Unuka Skincare Range

In 2009, I worked as part of a creative team as the copywriter for Unuka Skincare products. From thoroughly researching each product, to interviewing the creator of the line, copy was written according to specific requirements and creative guidelines. 

What follows is the brochure for the skincare range, featuring product copy and introductory poetry pages. Please click here for more information and further copy examples for this skincare range. 

Enter Basia’s sanctuary,
where the delicate balance of your skin takes precedence.
Free from  harmful substances such as artificial additives and preservatives,
 Unuka and Verdure will
nourish, protect and nurture the skin.
Anti-aging. Regenerating. Youthful.
Working hand-in-hand with Nature,
Basia infuses only the purest plant extracts and essential oils
with Unuka and Verdure,
proven for centuries to assist with the
self-healing capability of your skin.
Unique. True. Beauty.
Unuka, for her.
Verdure, for him.
Created with love by Basia.
 Unuka and Verdure. Nature’s gift to you…

Nature’s essence mysteriously blended in the tranquil peace of the early morning.
The earth’s ultimate gift…Her splendour.  Her truth.
Fresh from her sacred core, the richness and fullness of her garden.
Love and respect for her delicate balance.
Nature’s luminosity harnessed.
Her nourishing kiss, the essence…
Unique. True. Radiance.

Secret blending, mystery, beauty; love infused with refreshing tenderness.
Nature’s fragrant gift of love, drawing you near.
Capturing the earth’s richness and fullness, its rhythms and elements.
Love at the centre of my being…
Unique. True. Balance.

The earth…
I fly to her for balance, revival, regeneration.
Held deep in her heart is the secret to youthfulness.
It’s there I feel the tingle of life. It’s there I take refuge in her leafy arms.
Health is reclaimed and vibrancy restored.
Her beauty enters mine through her gifts.
High vibrational essences made manifest.
Esoteric, enigmatic, living earth…
Unique. True. Healing.
Slip away to a silent, sacred ceremony.
A place to reflect, calm down, be peaceful.
There resides the elusive beloved, her fragrant healing petals quiet and comfort you.
Feel pampered in her sumptuous embrace.
Mystical waves of fragrance transport you far, faraway.
There in the soil, she whispers.
Everyday luxury imbued with the elements of nature…
Unique. True. Experience.

Care for your precious self.
Uplift your spirit into the ether.
Enliven your soul. Close your eyes.
Relax. Rejuvenate. Rebalance.
Here, delight in nature’s healing gifts, picked from the earth’s treasure chest.
Rooted in raw earth, there’s love stored there…
Unique. True. Love.

Copy: Charlene Yared-West, Design: Markus van der Westhuizen, TreeFrog Media, Design & Training

Development Works Newsletters

In 2007, 2008 and 2009, I worked for Development Works as a writer, editor and content manager. I wrote and edited articles for Development e-News, a bi-monthly e-newsletter. I also edited research papers, tender proposals and annual reports for clients of Development Works.

Here are examples of Development e-Newsletters composed in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Click on the edition you would like to view to open a newsletter:

Make Something Out Of Nothing

The joy that comes from creating something from nothing can be deeply fulfilling. Charlene Yared speaks to ordinary South Africans about how they transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Backyard holiday fun
No matter where they are, the Alberts manage to make an exciting adventure for their children, even if it’s just at home. Transforming their backyard into a campsite, the family often haul out their tents, pillows and duvets for a night under the stars.

“It’s much better than being indoors watching television,” says mom of two, Venessa. “When you go out, you have to pay for petrol and accommodation, and being home allows you to save money and be more spontaneous, whilst still getting that holiday feeling.”

Craig, her husband, agrees, recalling a memory, where they held a camping birthday party for their eldest son, Jordan. “We had a treasure hunt, games and roasted marshmallows,” he says. “It’s about taking an ordinary space and transforming it into something fantastical. Apart from it being economical, it’s also a safe environment for the children to play in.”

Venessa says Jordan (9) and Michaela (6) often build their own tent with garden furniture, balanced beneath blankets and pillows from inside the house. “Sometimes they even pretend to be on Survivor,” she laughs. “It’s so good for developing an imagination, growing a love for the outdoors, and is a way for us, as parents, to relax.”

Top tips for holiday enjoyment without leaving your home:

  • Have an intimate family picnic or braai in the backyard, instead of booking lunch at a restaurant.
  • Rent out a day’s worth of National Geographic DVDs and spend the day marvelling at nature’s beauty from the comfort of your favourite sofa.
  • Have a cook-up evening, where friends each bring along an interesting dish.
  • Tell some friends to bring over their choice of board game and set it up in the garden, where a round of each game can be played in succession.
  • Choose a hot day and make your own backyard water park with an ordinary water sprinkler. Add to the fun by tying an old tyre to a tall tree and create a swing for the kids to enjoy.

Changing lives from one seed

In 1999, Sizathu Thango realised in desperation that her family was starving. “I cried everyday worrying about how I could put food on the table,” she says. It was when she was sitting in a taxi one day when she listened to a radio programme about food security gardens. Deciding to use the monthly child-support grant she received of R60.00, Sizatho bought packets of vegetable seeds – an act that would not only change her life, but the lives of people in her community.

Seeing the improvement at home as a result of the food garden, Sizathu shared what she had learnt with other women in the area, encouraging them to plant food in their backyards. “The Ilanga Women’s Organisation Permaculture project started from just one small seed. We are now 38 women and altogether we feed over 700 people from our community garden,” she says.

Food & Trees for Africa intervened and managed to secure funding for the project from Anglo American, South African Breweries and the Urban Greening Fund. The women now also run a sewing group, an early-learning child development facility, and a ‘drop-in’ centre, where 361 orphans and other vulnerable children can eat two nutritious meals per day.

“We had nothing when the project started in 2001, but now we are fully-funded and are able to feed, as well as teach people about how to make a food garden in their own backyards,” says Sizathu. “Sometimes I don’t believe that this has all happened – but then I look around and see all the healthy faces and I realise just how much it’s changed our lives. We are also doing our bit to green the environment.”

Her message to South Africans, she says, is Vukuzenzele! [Rise up and do something good for others.]

Top tips for helping big with very little:

  • Offer to take an elderly person shopping for groceries as they often find it difficult to get around.
  • Find out about a charity in your area and invest as little as R20 in baking ingredients and make something delicious for those less fortunate.
  • Make a concentrated soup filled with nutritious vegetables and donate this to your local soup kitchen, where it can be further diluted to feed the homeless.
  • Clean out the clutter in your home and donate old or unused household items to someone in need.
  • Help address the national crisis of blood shortage in the country and donate blood to make a difference.

Bread tags for wheelchairs

With the surname of Honeybun, 75-year old Mary lives wholeheartedly up to her name. When she isn’t helping her 10-year old grandson do his homework, or knitting jumpers for the women at the local maternity unit, Mary collects bread tags for wheelchairs.

“I am always looking around for things to do to help those in need and this just seemed like such a good idea,” she says. “This is not just about getting wheelchairs for people, it is also about helping the environment by saving space in the landfills with the plastic that is collected and then recycled.”

For one chair to be secured, 50 kilograms or 141,400 bread tags need to be collected, which pays for a R1550 wheelchair. Mary distributes boxes for collecting bread tags to restaurants and shops in her area, creating awareness around the value of the plastic material. Since starting in 2006, Mary has managed to distribute 17 wheelchairs, four of which were donated as second-hand chairs.

“People need to be aware that what’s considered rubbish can be utilised for another function – and bread tags give so much to people living with disabilities,” she says. “Service to other people is the rent we pay for our room on earth and this is what makes living worthwhile.”

Contact Mary Honeybun on 021-789-1831 for more information.

Top tips for turning something old into something new:

  • Save old scraps of material and sew it all together to make a colourful quilt.
  • Collect empty toilet rolls, wrapping paper and sweets and create funky Christmas crackers for the festive season.
  • Cut off the top half of a 2L plastic bottle and use the bottom section as a pot for growing seedlings. Decorate with paint and ribbon. 
  • When your washing machine gives in, rescue the inside drum and transform it into an attractive chair by topping it with a round cushion. 
  • Bake old wax crayons into a muffin tin allowing them to melt down to create fun new crayon shapes for the kids to use.

From junk to paycheque
After seven years of interior design and working with fabric and furniture, Katie Thompson found an old broken chair buried in her back garden, which she decided to transform with pieces of perspex. “I took it home to my parents and told them I wanted to start a business fixing old junk that I could find, with odds and ends,” she says. “My father told me to take a hike and come back with a real business plan – and not an old broken chair.”

Surprising herself, her idea skyrocketed into a successful venture called Recreate, which was launched at the 2009 Decorex Cape Town at the Cape Town Convention Centre.

From old suitcases that have been transformed into chairs, to an old Hoover, recreated into a lamp, her unique pieces are not merely revamped furniture, but are objects that have been given a new function.

“The products relate to everyone, from a nostalgic 80-year old who recognises objects from her past, to a trendy 20-something guy, looking for retro objects,” she says. “I am a hoarder at heart and have a passion for junk. I love wiggling my way to the back of furniture storerooms, finding objects that have expired and recreating something new and beautiful with them.”

Contact Katie Thompson on 079-989-0871 or katie@recreate.za.net or visit http://www.recreate.za.net for more information.

Top tips to turn your passion into your paycheque:

  • Be brave, take the plunge and break down the dream you have into manageable goals, setting each step against realistic timelines.
  • Know your niche and increase the confidence in your ambition, by taking on extra classes to learn new tricks of the trade. 
  • Take a course in marketing yourself and learn about the different platforms to increase the awareness of your offering.
  • Find a mentor who has done something similar to you and get advice on business and finance if you are not so inclined, to ensure future success. 
  • Avoid the inevitable naysayers and stay positive about changing your idea into your monthly salary.

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in The Oprah Magazine, December 2009, Vol. 8, No. 12, p. 119.(Please note that the copy posted above is the unedited version of what was published in the magazine and will differ slightly. To read the edited version of the article, please click on the images for an expanded view.)

The Proud Survivors

Charlene Yared talks to three strong women who share what they did to overcome breast cancer and how it changed the way they lived their lives, forever.

BATTLING IGNORANCE: Mandithiza Pikoli (29), diagnosed at 26
“I thought I knew who I was before cancer, but in truth, I had no idea. I didn’t realise how much inner strength I had and what I could truly accomplish.”

It was like any other Thursday. Mandithiza Pikoli was watching television at home in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth when a programme about breast cancer and self-examination began. Curious, she went to her room and immediately started inspecting her own breasts. Finding an unusual lump in her left breast, she decided to go to the clinic on the following Monday for a check-up. “I was simply curious, not frightened, to find out what the lump might be, because I thought I was too young to have anything as serious as cancer,” she says.

The hospital biopsy confirmed it: she had breast cancer. Upon removing the cancerous lump, it was discovered that it had spread and a mastectomy was scheduled.

As a young single mother of Iviwe, her three-year old son, Mandithiza had just finished an internship for an automobile company, where she had recently taken up a permanent position. Six days after her first day at work, she was diagnosed with cancer.

Seeking support
“I was completely shocked, because I was too young for cancer and there was no family history of the disease, as far as I knew,” she says. “I knew very little about what it meant to have cancer, because no one in my community had ever mentioned it. As far as I knew, this sort of thing never happened to black people.” Breaking the news to her highly traditional family wasn’t easy. “They didn’t take it very well at all. Since I had just started working permanently and was the only one earning an income for the family, they said that my good fortune had caused some people in the community a great deal of jealousy, which caused the curse of my cancer. They said that therefore I had brought this sickness upon myself.”

Totally against any form of medical treatment, they immediately made plans to take me to a traditional healer for a cure,” she says.

Although, Mandithiza continued paying visits to the hospital, her family persisted and set up an appointment with a healer against her wishes. “I had seen the results of someone who had only gone to the traditional healer for treatment and the doctors confirmed that there was nothing they could do for her. I didn’t want to be like her,” says Mandithiza. “I realised that I needed to live not just for myself, but for my son – and I trusted the medical doctors to help me.” So, a week before her appointment with the traditional healer she took herself to the hospital for the scheduled mastectomy. The mastectomy confirmed that seven of the fourteen lymph nodes under her armpit were malignant. She had tried to avoid the radical operation by asking the doctors to remove more of the lump, but they advised her otherwise, explaining that a mastectomy was the safest way to prevent further spreading. “I called my family just before I went in for the operation and they were furious with me,” she says. “It was difficult to go through everything alone, but I was left with little choice and had to find the strength within me to survive it.”

Armed with the support of her faith, her younger sister Lhose (21 at the time) and a few friends, Mandithiza started her chemotherapy treatments against the wishes of her family. Says Mandithiza, “I needed them to be at my side through the journey I was about to take, but they just weren’t there for me.” Unable to reconcile their traditional beliefs with contemporary medicine, her family brought her elixirs made by the healer after the operation. Swallowing hard, Mandithiza drank the mixture to keep the peace. “It was awful – and combined with the chemotherapy made me feel so sick,” she says.

Higher Education
Limited cancer awareness in her community meant people assumed she was suffering from HIV/AIDS. “I had a lot of people looking at me strangely, thinking I was HIV positive. When I told them I had cancer they would act surprised and some would say that I was going to die, comparing my illness to AIDS. They saw it as a death sentence,” she says.

But Mandithiza found the strength to rise above the narrowmindedness of her community. She believes now that breast cancer gave her a gift that nothing else could. “I thought I knew who I was before cancer, but in truth, I had no idea. I didn’t realise how much inner strength I had and what I could truly accomplish. I was also able to tell my story in the DVD launched by GVI Oncology in August, called Survivor Stories. This documentary will be used to empower others with information about cancer,” she says. “As human beings we realise our greatness only when we are faced with our mortality.”

She and her son are still living at home with her mother and sister. Mandithiza is living a healthy lifestyle, eating wisely, going to the gym often and regularly gives herself breast self-examinations. “I am looking after myself far better than I ever have. I have a positive attitude and dreams for the future, which gives me the strength to wake up and face everyday with gratitude. I beat cancer because I wanted to see myself in ten years time,” she says.

“My family has finally come to terms with my operation and I know that on some level they admire the courage I had, to go ahead with my gut instinct. I helped empower and educate them about cancer, sharing what I learnt with them, so that they also understood. I am now well-equipped for anything that comes my way,” she says. “I will never regret the decision I made – even if I had to do it all over again. If I let anyone else decide what was best for me, I would not be here today.”

What you need to know in your 20s:

  • Family history plays a role. “If there is no family history of breast cancer in your family, the risk of getting breast cancer in your 20’s is 0.6%,” says breast physician, Dr Anne Gudgeon “The impact of the diagnosis is the fear of rejection by partners and infertility after treatment.”
  • Check yourself regularly. “In your 20s, conduct monthly self-examinations in the week after your menstruation and begin going for annual gynaecological and breast examinations for early cancer detection,” says Dr Gudgeon.
  • Look for signs. According to Professor Apffelstaedt, Associate Professor of the University of Stellenbosch and head of the Breast Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital, “Watch out for a painless lump, contour changes, changes in the size of the breast, skin changes such as areas of redness that persist for more than five days, changes of the nipple, nipple discharge, skin dimpling, retraction of the nipple and/or skin and lastly, lumps in the armpits,” he says.
  • Mammograms are not recommended. “Mammograms are not recommended in the 20’s as the breast tissue is too dense,” says Dr Hugo Allison, a surgeon for Vincent Pallotti and a senior specialist for Groote Schuur Hospital.

TAKING RESPONSIBILTY: Sue Maude (39), diagnosed at 36
“As the radiation burnt away any stray cells of cancer that remained, I visualised it also burning away the old me to make way for the new.”

Lying on her stomach in bed one morning, Sue Maude noticed a pain in her left breast. When she touched the breast to investigate, she felt a lump. Cancer was the last thing she had anticipated having to face in her thirties and the thought of it left her cold. She put it out of her mind and continued daily life running her freelance business. However, the breast remained uncomfortable and after two months, she realised that she could not avoid it any longer – she made an appointment at the clinic.

A mammogram and biopsy confirmed the existence of a lump 2 centimetres in diameter that contained oestrogen receptive cancer cells.

Getting Real
“I think I was in denial about the state of my health. It took me so long to go to the clinic. Cancer was such a distant thing, especially at my age, I never considered it happening to me. I convinced myself that the lump I found would be benign,” says Sue. After the biopsy, she was given the choice between having a lumpectomy with intensive radiation therapy, or a mastectomy. After reading and researching every avenue, she decided to have the lump removed. “The thought of having a mastectomy was just too drastic. I could not consider losing an entire breast, a source of my womanhood, for a small lump of just 2 centimetres. Luckily my risk factors were relatively low, so I felt comfortable with my decision to save the breast,” she says.

Healing Herself
After reading books by authors Brandon Bays (The Journey) and Louise Hay (You Can Heal Your Life), Sue realised she needed to take responsibility for her health, as a personal goal.

“Louise Hay and Brandon Bays are both living examples of how one can overcome cancer by dealing with your psychological issues,” says Sue. “I believe in the mind/body link and know that my cancer was partly caused by my low self-esteem and because of my tendency to bottle up my feelings. You need to face up to this kind of baggage, because it tends to manifest itself physically.”

After the lump was removed, Sue returned to hospital to have more of her breast removed. “I then had to go for radiation treatment once a week for six months. As the radiation burnt away any stray cells of cancer that remained, I visualised it also burning away the old me to make way for the new. It helped me grow on so many levels.”

Sue says her lifestyle took a 360 degree turnaround. Now she was focused on improving her health by eating correctly, getting more exercise and making informed decisions about her treatment. Today she only buys organic fruit and vegetables, never fries her food, because heated oil is carcinogenic, and always drinks filtered water. She also notes how she let go of “immature pleasures” such as excessive drinking of alcohol. “All these things I had to start taking into consideration, because my life depended on it,” she says. “Your natural instinct is to put your health and well-being in the hands of doctors around you, when you really should be taking on the responsibility of your own wellness by educating yourself.”

After her treatment was concluded, she focused her energy on building a nest. For years she had felt the need for security and to settle down in one place. Says Sue, “Cancer made me focus on what was important to me – I got my dream house six months later.”

She regularly goes for check-ups and breast examinations and has remained in the clear since 2007. “An ideal life is not one without adversity, because then you learn nothing. You have to know the bitter to know the sweet in life and cancer came along to teach me to value myself,” she says. “I don’t label myself as a breast cancer survivor, because I have moved beyond that point.”

What you need to know in your 30s:

  • Family history plays a role. “If there is no history of breast cancer in your family, the risk of getting breast cancer in your 30s is 4.8%,” says breast physician, Dr Anne Gudgeon. “In your 30s, the main concern women have is dying and leaving their children without a mother and worrying how they will react to your change in appearance.” According to Professor Apffelstaedt, statistics from Western Countries show that 6% of all breast cancer occurs in women under 40 years of age. “This may be quite different in our country with a young population structure and the well documented earlier onset of breast cancer in non-white populations. In our practice about 15% of patients are diagnosed below age 40.”
  • Exercise more regularly. “Some studies suggest that exercise reduces the risk for breast cancer mortality by 40% to 55%, which is as much as standard treatments. These studies vary in their recommendations for exercise — some aimed for 90 minutes a week, others for two to three hours a week, but the Health, Eating, Activity and Lifestyle (HEAL) Study conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2008, showed a benefit from any amount of exercise,” says Dr Rika Pienaar, Clinical oncologist of GVI oncology for the Panorama Medi-clinic.
  • Alcohol increases your risk. According to Dr Pienaar, there have been dozens of studies done showing the increase in the risk for breast cancer, even with very low levels of consumption, which indicate an established relationship. “There is strong evidence that even one glass a day can cause a small, but significant increase in the risk of breast cancer,” she says.
  • Have a clinical breast exam every year. “Apart from conducting breast self-examinations, make sure that you go for an annual clinical breast exam,” says Professor Apffelstaedt.
  • Avoid prolonged use of oral contraceptive. “This is especially true into your 30s and early 40s, where alternative measures are available,” says Dr Allison.

CHAMPIONING THE CAUSE: Madhuri Chavda (48), diagnosed at 45
The day the twin towers came crashing down, Madhuri Chavda was flying to America to visit her cousin, Rajee, who was in the final stages of recurring breast cancer. Madhuri didn’t know it then, but the day that changed the world was to be the start of another more personal transformation in her own life. Six months after she left America, her cousin passed away, then four years later, Madhuri started her own battle with cancer. But remembering how much her cousin had suffered, she took drastic steps to make sure it wouldn’t return.

Listening to Her Gut
“If I hadn’t seen the torment Rajee went through, I believe I would not be here today. It’s really a miracle that I went to see her,” says Madhuri.

In April 2005, Madhuri sensed something was wrong. She felt constantly tired and noticed that her one left breast had become considerably larger than the other. Immediately, she went for a mammogram and biopsy, and her worst fears were confirmed. Says Madhuri, “The moment my oncologist put the box of tissues in front of me, I knew it would be bad news. Thank God the cancer was still in its early stages of development.”

After being diagnosed, Madhuri was faced with a range of options which included having a lumpectomy with radiation treatment for each breast and then monitoring the progress closely, but was told that this route would not guarantee that the cancer wouldn’t return. Remembering her cousin, Madhuri opted for the last option; a bilateral mastectomy, which would remove both breasts entirely. “I couldn’t go through what my cousin had experienced,” she says. “It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.”

Deciding not to tell her then 18 and 15-year old daughters until a week before the operation, Madhuri continued with daily life. “My girls Priya and Sandhya were both preparing for their June exams and the eldest, Priya, for her matric dance. I just couldn’t put this on them,” she says. Taking them for coffee with her husband, Dinesh, the following week, Madhuri broke the news to them. “They were so concerned, but I explained to them how important it was for me to see them grow up and enjoy their lives, into my old age.”

Speaking out
After spending some time at home with the loving support from her family and friends, she started on her journey to recovery. “Everything unimportant and petty goes out the window – and this includes vanity. Now I am stronger, more confident and I live life to the fullest,” she says.

Striving to overcome the taboo in her community surrounding breast cancer, Madhuri got involved in fundraising for the CANSA Association. In 2006, she raised R15,000 for the annual event Cuppa-for-Cancer and later in 2007, raised R35,000 for refurbishing the Eikehof Interim Home, situated in Athlone. “It is my way of giving back to the community and for thanking God for my life,” she says. “It is also so important to raise awareness around cancer, especially in communities where nobody wants to even mention the word. It shouldn’t be something that is whispered. It’s time for strong women to speak out loud about cancer!”

Every year, Madhuri arranges an awareness talk in her community on the different forms of cancer. All women attending the talk are given free pap smears and breast examinations, and men are given free prostate screening tests. “You never know what will happen tomorrow, so I use today to its fullest capacity. I know my purpose now is to help people become aware of cancer and to know that it’s not a death sentence – it can be cured.”

The next Cancer Awareness Talk organised by Madhuri to be held in Cape Town this month is on the 31st of October. For more information, email her at madhurichavda@gmail.com or call her on 082-777-1311.

What you need to know in your 40s:

  • Family history plays a role. “If there is no family history of breast cancer in your family, the risk of getting breast cancer in your 40’s is 18.1%,” says Dr Gudgeon. “In your 40s, worries and concerns centre on the early onset of menopause and reduced sexuality, relationship issues and work-related discrimination.”
  • Get physical to stay healthy. Exercise, says Dr Gudgeon can decrease the risk of developing breast cancer by 37% if started before the age of 45 years and continued regularly for at least five years.
  • Have baseline mammograms every two years. According to Professor Apffelstaedt, baseline mammograms should be accompanied by a physical examination and repeated every one or two years in your 40s.
  • Be cautious about using HRTs. “With genetic testing, we can identify an abnormality in genes that govern the estrogen metabolism and expose the body to heightened estrogen levels that are known to significantly increase breast cancer risk, especially in overweight women,” says Professor Apffelstaedt. “Women with this particular gene variation are advised to be cautious about hormonal replacement therapy.”

What – and What Not – to Say:
Remember the old adage, think before you speak? It’s especially important when trying to make a friend with cancer feel better. What you say can really make a difference. Charlene Yared asked some famous survivors of cancer what they heard that was most helpful.

“One of the most practical things said to me about looking beyond illness and treatment was you don’t go back to normal; rather, you move on to a ‘new normal.’ I thought this was a great way of acknowledging what a tremendous ordeal you are going through, that life will never be the same again, and yet, life will go on.” -Kylie Minogue, singer

When you are ill, many people feel that they identify with you and then they make the big mistake to share all their illnesses and suffering with you. I cannot bear listening to people who wallow in their misery. I feel that it is unhealthy. Some words that really pulled me through my ordeal came from my ex-husband who said ‘in a time of crisis, you need to be practical and not emotional.’ Cancer has given me more life than health. I have discovered more joy and more love through it. -Janie du Plessis, SA television presenter

“I had a huge aversion to anyone who whispered the dreaded ‘Are you all right?’ in that tone of voice that says you must be going to die. Or people who said I would never be able to work during treatment. In fact, I kept performing in a show my entire six months of chemo and radiation.” -Lynn Redgrave, actress

“I found that fellow survivors always knew what to say – and sometimes had good advice. However, I found many people to be unsympathetic, because they couldn’t see any physical scarring, especially when I was going for chemotherapy. They would say – ‘you look fine, you’ll be ok.’ If only they knew how I really felt, or what I was going through at the time, but I always stayed positive, regardless.” -Lillian Dube, actress

“I loved how my friends supported me. Sometimes one would just pop in to ask if she could pick the kids up from school or have a cup of tea. Just being there during the ordeal is enough and is more valuable than giving advice on how to cope. Sometimes you just don’t feel like talking about your cancer – all you want is happy company and a good chat.” -Wilma van der Bijl, ex-Miss SA 1987

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in The Oprah Magazine, October 2009, Vol. 8, No. 10, p. 70.(Please note that the copy posted above is the unedited version of what was published in the magazine and will differ slightly. To read the edited version of the article, please click on the images for an expanded view.)

Seven Diet Dialogues Decoded

We’ve all been there when a friend bellows; “I’m so fat!” Or, “OMG, I’m such a pig, I can’t believe I ate all the chocolate pralines!” We often fall into the trap of badmouthing our bodies and eating habits when in the company of other women. It’s easy for us to get swept up in this self-loathing and fuel it by our response. Charlene Yared explores easy ways to diffuse the situation instead, and explains why reacting this way benefits you both.

“Negative self-talk may be a ploy to elicit encouragement from others, while it could also be a sign of low self-esteem, which may be related to weight and size issues,” says clinical psychologist, Gerard Erasmus. Women measure how they should look according to what they think others expect, and so feel like a failure when they cannot reach that level of perceived perfection. These feelings are often manifested in conversations about food and weight issues.

According to Dr. Pieter Ackermann, co-author of Fat Loss For Life, support from family and friends is paramount to success. “Constant, subtle and loving advice can motivate your friend to reach her goals and help her towards a change in lifestyle.”

So, when your girlfriend starts beating herself up, here are some clever ways to keep the tête-à-tête positive and help your friendship thrive.

Seven Diet Dialogues Decoded

1. She says: I must be thin by Valentine’s Day or else…

You say: Else what? You’ll still be your gorgeous self. Try relaxing a little!

Even though it’s good to set time goals, it puts too much pressure on you to succeed. Any special occasion is just one day en route to your ultimate goal, so don’t be intimidated by days of the calendar, says Dr. Ackermann.

2. She says: It is impossible to diet!
You say: Take one day at time with the goal of being healthy. You’re not helpless!

Thinking you’re doomed to failure takes away your power. Remind your friend that losing weight doesn’t happen overnight and that being healthy is a lifelong aim that can be broken down into smaller steps.

3. She says: I can’t believe I ate that entire tub of ice-cream! I feel disgusting.
You say: I’m sure it was delicious! Everyone needs to indulge sometimes.

Being on a diet does not mean that you need to be compulsive or rigid about losing weight, and starving yourself from the pleasures of eating, or imposing a concentration camp mentality on yourself will only make you binge on unhealthy things later, says Erasmus. Tell your friend that there’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then – everything in moderation.

4. She says: I am so fat and hate how huge I look. I feel so ugly.
You say: Your worth is not dependent on your looks! How’s the volunteer work going?

When she starts bashing herself, emphasise some of her positive attributes that have nothing to do with her body, says Dr. Ackermann. Remind her that size is not the only thing that counts and that she has other qualities as a person that mean much more.

5. She says: Why are you always such a health-nut? One pizza slice won’t kill you.
You say: I am sure it won’t, but I feel like having a salad.

Creating a healthy lifestyle and losing weight is your own responsibility and does not happen without effort, Erasmus says. Don’t let your friend make decisions about what you eat, just so that she feels less guilty about chomping on pizza. Peer pressure is for children!

6. She says: Life’s so unfair, you have a perfect body.
You say: Thanks! But nobody’s perfect – me included!

Don’t fob off a compliment by giving into negative self-talk about some other part of your body, instead, politely accept it and then chat about something else. Doing this shows her that there is more to life than having a size 6 figure.

7. She says: Please, don’t let me order the nachos with extra guacamole!
You say: Sorry, I’m only your friend, not the snack police.

Avoid becoming your friend’s personal diet moderator. You are not responsible for what she eats; only she can make that choice. Support each other by hanging out in healthy food eateries, instead of fast-food restaurants, to help with making good food choices.

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in The Oprah Magazine, April 2009, Vol. 8, No. 4, p106.(Please note that the copy posted above is the unedited version of what was published in the magazine and will differ slightly. To read the edited version of the article, please click on the images for an expanded view.)