stop being so nice.” That sentiment was enough to jolt me out of my malaise – “stop being nice”? It’s so easy to get cynical and jaded in a world that encourages us to get ahead, and even in that moment I had no intention of being a part of that cycle. As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t enough ‘nice’ people in the world; I hold those precious few very close to me because they make me want to be a better person.

One of my own defining traits is a child-like perspective of life that I’ve retained – my enjoyment of simple pleasures, my sense of humor, my sense of right and wrong, my discernment of character. Though not always practical, my inner child is an aspect of my character that I’ve been consciously protective of in my adulthood because it affords me a simplicity of outlook of which we can be so easily robbed. It doesn’t necessarily make me a better person, but it does make me happy when my enthusiasm rubs off on others – it makes me feel like I’ve spread a little light. If you also feel like you have a light inside you, don’t hide it under a bushel – instead, cherish it, nourish it, and share it, just like Roald said. Take it from me: if it’s good enough for the kids, it’s good enough for us grown-ups.

Political correctness gets lippy

I paid my local Clinique counter a visit yesterday and got chatting to the manager, who told me that she’d had complaints about the brand’s newest range of lipgloss: a chunky crayon called the ‘Chubby Stick’. The complaints had come from customers of no particular shape or size, and we could only surmise that they pre-empted any offence that may be caused to individuals who might take it personally – although quite why anyone would compare themselves to a crayon, I don’t know. I’d always thought the campaign for that product was particularly cute, and it had never occurred to me that it would offend anyone.

I’m the first to jump to the defense of anyone who is being maligned or discriminated against – but in instances like this, surely there would be no issue if someone hadn’t created one. A song lyric comes to mind: “don’t start nothing, it won’t be nothing.” Or, as the indignant counter manager so adorably put it, “I’m chubby! I don’t mind!”