The problem with -spo

Trigger warning: Contains discussion of body image. Relates to mental heath, disordered eating and exercise patterns.


Image of a print from Living Styles

I first encountered the -spo concept in the form of thinspo. As someone who (unfortunately) has wanted to lose weight for most of their life, I thought anything that would inspire me to exercise a little more enthusiastically or eat that little bit healthier could only be a good thing. And when you put it like that, yeah, it is. Sometimes we all need our butt kicked into gear a bit. The problem I found with thinspo was that it got very extreme very quickly. The messages went from “take care of your body” to “YOU NEED TO SEE BONES” in approximately 0.4 seconds. For a newly pubescent lil lady, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Eventually, as I came towards the end of high school, fitspo came along. Now bones were okay but lean, mean, squatting machines were better. Again, the images and messages around fitspo varied greatly but reached pretty scary levels of obsessiveness (although, die-hard fitspo-ers would say that “obsessive is just a word that the lazy use to describe the dedicated”). For a young woman emerging from the cosy cocoon of high school, this was just another unreachable standard I felt the big wide world demanded of womanhood now.

And that’s the thing with -spo, regardless of whether it’s to do with your body or your home, your food, your children, your parties or your outfits: it sets the bar at an overwhelming height (I’m all of 5ft. tall, so perhaps this mental image is particularly scary for me). It seems so unreachable that you risk becoming obsessed with constantly bettering yourself and others at the expense of all else in your life. On the other hand, these images of perfection can seem so far from where you are that you become despondent and give up completely. I haven’t included any -spo images for this exact reason. I don’t believe they provide me, or anyone else for that matter, any deep or lasting benefit.

They’re also fleeting. They come flying at you: thick and fast and seemingly relentless. They’re in front of you for but a moment, but they can damage you for a long time. They are extreme, and they offer you nothing but an extreme reaction. Love or hate. Embrace or resent. Inspire or depress. They do not and cannot offer you any real support because they themselves are not real. They are far-removed from your life and may well be far removed from the way the people in them see their own lives too. We’re all guilty of presenting a brighter, shinier picture of our lives on the internet, and perhaps it’s worth thinking about the reality behind the -spo. Seek out real life connections with people whose values align with yours. Real life role models and mentors can offer you far more than any -spo could; they will show you the diversity of the meaning of ‘success’ and that complete ‘perfection’ does not actually exist. Appreciate what you have and do what you can with that. Be kind to yourself; from little things, big things grow. Be your own lifespo.


If any of the issues I’ve discussed in this post concern you, please reach out for support. There are fantastic services available if you are struggling with issues of mental health or body image.

For Australians:

And for South Aussies in particular (because I know you make up the majority of my readership):


When Lauren Met Clare


This post, like many I write, has been a long time coming. Over a year ago I attended an afternoon tea/discussion arvo/performance hosted by the blissful Clare Bowditch and her Big Hearted Business (no really, that’s what it’s called). A big group of ladies and a smattering of gents (that’s the correct collective noun, is it not?) gathered at the Nexus Arts Centre. I had donned my favourite big blue coat, the one that makes me feel the snuggliest and sassiest and snazziest of all the coats. I was feeling the kind of uncomfortable apprehension that usually follows closely behind me when I attend events of an even vaguely networky nature. I had been ‘lost’ for about a year and was only just starting to find my feet. I was frustrated: intellectually, emotionally, creatively, socially. I was expecting a nice afternoon out with the best of all of my friends, my Mother, some pretty songs and a good cuppa. That’s exactly what I got, and then some.

Clare spoke eloquently and dreamily all at once. It was clear she was a woman with a soaring heart and a sharp mind to back it up. As she spoke about the need for creatives to hone their business brain and business folk to think more creatively, I furiously scrawled notes in my crisp new notebook. Some of my notes were quotes from Clare, but most were ideas that sparked off in my own mind from what she said. They weren’t all great ideas – in fact most of them were pretty terrible – but there were more than there had been in over a year and they were flowing freely. The creative floodgates were open; there was no going back.

Towards the end of Clare’s speech, she opened the discussion up to questions from the audience. I had so many, and they were swirling around so quickly that I could barely catch one. But I did, and I raised my hand tentatively. Eventually it was my turn, and I asked Clare the one question that had been underlying so many of my anxieties for so long: “Where do I start?” I’m a very expressive, creative type, but also a thinker. My head and my heart are often at odds and it was holding me back. I wanted to do it all, try it all, but couldn’t pin myself down to starting one particular thing. Clare beamed back at me and laughed a knowing laugh. She told me she could relate, and that she would answer me in song. This is that song.

You want an amazing life
But you can’t decide
You think you have to be fully formed already
Don’t you?
You want an amazing life
But you can’t decide
You do not have to be just one thing
But you have to start with something

I had to start with something. I knew that already, I think, but this was confirmation. This was me seeing through my fog and choosing to start. Rather than waiting for ‘inspiration’, I had to make conscious decisions to make little efforts in one direction. And so I did. I started jotting down phrases in notebooks with no real end goal, purely for the satisfaction of writing – creating something directly from the clash of heart and brain that was already going on. I started writing about my travels, and then when I came home I started this blog. The little words of encouragement from friends and strangers alike spurred me on, and soon I started submitted my writing elsewhere. I’ve had lots of love from the ladies who edited this year’s volume of On Dit in particular. They’ve published everything from an open letter to asylum seekers to cabaret reviews to a celebration of single lady-ness constructed entirely from Beyonce and Destiny’s Child lyrics. Because even as a writer, I know that I don’t have to be just one thing, but I had to start with something. And I started on that blustery winter’s day last year, with tears in the corners of my eyes and Clare’s words echoing in my mind. So really, I have Clare to thank, but also myself. Because those words were already there, they just needed to be spoken (or sung, in this case). I think that’s all we really need sometimes, don’t you?

What I’m Reading: November ’14

It’s been quite a long while since I filled you in on what I was reading, and I’ve churned through quite a few bits and pieces since then. Of course, most of what I’ve read has been for Uni so there have been a lot of plays (The Good Person of Szechuan, Waiting for Godot, A Raisin in the Sun and Who’s Afraid of the Working Class have been my faves), a lot of articles about modern European political history (I’ve become fascinated by the Soviet Union, the GDR and Thatcherism) and my Sociology textbook (Susie Scott’s Making Sense of Everyday Life; I can highly recommend it). I’ve started collecting a stash of books to read over summer too, but perhaps that will constitute a whole separate post..?
Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of the books I’ve recently read in my (very limited) spare time. I won’t give any plot overviews because I figure they’re easy enough to find on the interwebs anyway; I’ll just give you my perspective.

The First Week – Margaret Merilees
the first week
To be honest, it took me a long time to warm to this one. It took me two attempts to get on a roll and even then, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the characters. What kept me reading was the intrigue of what Marian’s son had done and Merilees’s vivid descriptions of the rural Western Australian landscape – particularly because the book was based on some of her own experiences. I think it’s important to support local writers, and Merilees is certainly a very good one. My persistence did ultimately pay off because the story stayed with me for quite a while after I turned the final page, however I wouldn’t recommend this novel to everyone.

N-W – Zadie Smith
This is another one that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with – I know, not off to a great start, am I? I think that most people are either pro-London or pro-New York when it comes to a big city setting, and I’m definitely on London’s side. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been there twice and so some of the places are more familiar to me. Perhaps it’s because I get excited butterflies in my tummy at the thought of going to live in London, but New York seems far bigger and scarier and gives me heart palpitations of the scared variety. In any case, the setting of this novel and Smith’s unique style of writing initially drew me in; I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, I haven’t stayed in that captivated state. My interest has ebbed and flowed and even though I’m almost at the end, I don’t think I’ve really learnt anything. The only revelations I’ve had have been of style rather than content (particularly the numbered, episodic middle section). I haven’t really found myself rooting for any of the characters. I shall persist mostly out of stubbornness rather than interest, and I’m hoping the ending will be more satisfying than the rest has been so far.

Dear Fatty – Dawn French
dear fatty
By golly, French is hilarious! I mean, I already knew that but this autobiography reaffirmed my belief. This is such an enjoyable read; easy to smash out in one burst or dip in and out of, whichever method is more your thang. I could relate to so many of her reflections on the absurdity of acting and drama school; her tales of famous friendships and adventure through London’s comedy scene less so, but they were just as fascinating to me. French tells her story in her typically unapologetic, unabashed, unafraid style, making Dear Fatty a heck of a lot of fun as well as seriously touching.

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham
Not That Kind of Girl
I was actually really impressed with Lena Dunham’s writing style. I love her TV show, Girls, but it can get a bit whiny at times. Despite critics saying the same of Not That Kind of Girl, I actually found it far less grating and far more engaging. It’s the sort of memoir I wish I had had at the age of sixteen or seventeen; it probably would have been far more revelatory and engaging. In saying that, still found the book extremely engaging and I found a lot of reassurance in some of the chapters. Dunham presents her story in a similarly unapologetic way as French, and I think that’s why I ended up enjoying it so much and why I would recommend it to other young women. I think it’s important for everyone to be at peace with their own stories and Not That Kind of Girl has helped me appreciate certain aspects of my own.

Womankind Magazine
Womankind may be on the more expensive end of the mag spectrum, but I reckon it’s worth it as a substitute for your average mainstream lady’s mags. Not only is Womankind without advertisements (YAY!), it features stunning artwork rather than airbrushed stock images of the ‘lady laughs whilst eating salad’, ‘lady laughs in bikini’ and ‘lady looks longingly into the distance at the reminder of how single and alone she is’ varieties. Womankind’s content is smart, well-considered and focused on ‘big ideas’. For example, this month’s Cosmo includes riveting articles like ’17 signs its #forrealsies’, ‘Manthropology: Decode his emojis’ and ‘Hide a big arse pimple’. Whilst they’re all probably questions I’ll ponder from time to time, reading about ‘the packaged self’, conservationist Rachel Carson and the artform of high reading gives me a far greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Most of all, Womankind has taught me that there is always more to learn and more to explore about oneself, those around us, the world. And that’s kinda exciting to me!

Next up on my reading list: Yes Please by Amy Poehler (continuing with the funny lady memoir theme), The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb (I love her a little bit), Backstage Politics by Phillip Adams, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (amongst others).

It’s a good thing I’m in the process of wrapping up my last lot of Uni work for the year, because it looks like I’m going to need a lot more time on my hands to get through all those books! I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, what are you reading at the moment? Do you have any books sidelined ready for summer? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear from you!


Ethel’s back, back again!

Last week I brought you a little intro to one of my fave cafes (and one that I should visit more often), E for Ethel. I interviewed owner-operators Amanda and Dan one afternoon way back in May and we chatted for so long that I decided to split my article about it in two. Now, I’m uber excited to bring you part two!

Pic from E for Ethel's placemaking story - click through to read!

Pic from E for Ethel’s placemaking story – click through to read!

Lauren (me): Have you found the Adelaide business community to be a supportive one? How have you found building partnerships and relationships with other local businesses?
Dan: Yeah, I’d say there’s a lot of businesses out there that are supportive of new businesses. A lot of the newer businesses are really supportive actually, so there’s definitely a community feel. And lots of people were able to share tips and hints and that was good. Knowing there’s support there is nice.
Amanda: And we had all that before we opened as well, you know. We would just go to cafes and do research and hang out and chat to owners and a lot of them are people we work with now in terms of suppliers because they were really open and willing to share and willing to sit down and just chat about stuff. There is definitely an older business mindset that isn’t as supportive to small businesses and businesses like ours – I think they think we’re just crazy hippies or something, but that’s okay. Definitely within our circle, we’re surrounded by businesses that are really supportive.
D: The council has been a great support and their networks have been really supportive, which is good.
A: Yeah, Adelaide City Council have been really good and especially through their Placemaking initiative. Melbourne Street‘s been identified as one of their pilot projects for the Placemaking program, so it means there are a lot of opportunities and there’s a lot of support out there and big conversations happening which is really cool. It just feels like there’s about to be a change down here and it’s a real chance for the community to make it their own and for businesses to start doing new stuff, so it feels good.

L: Great! So what sorts of areas do you see opportunities for growth and new businesses/ventures in Adelaide, or Melbourne Street in itself even?
A: Melbourne Street needs so much more!
D: Yeah, with Melbourne Street we feel like it has a lot of potential but it just needs a few key businesses.
A: It needs a newsagency – the one that was just on the corner out there has been closed for a couple of years now – and it needs a little local continental kinda deli.
D: Maybe a few cool bars.
Amanda: Yeah we’ve got all these big pubs, which have their place and they do their thing but yeah, some little cosy bars would complement them well. Hopefully some of the stuff going on in the CBD will start to branch out and happen up here too.
D: I think part of the Placemaking thing is determining what areas need and working towards that; actively seeking it out rather than just taking what comes.
A: They’re also helping in negotiations with landlords too which I think is really important for small business because quite often you don’t know what you’re signing up for or what you’re stepping into and sometimes that can work really well and sometimes not so much. But the council have been really supportive in that regard which is great.

L: What are some of your favourite local businesses?
D: Well, we love Sarah next door at Clarity massage. She’s become a friend of ours just through everyday interaction and seeing each other around. There’s a lot of people like that actually. Justine who was in here before, she’s from a hairdresser’s just out there.So yeah, it’s just grown from people who come in here and say hello. We like to offer support to those around us. We’ve been quite lucky I think. Most people we’ve worked with have been really supportive and have a more collaborative mindset.

L: What do you think is the importance/role of small business and keeping things local in a society dominated by big business, and a city that’s undergoing so much change in itself?
D: I think we need small business so much; it keeps things personal. I think you need small business to balance out all the big businesses. It’s a bit tricky these days because the big businesses are just getting so big that it’s hard to compete but there are always ways around that. Doing things slightly differently, offering something that people can’t get from bigger companies all helps. People still need connections. It’s nice to go into a place and know that the people are going to be nice and friendly and know who you are. I mean, you can get that in bigger businesses but it’s a lot harder. You’ve got a bit more freedom to move around within small business, to make things your own.

What a quote to finish on – thanks Dan! If you’d like to see E for Ethel‘s placemaking story about Melbourne Street, click here.

I just want to say thanks again to both Dan and Amanda for being so welcoming and open and sharing their story with me. If you know of a local business/person/initiative that you think I should focus an article on, please do leave a comment below and I’ll try to get onto it on the ASAP!

Until next time, lovelies,
L x

E is for..?

Ethel, dahhhhlinks! And who’s behind E for Ethel? Amanda Matulick and Dan Harland, crafty couple, placemakers and small business ninjas. Seriously, they must have some kind of superpowers to get the amount of stuff done that they do. All the way back in May I paid them a visit to try and uncover those superpowers, or at least a few of their secrets about how to build such a well-loved local business. Just a quick heads-up though, we had a looong chat (I couldn’t believe how generous they were with their time!) so this is just part one of my E for Ethel feature… Part one is all about Amanda and Dan themselves, who they are and what makes E for Ethel the special little space that it is. Part two will be all about small business, Radelaide and placemaking!

It was one of the first chilly, drizzle days of May and E for Ethel was (and is) a perfect spot to shelter. I ducked my head inside and snooped around the racks and shelves and various displays of crafty goodness before introducing myself to A & D. Dan whipped me up a delish coffee (they serve them complete with choccie freckle and book quote snippet on the side) and one for himself and we settled in for a chat. First of all, I wanted to know about Amanda and Dan themselves. How did they find themselves running such a lovely nook of sweetness?

Dan: Amanda’s always wanted to have her own space and her background’s in hospitality so it was kinda natural for her. Myself, I was a panel-beater before this and I’d done that for maybe 15 years – straight out of high school – and had never done anything else. Amanda had the idea to open this place about five years ago and we just decided to jump and go with it. I think if you have a big idea like that there’s no point putting it off and then down the track regretting not doing it, or eventually getting around to it but regretting not doing it sooner. I’d always thought about owning my own business but more to do with panel-beating. I’d never really thought of having a retail/hospitality business before because I’d never worked in either of those industries. It was quite daunting actually, and I’m still learning, but that’s the nature of business.

Lauren (me): How do you see E for Ethel as a hub for your community, now and in the future?
Dan: We’ve been chatting about this a lot lately. It’s something we always wanted; back in our business plan we always intended the place to have a community feel to it. It’s something we can’t quite put our finger on exactly how it’s happened, but I guess we just love getting to know anyone who comes in and we want people to feel like they’re at home and the more we try and make people feel comfortable like that, the more it’s going to grow.

At this point, there was a little lull in cafe activity so Amanda was able to pop over and join us.

L: Have you found that community feel has helped you build up a group of regular customers?
Amanda: There’s lots of people that feel so comfortable here and have been coming in for a really long time – or even people that haven’t known us that long but they feel at-home here and that’s really special. When we originally talked about names for the shop, one of the names we liked was ‘The Cosy Cafe’ and that’s kinda what people feel in here, like they’re in their lounge room and they’re really cosy and do things like they bring their dishes back up to us and that’s really cute.
D: Actually, this place was a cafe about 20 years ago called ‘The Cosy Cafe’ or ‘The Cosy Place’ or something.
A: I think it was an Austrian Schnitzel bar or something, so slightly different! It sounds very cute though and people reminisce about it a lot so maybe there’s something in this building that makes it a cosy place to be. This space is somewhere where we can have visits from our friends and family and we have customers who’ve become friends and family and that’s a really beautiful thing.

L: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way, especially for Dan, not coming from a hospitality or retail background?
A: When we’d been in to do set-up and we were packing down for the night and we were opening the next day and we were pulling out of the car park, Dan said to me, “Do you know what my biggest fear is?” and I was like, “Nooo” and he was like, “Serving people” and I was like, “How did we get to this point, after two years of research and all of the fit-out and all of the craziness for you to tell me that right before we open?” and he was like “It’s your thing, I’m not going to spoil your dream just because I’m a little bit scared of people.” So yeah-
D: But yeah, you learn pretty quick!
A: But he’s amazing now.
D: Part of that was just that it was doing things that I’d never done before, like coffee and food and serving and I didn’t even know if I could do it so yeah…
A: You can! Hahaha… But other than that, I guess just what every business faces, you know, having to build a brand, build a name for yourself, having to cover your overheads and all of your expenses and making sure that you’re still enjoying it too. If you didn’t love it, you couldn’t survive in business I don’t think; you have to be passionate. Especially in small business. So I think all of the standard challenges, but we kinda see everything as an opportunity, as cliched as that sounds, we can always flip it and go, “So what does that mean and how can we change that and how can we create something different?” just trying to be clever about things.

L: What do you think makes E for Ethel a unique space? And a unique business?
D: I think just what we offer the customer. I mean, obviously it’s different to a normal retail space. We’re a dual business, with the food and retail space – not every store has that. We originally started as more retail and just did coffee but we’ve sort of grown into the space since then. I guess just that we’re still owner-operated too. We have friends and family who help out but if a customer comes in, we’re always going to be here and I think that offers a unique experience in itself. A lot of people talk about the ‘E for Ethel experience‘ as a thing, which is nice. It’s nice that a lot of our customers have that connection with the place. You can even see how big businesses are trying to move back towards that connection, personalising everything and styling themselves like a small business would, which is interesting. It’s a good thing, they should be doing that.

So there you have it, guys! Part one of two of my chat with Ethel’s own Amanda and Dan. Stay tuned for the next and final installment, and in the meantime why not pop in and say hey to the team? Make the most of that community atmosphere; it’s pretty special!


E for Ethel
Shop 7/116 Melbourne Street,
North Adelaide SA 5006
Phone 08 8367 0312
Instagram @eforethel

Wed to Sat – 9am to 5pm
Sun & Mon – 10am to 4pm
(Tues Closed)

New series – Meet the Local

I put the call out much earlier this year for friends and fam and acquaintances alike to send me suggestions of locals they love, find inspiring or who they know are doing some cool stuff out and about in lil Radelaide. One of the very first, and most enthusiastic, suggestions that came through was from Cat from Wouldn’t it be Loverly. She said that I simply had to speak to Amanda and Dan from E for Ethel, and that I would know why as soon as I popped in for a visit.

So I did, and I did. One far too chilly afternoon in May I popped in to chat to this crafty duo and I was blown away by their warmth, their humour, their delish coffee and most of all their passion for what they do. I recorded our convo for what was to be a new bloggy venture and was giddily excited to get cracking on turning my interview into an article. And then… and then life happened. The way it does, getting in the way of our best intentions. Uni and work ramped up, I took up managing the social media for the SACWA (a gig I love, but that takes up more time than I anticipated; mostly because I love it and so want to devote so much time to it) and I got a gig writing for Hello Sunday Morning (publication imminent!). New blog got pushed to the side again and again and now I’m realistic about saying that it’s probably not going to happen, for now. Instead, I’m going to use the interviews I’ve already done as a new segment on this blog. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring more to you over the coming months, but they won’t have the consistent regularity as I had intended for the stand-alone site.

So folks, stay tuned! I’ll be bringing you my chat with with the uber-charming Amanda and Dan very, very soon. In the meantime, feel free to suggest any local lovelies you love! I’d love to hear about them, and maybe even chat to them myself soon…

Cafe Love: Sublime

Today is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” My heart has been stolen by someone new. Someone who serves a giant wedge of brie as a meal. I mean, I can’t expect you to compete with that! Things are going really well. In fact, they’re sublime (sorry, couldn’t help it). My move eastwards has been for the best, but I promise we’ll stay in touch.

After my first lunchtime visit to Sublime, I went back four times in the next fortnight. I have drunk enough coffees there to be ready for a freebie on my Rewardle card. I’m afraid our love might burn out, but then I remember the baked brie and I know this relationship is one for the ages.

As well as the baked brie, I’ve also sampled the big brekkie, the smashed banana on toast, the chai lattes, the coffee, the lemon slice, the teas, the juices, the burger (that thing could feed a small village), the mushies and fetta on toast and more… I have enjoyed each and every bite on each and every plate. Seriously, not a bad word about any of it. Prices are definitely reasonable (cheap even, for the portion sizes and quality, especially for this part of town) and gluten free-ers are accommodated for easily. The courtyard out the back is ‘jaaahst goooooorgeous, daaaahling’ in the warm sun too, and I hear a liquor license is in the works… Can you say, ‘Sunday sesh?!’

At first I was a bit protective of our relationship and wanted to keep Sublime all to myself, but I know it’s nicer to share, so in the interests of being a good person and all that jazz, I’ve been spreading the word far and wide. Friends have been chuffed with their visits too and I feel so proud every time I hear more good stuff about my new boo. So go, my friends. I give you full permission to take advantage of my new love. Cafe monogamy really ain’t so fun.






Sublime Cafe
55 East Avenue, Clarence Park
Click here for website
Phone (08) 7225 2006