27 THOUGHTS EVERY WOMAN HAS WHILE EXERCISING ON HER PERIOD

No one talks about periods in relation to fitness so when professionals mention it the press seems to be shocked and it becomes front-page news. But what about the hundreds of thousands of women who take a local fitness class when they’re on their periods? This post is for me, you and all of the thoughts that fly through your head during a class, because it’s an amazing biological process and we should all talk about it more

  1. A tampon and a pad is enough isn’t it?
  2. Maybe I should have put 2 pads in
  3. I’m going to wear the black leggings because then if there is a leak no one will be able to tell
  4. But the Nike ones or the Gap ones? The Nike ones can sometimes go see-through and I don’t want anyone to see the wings through my leggings
  5. Ok, the Gap ones it is
  6. Time to warm up. Ugh, star jumps, I think everything is about to fall out
  7. Every time she tells me to brace my core it squeezes a bit more blood out
  8. Squats? Really?!
  9. Oh god, am I leaking? Or was that just sweat?
  10. Come on, focus. You’re 29, you’ve had a period pretty much every month since you were 14
  11. How many times have you actually leaked? Maybe twice when they first started but not for years!
  12. Ooooo is that a cramp in my uterus or is it just my core switching on?
  13. Uterus, definitely uterus
  14. Time to take a breather, pretend you’ve got a stitch and wait for the cramp to pass
  15. Hang on, why am I pretending it’s a stitch? My womb is shedding its lining. ITS LINING
  16. Actual flesh
  17. Right, back in. Burpees
  18. It doesn’t matter how much you clench or engage your pelvic floor, that blood is coming out
  19. Ugh, that felt like a lot
  20. Phew, time for the cool down
  21. Please don’t ask me to split my legs to stretch. I’m convinced I’ve leaked
  22. Just take a quick surreptitious look in the mirror. It’s ok, there’s nothing there, must have been sweat
  23. And breathe. You did it
  24. Don’t mind me legging it out of the class, I need to get home and shower
  25. But you know what, I feel a hell of a lot better
  26. In fact I feel on top of the world!
  27. Now get me home and get a hot water bottle on my womb

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN

With all of the panic around a certain tanned president’s attitude towards women and the global women’s marches in response to it I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about what it means to be a woman. This post has gone through various iterations while I’ve wrestled with my own brain to figure out what I want to say.

Growing up I was a tomboy to the point that I refused to wear the girls’ uniform at school and insisted on wearing the boys’ one. I screamed and threw epic tantrums if it was suggested that I had to wear a dress for a special occasion. I was happiest in my oldest, softest jeans with holes in them and a ratty t-shirt. I went through a phase of actually wanting to be a boy because they seemed to have all the fun and got to play football while the girls had to do boring stuff like play with dolls and learn dance routines.

As a side note I do wonder if my life would have turned out the same if I was growing up now and if my desire to be a boy had been taking a sign that I had gender dysphoria. I never felt like I was in the wrong body, I just wanted to be a boy because boys’ lives seemed more fun.

Anyway, that tomboy streak has never left me and even now I love to chill out at home in men’s pyjama bottoms, I often pinch my husband’s jumpers and my default fashion setting is ‘comfort’. Don’t get me wrong, I love to dress up now for special occasions with all the make up and hair but on an everyday level I just don’t want to. For me there are more important things to do each day than stand in front of a mirror and apply a full face of makeup or do my hair. I don’t even own a hairbrush. 

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So when someone makes a comment about women being ‘womanly’ or not it makes my blood boil. Firstly, part of me wishes (despite my love for who I am) that I could be effortlessly elegant and look like I just threw together a stylish and classy outfit. Unfortunately, that’s just not me, I don’t know how to do that and I don’t have the inclination to learn. If that’s you and your definition of being a woman then great!

Secondly, and most importantly, what does it even matter how ‘womanly’ I am and who gets to decide what’s womanly or not? If it’s womanly to be demure, giggly and agree with whatever anyone says then I don’t want to be a part of that. If it’s womanly to always be sexy, dress to attract other people and only think about my outward appearance then I also don’t want anything to do with that. Again however, if that’s what being a woman means to you then you go for it.

Being ‘womanly’ to me means only one thing; being the woman that you want to be. I don’t care if you were born physically a woman, if you identify as female, if you’re now a woman having been born in the wrong body or anything in between, the only kind of woman you need to be is the woman that you want to be. Do not let anyone, loved ones, the media, society or anyone else tell you what it means to be a woman. 

I’ve spent years apologising for not being girly, delicate and elegant but I’m not going to do that anymore. I am me, love it or hate it. 

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HOW TO EAT ON HOLIDAY

Why did I want to write this post? Well, holidays for me from the age of about 11 have been surrounded by weeks of worrying on either side. Before the holiday there’s all the stress about being on a diet so you look good in your swimwear (or as a kid so I didn’t feel as fat as I thought I was in front of the other kids) and then after the holiday you feel like a beach ball and want to diet back down to how you looked when you started the holiday.

With all that stress it’s a wonder why holidays used to be a fun thing at all. Now that my relationship with food and my body has changed so has my attitude towards holidays. In the weeks leading up to this trip, my honeymoon, I’ve been catching up with lots of friends and eating plenty of delicious food. With the mouthfuls of the tastiest morsels I’ve been declaring that ‘I’m on my beach body diet’ because my beach body is my body on a beach, nothing more, nothing less.

Holidays for me are about experiencing everything that place has to offer, especially once in a lifetime trips like this one. That means that we’re doing lots of sightseeing, lots of walking, lots of watching the world go by and lots of eating and drinking.

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My biggest tip I can give you on how to eat on holiday is to eat according to your goals. For example, if you have a bikini competition 3 weeks after you get back from holiday then you’re going to need to stick strictly to your nutrition plan while you’re away (which begs the question why you’d be going on holiday at that particular time). Alternatively, if you’re in training for a strongman or strongwoman competition and you need to be in a calorie surplus to continue gaining strength while you train then you’re going to need to eat plenty of food but track it too to make sure you’re hitting your macros.

However, I am not currently in training for anything so my goal while I’m on holiday is to enjoy everything edible that Argentina and Mexico have to offer. I don’t want to come back having missed out on the dish of the trip because I thought I should probably eat the chicken salad with the dressing on the side.

So far, eating for this goal has meant that I’ve enjoyed the most incredible steak I’ve ever had in a local meat market, I’ve drunk far too much of the Argentinian Malbec and sampled plenty of empanadas with a variety of fillings. Then in Mexico I’ve eaten my fill of tacos, ceviche and sampled every guacamole I can get my hands on. Oh and the ice cream but don’t get me started on the ice cream.

Most of the hotels we’re staying in include breakfast so we’ve been eating a big breakfast each day of cereal, scrambled eggs, meat, cheese and pastries (with dulce de leche, obviously). Lunch has generally just been a small snack as we’re still full from breakfast and then dinner each night has created a lengthy debate about which of the amazing restaurants we should sample in each town.

We’ve also been quite active with some total relaxation days thrown in because #balance. We’ve been hiking through the jungle, bike riding to Mayan ruins, scuba diving, SUP yoga, horse-riding, kayaking and I’ve even managed to squeeze in a couple of gym sessions. For me the key to enjoying a holiday is to sample everything there is to offer, stay active and eliminate the feelings of guilt. Just enjoy it.

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When I get home I’ll be starting a 6-month training plan to get my fitness back up so that I can take on the Olympic distance at the London Triathlon at the end of July, 5 days after my 30th birthday. My body composition will very likely change with the increase in cardiovascular workouts but this will be a by-product of my training, not the main goal. My goals for 2017 are about performance, not aesthetics and I can’t wait to get started. Right after I finish this margarita…

 

 

THE THING ABOUT CLEAN EATING

There’s been a lot said recently about ‘clean eating’ and what it really means and as it’s something that I hear a lot of in the fitness industry I though I’d throw in my two cents. This programme from Grace Victory has brought the discussion about clean eating back to the forefront and I think it’s opened up a lot of people’s eyes.

If I look back 2 years in my fitness journey I was following the Honestly Healthy diet and eating a majority of vegan food with the occasional bits of goat cheese, fish and white meat. Yes, I was lean and slim but I was also lacking in energy to do all the different bits of training that I wanted to. I wasn’t really building any real muscle mass because looking back on it I definitely wasn’t eating enough for my body to grow muscle.

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I’ve also followed the diet beloved of Crossfitters all over the world, the paleo diet which in its strict form eliminates dairy, grains, sugar and gluten leaving meat, veg and a fruit to live on. In fact it was this diet that created anxiety for me because I was genuinely scared of not being able to eat ‘paleo’ if I went out for dinner or to a friend’s house. I used to make excuses or prep food in advance to take with which for someone who loves food (and let’s face it, nearly everyone) is not a healthy or happy way to live.

I fully accept that there are people who have genuine dietary allergies and intolerances but a majority of the population is not affected by this and therefore shouldn’t stay away from things like gluten and dairy. I have IBS that is sparked by excess gluten consumption in stressful times but that doesn’t stop me from chowing down on sandwiches, croissants and burgers as long as I’m not in a stressed state of mind.

Having experienced clean food obsessions and emotional binging, I can probably say that my attitude towards food and my body is the most peaceful that it’s ever been.

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Yes, my legs jiggle when I run, yes I have sports bra bulge and yes my thighs chafe if I wear shorts to workout but I also feel beautiful, I have energy and I have zero feelings of guilt when I eat the food that I want to. Not that I’m eating chips every day and I do try to stick to a 70/30 rule – 70% unprocessed homemade food, 30% whatever I fancy. The reason it’s not 100% whatever I fancy is because to stay healthy, have energy and be able to progress in my fitness challenges I need to fuel my body correctly and for me that means meat, fish, rice, pasta, lots and lots of vegetables, some dairy, some bread and a lot of water.

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And I think that’s my point. This process works for me but it might not work for the next person. I can argue until I’m blue in the face about the benefits of micronutrients and unprocessed food but ultimately you have to experiment to find out what works best for you. Just because someone else has killer abs and only eats a high-protein, high-fat diet that doesn’t mean that it will work for you.

As I’ve said before, you do you and I’ll do me and let’s just let everyone get on with his or her vibes. Are you in?

SHREDDING FOR THE WEDDING PART 2

I’m getting married THIS YEAR. I know, how did that happen?! Apart from being incredibly excited about celebrating my relationship with my soulmate, I’m also ready to buckle down for the next 5 months and continue to work on my body composition.

As you’ll know from part 1 of this series, since September I’ve been focusing on weight lifting with a bit of cardio and tracking macros and calories to make sure that I’m fuelling my body correctly and facilitating the fat loss.

Check out the results so far:

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The key thing that’s motivating me are these photos because there’s only about 4lbs difference between these two. I use the scales to keep an eye on things but they don’t give you a clear picture of what’s actually going on within your body. I’d urge you to take photos (you don’t have to plaster them all over Instagram like I do!) each month and use them to track your progress rather than the number on the scale.

My training is about to get a bit mixed up as I start training for my first ever half marathon which I’ll be running 6 weeks before the wedding. My weight training will continue although it might drop down to 3 times each week rather than 4.

Are you training for a specific date or event? Let me know how you’re getting on!

TOP TIPS ON HOW TO STAY ON TRACK OVER CHRISTMAS

Mince pies, mulled wine, turkey and stuffing sandwiches, chocolate advent calendars, Christmas parties, hungover breakfasts, the list of temptation goes on.

But what happens if you have goals that don’t mix with that list above?

I, for one, am working towards the best body that I can have for my wedding in 6 months time. So while I’ve still got time to work on it I don’t want to lose sight of my goals over the next few weeks.

So here are my top 5 tips that I’ll be sticking to over the festive weeks:

1) Don’t let the workouts drop

If you’re going to eat a few extra carbs then you might as well put the energy to use and smash your workouts. If you’re lifting weights it might be a good time to try for that PB that’s been eluding you or if you’re a cardio queen, use that extra fuel to go further, faster or longer. If you can’t make it into the gym then set up some circuits at home and get sweaty or grab the rest of your family out for a long walk to burn off those breakfast mince pies

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2) Limit the booze intake

It’s impossible to avoid at this time of year but try to limit the damage by alternating alcoholic drinks with water and drinking less calorific drinks such as vodka, fresh lime & soda. If you do have a blowout then sweat it out with a workout the next morning and refuel with plenty of water and a lean bacon sandwich with a micronutrient-packed side of steamed spinach, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms

3) Make the right choices

There can be a lot of dinners and lunches with friends, colleagues, family and clients at this time of year and there’s nothing more testing to willpower than a Christmas menu. However, if you make the right choices you can save yourself a lot of calories and stick to your plan. Go for grilled meat or fish (or turkey breast), steamed vegetables and boiled or steamed rice or potatoes. Ask for sauces on the side so you can control how much goes on your food. And then, since you’ve been so good with your main course, get a dessert. With extra brandy butter on the side.

4) Don’t beat yourself up

Slip-ups do happen, especially when surrounded by so much temptation so don’t get too stressed out. A meal off-track doesn’t have to turn into a day or even a week off-track, just shrug it off and hit it with your next workout or meal. One meal (or even two) will hardly affect your body so don’t feel like you’ve failed

5) It’s Christmas, give yourself a break

Admittedly this isn’t a tip to keep you on track but it is a tip to keep you balanced over the festive break. If you try to stick to your plan 100% you might struggle so go on, indulge yourself a little. If you are hitting your workouts, making the right choices and enjoying spending time with friends and family then a few mince pies or extra glasses of mulled wine is good for the soul.

 

 

 

SHREDDING FOR THE WEDDING

In case you didn’t already know I’m getting married in June next year to this wonderful beard

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I always said that I don’t want to be one of those brides that loses so much weight before her wedding that she doesn’t look like herself in the photos but I definitely want to look my best.

I already have my wedding dress having found it in a shop that sells ex-sample gowns and I therefore can’t change shape too much because whilst seamstresses are incredible they aren’t magicians. Plus, I love my body, from my muscly calves to my wide hips to my small boobs, so I don’t want to change it or lose my curves.

So here are my goals to achieve before I get hitched:

  • Reduce my body fat by 5%
  • Be able to do 5 strict bodyweight pull ups (because how cool would that look in my wedding dress?!)
  • Continue to lift weights at least 4 times a week to grow muscle and enhance my curves

I’m following a new routine that I intend to follow all the way up to the wedding because it’s the most achievable and realistic programme that I’ve ever come across.

Nutrition-wise it revolves around counting macros within a certain amount of calories to reach your goals. To explain, macronutrients (macros) are carbs, fats and protein, all of which you have to eat in certain proportions, depending on what works best with your body. For example on days that I work out I eat high-protein, high-carb and low fat. Then on rest days I eat high-protein, high-fat and low carb. The beauty of this way of eating is that as long as I make sensible choices I can pretty much eat anywhere because I can just adjust my macros for the rest of the day to fit whatever I’ve just eaten. I try to eat home-cooked, unprocessed food for most of the week and then allow myself a little bit of leniency once or twice a week to indulge my cravings. Due to this freedom I haven’t really slipped up because I’ve been able to eat most things that I want!

When it comes to exercise I’m lifting weights in the gym 4 times each week plus 2-4 cardio sessions depending on what takes my fancy each week.

5 weeks later I’m already feeling on top of the world. While I’ve only lost 3lbs I can see the visual evidence of fat loss. I feel so much leaner and stronger and can start to see my little muscles popping out.

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I can’t wait to see where I am in the next 5 weeks, keep an eye out for Shredding For The Wedding Part 2

WHY I LOVE THE FACT THAT FITNESS IS MAINSTREAM

As I sit here sipping on my protein smoothie, looking forward to a strength workout tomorrow and planning training sessions for clients, I can’t help but think how much my life has changed in the last 2 years.

2 years ago I couldn’t walk 2 miles without getting out of breath, I was so unhappy in myself and I was the heaviest weight I’d been in years. Back when I started my journey back to fitness I definitely met with a few sceptics in my life. It wasn’t ‘normal to workout 5 times a week, it wasn’t ‘normal’ to make restaurant choices based on healthy options and it wasn’t ‘normal’ to get more excited about new trainers than new heels.

Fast forward 2 years and now everyone goes spinning, that woman down the post office does hiit workouts using an app and your neighbour and her dog only ever wear lycra. Fitness has spread.

Feeling strong, feeling happy

Feeling strong, feeling happy

And you know what? I love it. Far from being annoyed that it’s now mainstream, I love that my lifestyle is now easier to follow and much more supported by everyone. Here’s the other reasons why I love the fact that fitness has gone mainstream:

1) No one even looks twice if I order something off the menu in a restaurant

2) I don’t get pressured to drink on nights out anymore

3) Health has become a priority for many more people which is great for everyone involved

4) The emphasis is now on strength which fits with my goals and an increasing number of my clients’ goals

5) Early morning workouts with friends have become the new coffee dates

6) Even if I’m not the ‘smallest’ or ‘lightest’ I’ve ever been I’m definitely the strongest and most importantly, the happiest I’ve ever been

7) It’s acceptable to wear lycra in between clients, even if I’m not actually exercising

8) Telling people you’re taking on a massive personal fitness challenge won’t garner looks of disbelief and pity

9) Talking about macros, PBs, deadlifts and burpees is totally acceptable at the dinner table

10) Not going to lie, as a personal trainer this shift has been lucrative!

 

What do you love about fitness becoming mainstream?

WHY IT’S OK TO BE A MUSCLE MARY

Calling all girls who lift.

Have you ever been told by friends, strangers and loved ones not to get ‘too muscly’ when they find out that you lift weights? Or asked ‘are you going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger’? Or even ‘don’t turn into a man’?

Yep, me too. All of the above.

While it drives me mad, I’ve realised that a lot of these comments come from a place of misinformation so I’d like to set the record straight on what it means to be a girl who lifts.

1) There’s a limit as to how much muscle women can grow due to the decreased levels of testosterone (around 15-20 times less) when compared to men. Testosterone induces muscle growth which is why men can grow more muscle – they have more testosterone. Without artificially increasing their levels of testosterone women simply cannot grow the same amount of muscle as men. Therefore, we will not ‘turn into men’ by lifting weights

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2) To be ‘toned’ women have to have muscles. If you lose weight without having any muscle then yes, you’ll end up looking thin but chances are you will lose some of the shape or curves that you had before. For all of those people out there who like the women in their lives to have an ass for example, unless she’s been miraculously blessed with perfectly shaped glute muscles, chances are she’s going to have to work on that shape and lifting weights is the perfect way to do that

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3) The female bodybuilders you see on stage with bulging muscles and no body fat are not a good representation of the majority of girls who lift. Any woman who is competing in any competition, whether it’s Figure, Bikini, Fitness or Bodybuilding, will be the first to tell you that she will only be in her stage condition for a day or two, no longer. This is because to look their best they will dehydrate themselves, cut their calories drastically right at the end and tan themselves beyond normal colour ranges. It’s not a sustainable body shape and is not what 99% of girls who lift will look like

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4) Besides the aesthetic reasons there are plenty of health benefits to lifting weights for women including increased calorie burn during and after a workout, a higher metabolism, stronger bones from doing weight-bearing exercise and major stress relief. Trust me, squat a bar loaded with your body weight and you’ll feel on top of the world

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5) Muscles make girls look like badasses. And that’s everyone’s aim in life as well as mine right?

 

What’s your normal response when someone gives you sh*t about being a girl who lifts?

WHAT I LEARNT FROM THE #WELOVEOURBODIES CHALLENGE

If you’ve been following me over the last couple of weeks you’ll have seen that I ran a 2 week challenge called #weloveourbodies. The aim of the challenge was to encourage myself and other people to get into a habit of body positivity rather than looking in the mirror and hating what you see.

You can see all of my posts on my Instagram and see what other people contributed to the challenge by searching the #weloveourbodies hashtag or clicking here. Rather than posting all of the images here I actually wanted to tell you what I learnt and what I’m taking away from the challenge.

1) Focusing on positivity can change your day

Each day that I posted an update I felt that my whole day was infused with a bit more positivity because I was looking at things in a new way. I was definitely stuck in a rut of looking at myself and my life and picking out the negative aspects rather than celebrating the positive ones

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2) The human body is amazing

The things we can do by pushing ourselves and also just by existing are incredible. On a day to day basis our bodies get us through all sorts of things (like waking up at a 5:30am alarm…) as well as those special days when we push ourselves up to and beyond our limits

3) Being positive can be difficult

Towards the end of the challenge I was running out of things to be positive about, despite only identifying 10 or so things  that I loved about my body. There were plenty of other bits of my body that I could feature but I was really struggling to be positive about them. One of the most difficult to post was the final day, featuring my stretch marks that I’m still learning to love

Showing some love for my stretch-marked love handles

Showing some love for my stretch-marked love handles

4) It’s amazing what we can do with a bit of support

I’ve noticed that particularly with women there is a default position to be bitchy and judgmental and we do it without even thinking, especially when we’re with friends. This challenge has shown me that with a bit of positive support then we can help other people to feel good about themselves. Let’s not tear other people down, let’s build them up together. Next time you want to say something bitchy take a deep breath and think whether it’s necessary

5) You can be positive about your body & still want to improve it

Part of loving your body is acknowledging what it can do and working with it to improve. The phrase ‘don’t workout because you hate your body, workout because you love it’ has never been more true. Enjoy the feeling of progress, revel in reaching your goals and celebrate your achievements. Try not to stand still and instead be constantly looking to see where you can go next

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UPDATE: #WELOVEOURBODIES CHALLENGE

It’s now 7 days through my 14 day #weloveourbodies challenge and I’ve learnt a few things which have surprised me.

I thought that it would be easy for me to find something every day that I love about my body as I think of myself as pretty high on the scale of body positivity but that’s not really the case.

After the first few days I was having to really think about positive things to say about my body and realised that actually some of my weaknesses are strengths and that I need to embrace them.

Thanks to this challenge I’ve looked at my scarred legs in a new way, realised that I’m lucky to have great balance so I can indulge in my love of cycling and faced my fears of being upside down in a handstand.

Continue Reading…

JOIN THE #WELOVEOURBODIES CHALLENGE

As you might have seen on Instagram and through my blog I’ve been trying to champion the importance of positive body image and confidence amongst women. I’ve spent too long hating my body and I’ve decided that the time has come to stop this.

To get my message out there I’ve posted about the truth behind some of the before/after selfies, I’ve posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine and I’ve posted some very honest sweaty workout selfies. Now it’s time for you all to get involved too.

The #weloveourbodies challenge is going to be starting on Wednesday 19th August and it’s very simple. All you need to do is post a photo or update on Instagram or Twitter and use the hashtag #weloveourbodies every day for the next two weeks.

We all have moments where we look in the mirror and hate what we see but this is about looking in the mirror and finding something that you love. My hope is that by finding something about your body that you love everyday for two weeks it will start a habit of feeling positive towards yourself and your body.

Here is my first post that will be going up on Wednesday, expect to see more from then:

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Day 1: I love my body because it carried me through my first ever Olympic distance triathlon, something that I had never thought possible. I’ve always made excuses like ‘I don’t have the body of an endurance athlete’ until I realised that there is no perfect ‘endurance body’ and I was just scared about challenging myself like that. #weloveourbodies

Don’t forget to use the hashtag and tag me in your post with @fitology_uk on Twitter or Instagram!

PRACTICING WHAT I PREACH

Back in May I was asked by Cosmopolitan magazine if I would be in one of their features called ‘My body’s amazing because…’. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be featured in one of Britain’s biggest young female’s magazines?!

And then came the catch. ‘Would you be ok with posing nude?’ was the question. Ah. Right. Ok. Yes, I’d be fine with that.

I decided very quickly that I would do the shoot and feature and here’s why:

1) I love my body. It might not be as slim or as strong as others but it’s mine and I’m on a continuous hard journey to make the most of it

2) I want to help other women learn to love their bodies too because if the feature inspires even one other woman to look in the mirror and feel positive about what they see then I’m happy

3) This is my sticking two fingers up to all of the haters because if you don’t think I look good than you need your eyes testing. Yeah

And that’s it. No other reasons, simple. Oh, and I quite like being naked.

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THE SHAME ABOUT BODY SHAMING

In this world of selfies, social media and instagram filters it seems that every day there is a new story of online bullying going too far with horrible consequences. Having recently been the recipient of some nasty online body shaming I wanted to explore my thoughts on it and see what you all think.

A couple of weeks ago this blog post of mine went viral, you might have seen it on the Daily Mail, Eonline, Buzzfeed or Yahoo amongst many other places. The key image that most sites decided to feature was this one unsurprisingly:

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