January 29, 2015

My Slendertone Abs Journey: Week Three

Day 1 (left) of using the Slendertone System Abs Belt and Day 21 (right)
             Three weeks down, one to go; I have almost achieved an entire month of using the Slendertone System Abs Belt! Chart my journey during week one here and week two here, or just scroll down this page! For today’s update, I thought I would inform you that I am still consistently using the belt six days a week, with one rest day. The highest intensity level I have achieved on the belt has bumped up to 90 for the left side of my waist and 90 for the right side of my waist (compared to 70, 70 last week), using program four (Expert).

             Based on the before and after photos above, I feel that I am now starting to gain some definition in my abs, which are steadily becoming more outlined. I have also noticed that my waist looks visually slimmer. Patience is a virtue (one that I do not possess) and following anything through until its completion has very rewarding results! It can be tempting to give up if you’re feeling despondent about a lack of glaringly obvious improvements, but even bodybuilders had to start somewhere!

             It’s important to keep in mind that three months is the minimum amount of time you should give yourself before you start witnessing results. Slendertone recommends four-to-six weeks of consistent use (five or six days a week) for the System Abs Belt. After that, you can drop your sessions down to two or three days a week.

             My trusty workout DVDs are still taking this journey with me and I am continuing to eat healthily, while walking as much as I can, whenever I can! Working out doesn’t have to be a chore. It can actually be enjoyable (Zumba, anyone?)! I’ve found that listening to music that pumps me up throughout the workout is really motivating. Find what works for you, whether that be buying workout gear that makes you feel good (neon colors are so fun!), setting aside a specific time to exercise each day, or even bringing your friends along for the ride.

             There is an actual science behind working out. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, keep feelings of anxiety and depression at bay, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep. It also increases energy levels, which leads to a more productive you! A Nike attitude is essential and one that personally really helps me. If you work out as soon as you get home or as soon as is convenient for you, you’ll feel much better knowing you didn’t put it off. The likelihood of not wanting to rally yourself around later is extremely high, so “just do it!”

 Photo courtesy of Nike
             That’s what’s so good about the Slendertone System Abs Belt as well. You feel like you’ve achieved something after each session, which has a domino effect. You use the belt, which spurs you on to exercise, which makes you want to eat better - all of which aids the toning process. Now, go release some endorphins!

             Join me next week as I mark one month of using the belt in my final progress post. Let’s make it a good one! You can browse and buy all Slendertone products from their official website here and additionally at Amazon, Argos, Boots, and Littlewoods.

January 21, 2015

My Slendertone Abs Journey: Week Two

Day 1 (left) of using the Slendertone System Abs Belt and Day 14 (right)
             Things are getting pretty serious between my Slendertone System Abs Belt and me. I’m hoping that we’ll make things official in a couple of weeks. Let me not get ahead of myself here though. We’re still in our honeymoon period and today marks our second week anniversary. We have both stuck it out thus far and I have to say that it has been a very healthy and conducive relationship! If you’d like to chart my journey during week one, simply view the post below or find it here.

             I am continuing to use the belt six days a week, with one rest day to allow my muscles to recuperate. I definitely think that my abs are starting to take shape and that my stomach area is becoming leaner. In the before and after photos above, you will see that I am beginning to slowly but surely arrive at visible results. The highest intensity level I have achieved on the belt has bumped up to 70 for the left side of my waist and 70 for the right side of my waist (compared to 50, 50 last week). I have also moved up to program four (Expert) from program three (Advanced), which increases the toning power. Bring it on! 

             Using the belt has slotted into my daily routine nicely and knowing I’ve completed a session for the day also helps me to make healthier eating and lifestyle choices. I walk to and from my university campus (weather permitting) and I am continuing to use the cardio and body sculpting DVDs. I tried out the abs and hips, thighs, & buns workouts for the first time this week, so my yoga mat has been receiving its fair share of attention as well! Pairing the belt with an additional abs workout left me with some muscle soreness the following day, but it was certainly thorough! As I said last week, nothing substitutes good old-fashioned exercise. Remember: don’t just focus on toning one part of your body, or else you’ll end up violating the general principle of a major workout code…

Avoid making a workout no-no and apply this philosophy to all of your body, not just your legs! Photo courtesy of Pinterest

             Well, I’ve reached the halfway point on my abs journey and I look forward to sharing the next two weeks with you! Make sure to check back next Wednesday as I chart week three with the Slendertone System Abs Belt. In terms of progress, there’s only one way to go and that’s up! You can browse and buy all Slendertone products from their official website here and additionally at Amazon, Argos, Boots, and Littlewoods.

January 14, 2015

My Slendertone Abs Journey: Week One

 Day 1 (left) of using the Slendertone System Abs Belt and Day 7 (right); I will be charting my weekly progress for the recommended four-to-six week period
           In December, I wrote a post about the Bloggers Love Hub event (read it here), where I connected with some amazing brands. I usually run My London Dream as a lifestyle blog, but after collaborating with these brands, my blog has had a bit of a mini makeover. I’ve been injecting some product reviews, such as the Vita Liberata NKD SKN Tan Mousse post below (alternatively, find it here). Fashion, beauty, cosmetics, and overall health and wellbeing are of great interest to me. I always say that I would love to try my hand at makeup reviews and tutorials as well, but I simply don’t have the time! Hopefully in the future that can change!

             For now, I love trying new products from brands that I believe in and that’s why you’ll occasionally see me post about them. After all, part of living in London is about how you decide to portray yourself in the big city and how you stand out from the crowd. I am very excited to have teamed up with Slendertone, a company whose products are scientifically proven to improve muscle tone and body shape.

             The real world has crept up on me to put an end to my holiday overindulging. I just started back up at university this past Monday, but I am back on track with my workout regime. I will be charting my abs journey with you all and I have just completed week one using the Slendertone System Abs Belt.

The complete Slendertone System Abs Belt package, photo courtesy of Slendertone
             I was a bit skeptical to try this product to begin with, because I very much adhere to the philosophy that nothing can replace good old-fashioned working out and eating healthily. I was interested to try the Slendertone System Abs Belt however, because I’ll admit that I have been a bit lazy with my working out ever since last summer. All summer, I went to the gym almost everyday, with rest days in between. I had abs days, leg days, arm days, and running days. Working out produces the experience of being on a high and I felt good, about myself and about my body. It made me eat better and I cut sweets out of my diet completely, because I wanted to maintain all of my hard work at the gym.

             Then, I returned to London and life got in the way, as it normally does. That’s where Slendertone came in. I would like to first preface by saying that Slendertone does not promise weight loss through using their products and I don’t want to advocate that. Instead, they promote toning and shaping the body. You won’t be able to use a Slendertone product and see desirable results if you continue eating unhealthily or don’t exercise on a regular basis. What I have liked so far about the Slendertone System Abs Belt is that using it motivates me to maintain a healthier lifestyle. I have yet again cut out sweets from my diet and am working out with the help of some cardio and body sculpting DVDs. My yoga mat arrived in the mail just recently, which I fully intend to make good use of!

The Slendertone System Abs Belt in action
             For the next recommended four-to-six week period, I will write a post per week with before and after photos to show you my progress. 100 percent of users report firmer, more toned abs after four weeks! The product needs to be used five times a week across that timeframe in order to notice any visible results. After that time period, the product can be used two-to-three times a week in order to maintain the results. I personally have been using the Slendertone System Abs Belt six times a week, with one rest day for my muscles to recover.

             The way the belt works is through Electrical Muscle Stimulation technology. The technology is applied through pads, which are positioned on selected muscle groups. The pads stimulate nerve endings to create deep, comfortable muscle contractions in all of the surrounding muscles, not just those underneath the pads. Targeted and neighboring muscles then begin to strengthen and tone.

The outside of the belt (top) is very understated, while the inside of the belt (bottom) contains adhesive pads that use Electrical Muscle Stimulation Technology 
             The setup of the belt was very simple due to the step-by-step guide provided in the box. Three adhesive pads (one large square pad and two smaller oval pads) come with the product. Your waist size determines where the smaller oval pads are placed, with the belt providing three different options. When you position the belt on your body, it lies across your waist and across your belly button. This targets the Rectus Abdominus and Oblique muscles, along with the Transversus Abdominus, which is essential for obtaining a flatter stomach.

The smaller oval pads are positioned in relation to your waist size
             The muscles simultaneously contract and then relax, which mimics the regular muscle contraction experienced during normal exercise. As for the sensation, it is not an unpleasant one, but it is definitely noticeable. I feel my muscles contracting when I use the belt, which is what I want! If I keep myself occupied, I hardly notice the feeling at all. You are completely in control of the intensity level of each session. The unit that comes with the belt has different programs you can select, geared towards your personal needs. There are seven programs all together, which have different time durations, intensity levels (0-99), and toning power. You can increase the intensity levels for the left and right side of your waist separately.

             I have been keeping track on a notepad daily to organize my dates and to remember the program I used, for how long, and the intensity levels of each session. The way I have approached using the Slendertone System Abs Belt is when I feel that I have comfortably finished a session at a certain intensity level, I move the intensity level up during the next session. If I feel too comfortable during the session itself, I bump the intensity level up during the session. The highest intensity level I have reached so far is 50 for the left side of my waist and 50 for the right side of my waist.

The program and intensity level of each toning session is controlled via the unit that is connected to the Slendertone System Abs Belt
             The Slendertone System Abs Belt can also be used while you work out. It’s not invasive and works hand-in-hand to optimize the workout. I have tried the product in various situations so far: simply sitting down and using my laptop, a brisk hour-long walk through Kensington Gardens, and working out using one of the cardio DVDs. Although, I did get rather hot in the last example!

             Just as with any post-workout recuperation, I have noticed some muscle soreness, especially on rest days. No pain, no gain as they say! That’s natural, but if you are in immense discomfort, it’s important to lower the intensity level of the belt. Overall, after my first week of trying the product, my stomach area definitely feels tighter and tauter. I expect that the next few weeks will produce more visible firming results for me to show you. There is not too much difference in my before and after photos at the moment, because as with all exercise, it takes at least a solid month to notice any changes and improvements.

It's the final countdown...
             Make sure to check back next week as I continue to chart my journey with the Slendertone System Abs Belt! Slendertone produces a wide range of products for men and women to suit the areas you would like to target, including: abs, arms, face, and bottom. You can browse and buy all Slendertone products from their official website here and additionally at Amazon, Argos, Boots, and Littlewoods.

January 09, 2015

A Glowing Review: Vita Liberata’s NKD SKN Medium Tinted Tan Mousse


             Yesterday, January 8, 2015, will forever go down in history as the day that I tried self-tanner for the first time. I gathered all of my materials together, which consisted of the Vita Liberata NKD SKN Medium Tinted Tan Mousse (100ml) and Tanning Mitt. I must admit, I was terrified. I am not naturally tan by any stretch of the imagination. I have a rather fair skin complexion and I was worried that the product’s easy four-step claim to perfect NKD SKN was just another typical marketing ploy. In my mind, I fast-forwarded to a few hours later where I could just imagine myself looking unnaturally bronzed, with the streaks to prove it.

             I have heard some self-tanning horror stories and certainly witnessed enough “orange” skin tones to be warded off trying self-tanner before. However, I am very happy to report that Vita Liberata was the perfect companion on my first self-tanning trial run. It really is as simple as following four steps, which I will show you below. I made a few rookie mistakes, but overall, I emerged from the painless experience pleased with the results and definitely not orange! I used the self-tanner all over my body, except for my face. I wanted to ensure that my foundation still matched my skin tone, but I have no doubt that the end result would have been a radiant touch of color. I chose a jeweled dress with vibrant white, emerald, aquamarine, and teal hues to emphasize the tan. To top it all off, I wore a fluorescent bubblegum pink lipstick, because neon colors complement a golden skin tone. Have a look for yourself…

Before
After

             In the dreary winter weather, our skin could use a pick-me-up. As I was applying the tan mousse, all I could think was how natural and glowing it looked. I would say that this Vita Liberata product is foolproof, because it’s impossible to end up with an undesirable result! I was left with some patchiness, especially in the crease of my elbow and on my feet, but I blame that on my first time self-tanning. Streaks were kept to a minimum however and were relatively easy to fix if I noticed them in time. The medium tint worked wonders on my skin, because it didn’t look fake. It gave the illusion that I had just returned from some hot island destination when, in all honesty, I was in Manchester over the Christmas period. When I say Manchester, I am referring to the northern city that tends to hold a permanent spot on Britain’s Top 10 Wettest Cities List...

Step 1. "Scrub Up! Exfoliate all over, especially around elbows, knees, and ankles." I really like the Soap & Glory Smoothie Star Breakfast Scrub. The maple scent is heavenly and leaves you with soft, touchable skin. Do not moisturize prior to applying self-tanner.
Step 2. "Mitt Up! It's simple...protect your hands by always using a tanning mitt!" Pump Vita Liberata's  foamy NKD SKN mousse on to the tanning mitt, spread the product evenly on the mitt, and then apply it to your skin in circular motions. Use less product on hands, feet, knees, and elbows, wiping these areas with a damp cloth after application.
Step 3. "Tan Up! Always tan bottom to top - a simple rule so you don't smudge your tan by mistake!"
Step 4. "You've got perfect NKD SKN!" Before using Vita Liberata's NKD SKN Medium Tinted Tan Mousse (left) and After (right)
             Vita Liberata’s philosophy is to provide self-tanning products that are easy to apply, dry instantly, and fade naturally (with a tan that lasts up to seven days). All of the products are odorless and made with natural extracts. I was slightly concerned about whether the self-tanner would stain my clothes, so I aired myself out for 10 minutes, waiting just as impatiently as when I apply nail polish. You saw the white dress that I chose above, but it was left completely stain free, as the mousse does dry instantly on application! That’s a definite benefit to this product, especially if you are in a hurry or need to start getting ready for a night out. That does mean that you need to be quick during the application process however!

             In order to reach the trickier areas of my body, such as my back, and to check the evenness of the color, I enlisted the help of my flatmate. An extra pair of hands should probably be added to the materials list as an essential! All in all, my first self-tanning experience took under an hour to complete and I will definitely be using the Vita Liberata NKD SKN Tinted Tan Mousse again. I've since been reaching in my wardrobe for skirts, dresses, and sleeveless tops. As my flatmate jokingly asked me this morning, "Have you been on a tropical vacation lately, Laura?" In the midst of winter, a tan (even a fake one) is enough to help get you through to the warmer months, where you can start planning your summer holidays and replace the bottle with rays of sunshine. 

Vita Liberata's NKD SKN collection, photo courtesy of Vita Liberata
             I am still very much a self-tanning novice of course. I sit here and Google random and probably pointless things such as, "Can I shower when I have self-tanner on?" and "Can I wear perfume with self-tanner?" The answers are of course yes and yes after you've allowed the product to settle for a day. After that, it's up to you what you do with your tantalizing self and your NKD SKN! 
           
             Get ready for the weekend with luxury tanning brand, Vita Liberata. NKD SKN is their newest collection and includes five products which promise the most natural tan. The products are available exclusively at Superdrug stores and on the NKD SKN website
here. Vita Liberata has very kindly offered a 45 percent discount on NKD SKN products if you enter the promo code DREAM45 online at the checkout. The offer expires on February 2nd, so hurry and click your way to skin that looks naturally sun-kissed. We won't tell if you won't! Browse more of Vita Liberata's products here

January 08, 2015

Edward Scissorhands Cuts Straight to the Heart





             The true test of a great show is when the audience leaves wondering how the time could have possibly elapsed so quickly. Another is when the dance moves all look completely effortless, but you know that they are anything but easy. This is the power that choreographer/director Matthew Bourne holds with all of his dance productions. As the puppeteer who manipulates the strings, Bourne leaves you spellbound as a visionary fairytale is woven in front of your eyes. If you couldn’t tell already, I highly recommend Bourne’s work, having previously attended performances of Swan Lake (find my review here), Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker! Now I am able to add Edward Scissorhands to my ever-growing list. The show ends its run at Sadler’s Wells Theatre this month on the 11th.  All tickets unsurprisingly sold out, so I apologize that they will be unavailable to purchase after I rave about it!

It's probably best that my friend and I leave it to the professionals...
             Bourne wanted to rework Edward Scissorhands for the stage ever since he saw the 1990 film directed by Tim Burton. The film has become a cult classic in its own right and usually pops up on television screens around Christmastime, just as it did this past year. If you don’t know the story, it follows quirky outsider Edward, who is the unfinished creation of an inventor who died before completing the job. Edward’s quest for love and acceptance proves not to be so easy, as his many efforts are thwarted and made more difficult due to having scissors for hands. The cookie cutter suburban town Edward finds himself in doesn’t know what has hit it!

 Johnny Depp, the Edward Scissorhands we have come to know and love, "teetered on the verge of tears throughout" Matthew Bourne's production and paid a visit to the cast backstage, photo courtesy of Sky TV
             Edward Scissorhands is a beautiful story in general, but when it’s coupled with tender dancing to music from Danny Elfman and Terry Davies, we are left with an even more melancholic and enchanting story. As with all of Bourne’s productions, the stage is a hotbed of activity. Since no talking is involved, the dancers have to rely on relaying nonverbal cues and facial expressions to the audience. This assumes a certain amount of perception from the audience members, because with such a busy atmosphere, it is up to us what we decide to hone in on and what we decide to leave in the periphery.

Domesticating Edward, photo courtesy of Johan Persson
             For example, take the scene where the residents attend a Christmas dance. Edward starts to feel awkward and ashamed as he sizes up the dancers around him, each with two perfect hands. He cowers away from the dance floor, opting instead to slope around the outskirts. The embarrassment on his face is apparent and the longing he feels for Kim, who is dancing with her boyfriend Jim, is written all over his face. I divided my attention between the rest of the cast dancing and Edward, because by himself, his body language and pained visage told a story of its own accord. Details like this are precisely what will draw audiences to Bourne’s productions over and over again. Your observational skills and level of appreciation will continue to grow right alongside your number of viewings.

Photo courtesy of Johan Persson
             The idyllic neighborhood is made up of quaint homes and quaint people. The houses are painted in cheery hues, with cheery faces that emerge and retreat from their doors. There are the obligatory cheerleaders, jocks, doting mothers, and hardworking fathers. Despite appearances, the town holds its fair share of secrets as well. Joyce is a lonely housewife who regularly cheats on her husband and that shines through in her brilliant, sexualized dancing persona. She tries to seduce a very confused and frightened Edward, while the religious fanatics try to repel Edward with their crosses and prayers.

Photo courtesy of Johan Persson
             The breathtaking set borrows recognizable Burton-esque elements from the film. However, as to be expected, there are unique alterations that add a spin to the original. Edward finds nifty alternative uses for his “hands,” such as pruning bushes and hedges into animals, ice carving (which involves a scene with a gorgeous ice angel sculpture prop), and even making a job out of giving the neighbors “edgy” new haircuts. The production introduces a lovely dream sequence where Edward imagines that he has real hands. He is able to flirtatiously chase Kim around a garden made up of shrubs and trees decorated into shapes, which are actually people. They playfully join Edward and Kim’s game, concealing and revealing the two blissful imaginary lovebirds.

Edward and Kim share a tender moment, photo courtesy of Johan Persson
             As for Dominic North, who plays our antihero Edward, anyone who can forgo opposable thumbs, trade them in for workable scissors (albeit false ones), and still manage to dance gracefully must automatically be dubbed as a seriously standout dancer. Indeed, North was nominated for Outstanding Male Dancer at the National Dance Awards in 2010. The irony of Edward Scissorhands though is the fact that Edward is gentle and peaceful. He doesn’t use his “scissorhands” with malicious intent, although he could well do. Jim, however, is rough and ready with his hands, using force with Kim and having an eventual blowout with Edward.

The neighborhood kids, with Kim and Jim front and center, photo courtesy of Johan Persson
             The story stands as a testament to human nature; we lash out against and attack what we don’t understand. Just as we are about to claim that nice guys don’t always finish last and Edward and Kim finally kiss, Edward is exiled once more to his former house upon the hill. As the cast took their final curtain call, they stayed in character until the very end, and as the applause subsided, we were all left wondering how the time could have possibly elapsed so quickly.

             For upcoming performances at Sadler’s Wells, visit the theatre’s website here. Explore the Edward Scissorhands production on the New Adventures website here. New Adventures is Bourne’s company with co-director Robert Noble.

Photo courtesy of Johan Persson