“Pole dancing has really improved my confidence!”

by Leigh Morley

If you’re bored of the gym and need a change in routine, then pole dancing could be the fitness regime that’s perfect for you. 21 year old Becky Field explains how this new craze can build your confidence and keep you fit as well, whilst breaking the stereotype that pole dancing is just for strippers.

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“It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, ever since I saw that White Stripes video  with Kate Moss pole dancing in it,” the Sheffield Hallam student explains. “I just thought it looked like so much fun.”

Becky immediately looked into starting pole, but the nearest studio was 20 miles away from her home town and she doesn’t drive. Luckily, other students at Sheffield Hallam had set up a society to teach beginners, and Becky jumped at the chance. “It was perfect, because I was really intimidated at the thought of going into a regular class with other scared people and being completely hopeless.”

Becky, who is also president of the Psychology Society, started classes every other week and soon became addicted. Every other week became a weekly activity, and before she knew it, she was scheduling pole lessons in between classes. Becky explains that she hasn’t been lately due to exams, but confesses that she’s suffering withdrawal symptoms and cannot wait to get back to it.

“It’s such a good laugh, nobody takes themselves too seriously and we can all get on well together and have a good joke in our lessons,” she explains. “It’s helped me make so many friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise spoken to.”

Since starting a few months ago, Becky has improved her strength and learned tonnes of complicated moves, her instructor building up her confidence and coordination at the same time. “I’m not hitting myself on the pole every time now, and my strength has definitely improved,” she adds. Because of pole, Becky explains how she’s found muscles in places she’s never imagined and finally has the strength and confidence to do moves she would never have dreamt of in her first lesson. “The only problem is that now my arms don’t fit in some of my more girly shirts,” she laughs.

Unfortunately, not many people would think that pole dancing comes with such benefits, as the stigma attached to it is quite a negative one. Often associated with the seedy side of stripping, pole fitness is anything but. An article was recently published earlier this year by the NUS Women’s Officer, which had an incredibly pessimistic view of pole dancing, calling for university societies across the UK to ban classes. The pole community caused a huge uproar and eventually the article was retracted.

“There is so much stigma attached to pole it’s unreal,” Becky says. “People need to see past the stereotypical stripper view and see it as a brilliant, fun way to exercise. People like that should even try classes themselves.”

Becky even talks about how her parents were slightly wary of her new hobby at first, when she arrived home one weekend with bruises on her legs. “They weren’t too thrilled at first,” she says. “But I showed them one of my favourite videos online of a performance at a pole dancing competition. It showed the strength and dedication that it requires and they came around. This is why more people need to see things like this, they need to realise how amazing pole fitness can actually be.”

Becky’s experience with pole dancing has been nothing but positive. Since she started, her confidence and health has significantly improved, and she’s been having a lot more fun than she does at the gym.

“I’ve loved every second of this, and I can’t wait to get back to classes and improve over Summer!”

Find more posts by Leigh Morley here

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Diet pills: do you really know the dangers?

2, 4-dinitrophenol – or DNP as it’s commonly known – is yellow and odourless in capsule form. Image courtesy of Daily Mail

Words by Steph Hodgkinson

This week, 23-year-old medical student Sarah Houston died after taking diet pill DNP – which was banned in America for its dangerous side effects in 1938. The Leeds University student had been suffering from bulimia and depression for the past three years and had been receiving treatment.

DNP – also known as 2, 4-Dinitrophenol – is an extremely toxic industrial chemical which is used a pesticide. Although it’s banned for human consumption, it’s easily available over the Internet in capsule form.

The possible side effects include raised body temperatures, dehydration, exhaustion, excess sweating, irregular heart rates and heart attacks. It’s also been linked to 62 deaths worldwide. So why is it still readily available to buy in pill form?

Sarah Houston isn’t the only person in recent times to be killed from the toxic diet pill. In February, 18-year-old fitness fanatic Sarmad Alladin collapsed and died just hours after praising the fat-burning tablets on Facebook.

And in 2008, Selena Walrond, 26, died of a heart attack brought on by DNP. The pill caused a rapid rise in Selena’s heart rate and her temperature soared.

Selena’s mother was quoted in The Daily Mail as saying: “I’ll never forget her yellow fingernails and skin – the drug was sweating out of her. Selena’s life has been cruelly snatched away, all because she was desperate to lose weight. DNP is lethal. If you want to lose weight, do it the sensible way.”

Leeds University medical student Sarah Houston died after taking DNP. Image courtesy of Mirror

Leeds University medical student Sarah Houston died after taking DNP. Image courtesy of Mirror

Last year, the Food Standards Agency issued a warning to avoid taking DNP due to two deaths linked to the drug. Yet despite the warnings and fatalities, it’s still widely used amongst young people, particularly in the bodybuilding community.

Numerous bodybuilding forums participate in discussions and share their experiences of taking the drug to bulk up. The majority of the users encourage it and trivialise the potential death factor. One user on the Iron Den lists the side effects (including death) then says: “Other then [sic] that, it’s relatively safe, if you start low.”

One user on The Student Room forum said: “[sic] If your even thinking of taking DNP then you want to do your research first, if done rightly then its possible to lose around 1lbs of fat each day!!! – but done wrongly you could end up dead.”

Dietitian Sophie Leicester says: “A change of diet and an increase in exercise is the only safe and effective way to lose weight. Diet pills are no substitute for this, not to mention the life-threatening risks involved in taking these unknown chemicals.”

The fact is there is no “safe” way to take it; it’s a poisonous pesticide which isn’t worth the risk. Coroner David Hinchliff at Sarah Houston’s inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: “This tragic case has highlighted the potential dangers of buying slimming pills online. These pills can contain powerful ingredients such as DNP, which is not suitable for human consumption.

“We urge people not to take any slimming medicines or products bought online without consulting with a pharmacist or doctor. It simply is not worth the danger to overall health to buy and use these products as you just don’t know what is in them. Any weight loss results they offer could come with a huge risk.”

Sarah’s parents are now campaigning to ban the tablet form of the drug and prevent any further tragedies. Watch Daybreak’s interview with her parents here.

Weight loss: the safe way

  • Never take any diet pills without consulting a doctor – you don’t know what could be in them, particularly if you order them online
  • Try swapping fatty or sugary snacks for a piece of fruit or some carrot sticks with a houmous dip. Making small changes can make a big difference in the long run
  • Join a fitness class with a friend – it could be the best thing you ever do
  • If you’re strapped for cash, take a walk around the park a few times a week
  • Check your BMI (body mass index) online – often we see ourselves as ‘fat’ when we’re actually a perfectly healthy weight for our height

Have you ever taken diet pills, or would you ever? We’d like to hear your opinions and experiences on diet pills.

Read more from Steph here