Archives for posts with tag: inspiration

It is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

Summer is here, my holiday is booked and I should feel excited by the prospect of getting away, soaking up some rays and spending quality time with my family, but instead I feel anxious. I have to wear a bikini and I’m not ready yet. Once again, I’ve left it too late to get that perfect, lean beach body; my summer clothes don’t suit me anymore; my bikinis are all old and worn. Oh, and I ate loads of cake last week, which has left me feeling angry and upset.

I take myself off to the shops in the desperate hope of finding clothes that will make me feel good about my body. But the lights in the changing rooms are too bright and the sizings in the shop are all wrong, and as I stand there in the spot lights wearing an ill-fitting bikini, and just centimetres from my own reflection, I want to SCREAM!

Does any of this sound familiar to you? That feeling when you hate what you see in the mirror so much that all you want to do is throw yourself on the floor and have a toddler tantrum, and then curl up in a ball and cry? Even as I write this, it sounds like a pretty extreme reaction, and yet if you are anything like me, you’ve experienced this feeling countless times.

There was a time when I would have given into this inner turmoil: I would have cursed my reflection, told myself how revolting I was, and then I probably would have run off to the nearest café to punish myself with cake. But I have come a long way over the past few years, so instead I look down at my five-year-old daughter, who is beaming up at me from the corner of the dressing room, and I take a deep breath and smile back.

‘I don’t really like the fabric,’ I tell her in an upbeat voice. ‘I’ll find something another time.’

I hope I managed to hide the desperation in my eyes that day, and I hope she believed me when I told her the clothes were the problem and not me; because I don’t want my funny, intelligent, dynamic, beautiful daughter to think it is normal to look at her reflection and hate what she sees. I hope that she and her sister can grow up feeling comfortable and happy in their bodies, and enjoy discovering what their bodies can do for them.

I have spent a lifetime ‘fighting’ my body. It started early for me: I was still in primary school when I began to feel self-conscious about my tummy. I didn’t even know why I felt that way, but I remember going out one day in a tight top and a baggy cardigan, and I was so hot, but I wouldn’t take the cardigan off because I didn’t want anyone to see my tummy. My tummy! I was a tiny, skinny little dancer with no boobs and no tummy and not an ounce of fat on me, but I was embarrassed by my body all the same. I can’t pinpoint where this body shame came from, but I know I am not alone. From a young age, we hear women complain about their bodies, talking about diets, worrying about whether their bum looks big or their tummy looks fat or whether their arms jiggle when they move, and then we grow up and we begin to complain too.

How often do you stand back from the mirror, observe yourself as a whole and think, ‘Yes, I am gorgeous’? I hope you do this often, but I am guessing that like so many of us, you are more likely to stare at the part of your body you hate the most and tell yourself it needs to change.

But it is time we sorted our body image issues out – not just for us, but for those young girls (and boys) who are watching our every move and hanging on our every word. They deserve to grow up knowing it is okay to like themselves and accept themselves for who they are, but they can’t do that if we are setting all the wrong examples.

It was my husband who first pulled me up on this when our first daughter was little. Every time I said I was fat or complained about my body in front of her, he just gave me a look: ‘You can’t talk like that in front of her,’ he told me.

Until then, I hadn’t realised just how often I called myself fat or complained about my body or asked someone else for validation – it was constant. But being aware of it was the first step towards positive change and I am proud to say how far I have come. I still have my bad moments (like the dressing room incident) and I still want to look and feel good in my bikini, but what I have come to realise is that if I only ever focus on my flaws, I will never be happy, no matter what size or shape I am. My self-worth should not be inextricably linked to what size clothes I wear. I no longer workout and diet to ‘get thin’, but I exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet because those things make me feel happy and confident. I like feeling comfortable in my skin and in my clothes. There are still days when I want to be slimmer, and I don’t think these feelings will ever go away completely, but I can change the way I react to them both internally and externally. When I begin to beat myself up about my appearance, I pause, breathe and then rationalise: what does it matter if my shorts are a bit tighter this week? That doesn’t change who I am or what I have achieved; it doesn’t change how much my family love me or how much I love them. I can eat a healthier diet for a week and feel comfortable in my shorts in no time (and I usually do) but I know that will only help me feel better if I do it from a place of self-love rather than self-loathing.

Changing life-long thought patterns is not always easy. Sometimes it is so very tempting to just give in and settle back into the familiar, self-sabotaging habits, but I owe it to my daughters to be present and happy, and to have the head-space to be able to play with them and enjoy them. I hope my efforts will pay off and that they will grow up feeling proud and confident in their own bodies.

It won’t be easy bringing my girls up on this body-shaming culture, so I’m going to ask you for your help. Whether you are male or female, and whether you have your own children or not, I urge you to be aware of the messages you are putting out there. Stop hating yourself and telling yourself you are not good enough. Realise that you are not defined by the shape of your body, and for the sake of the younger generations (as well as for yourself), let’s make body-confidence the norm.

This is still a work in progress for me and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some of the things that work for me:

  1. Whether it is out loud or in your own head, be aware of your negative self-talk and begin to turn it around.
  2. Write a list of things you like about yourself that are not related to your appearance.
  3. Re-write and re-read this list as often as you need to.
  4. Take note of the things you do each day that you are be proud of: this could be something big like getting a new job or passing an exam, or it could be a small achievement like choosing a healthy salad over a chocolate bar for lunch.
  5. Try to look at yourself the way others would look at you – as a whole package rather than as a series of ‘close-up’ flaws.
  6. Think about the things that make you feel happy and good about yourself and work them into your daily routine: singing, dancing, drawing, sewing, reading, running, cooking, eating healthy foods, spending time with your family …
  7. Slow down, look up from your phone or your computer and breathe. Go outside, look at the sky and remember there is more to life than how good or bad you think you look in your bikini.
  8. Meditate. Just taking five minutes a day to sit and tune into yourself really can help you gain some perspective. I am new to this and still learning, but there are apps out there to help, or if you need a little more input, look for a good life-coach or therapist.

Do this for yourself, but do it for our children too. Good luck.

x

Whilst browsing the internet a few weeks ago, I came across the website of a weight loss coach. I am always interested in the work of other health and well-being practitioners so I started to read her introduction, but within a few paragraphs I was angry and upset and felt as though I was being personally attacked for being a personal trainer.

For the record, there was no real reason for me to take this woman’s comments personally; I don’t know her and I very much doubt that she has ever heard of me. She was merely expressing an opinion based on her own experiences and observations, but her words touched a nerve nonetheless.

To paraphrase: this coach stated that most personal trainers want to keep hold of their clients long- term and so they will purposefully confuse and misinform people to ensure they never reach their goals and never gain the confidence to go solo! In comparison, she – the weight loss coach – prefers to work with her clients for just a few weeks and get real results.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had written and I began to question my own practice as a trainer. You see, it is true that as a personal trainer, I prefer to work with clients on a long-term basis. Does that make me a bad person? Am I just in it for the money? Have I been sabotaging my clients all this time? No, of course not! Why would anyone go into this profession thinking, ‘I hope my clients fail’?

But here’s the truth: I really don’t care whether my clients are fat or thin. I want them to keep working with me for as long as possible because I love seeing them grow stronger and fitter, and because I love introducing them to new and different exercises, and because I know there is always something else I can teach them. Some of my clients lose weight when they work with me and some of them don’t, but that doesn’t mean the ones who don’t have failed in any way. We need to dispel this damaging message that the only reason you should take up exercise it to lose weight (or more accurately, lose inches). Exercise is about so much more than what size jeans you wear or whether your arms have definition or whether people are going to compliment you on your six-pack when you slip into a bikini.

My aim as a personal trainer is to instill in others the joy of moving. For me, my greatest success stories are when I see my clients learning to use and trust and enjoy their bodies in a whole new way. If people need or want to lose weight along the way, that’s fine and I help them to do that by encouraging them to address their diet and life-style as a whole, but first and foremost, I want my clients to realise that exercise can be fun and enjoyable and rewarding. I want them to witness first-hand how it can boost their mood and make them feel strong and flexible and alive. I want my clients to learn that if they start enjoying their bodies and tuning into how good it feels to get up and move, they will naturally begin to take care of themselves better in other areas of their life.

Exercising can be inspiring and energising and it can free your mind in ways you never thought possible. So, as a personal trainer, I feel it is my duty to encourage you not to have weight-loss as your main goal in life. Mental and physical health, strength and fitness, and a positive body image are much better life-goals and the likelihood is, when you start enjoying your body and appreciating everything it can do for you, you will begin to see positive physical changes anyway.

So let’s spread the word: love your body, nourish it, treat it well … and above all else, enjoy it!

We’re 10 days into February already. Where has that time gone?

How has your ‘Love Yourself’ month been going so far? For me, last week was all about getting back into my writing. This went brilliantly but I was still struggling with my other goal, which was to get back into my normal healthy eating habits. We’d had a flood at my house and ended up living with my parents-in-law for two weeks. It’s incredible how not having my own space to cook, exercise and relax in can have such a massive impact on my mood and eating habits. I love my parents-in-law and they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, but I’ve never been good in other people’s environments. I’m a home-bird and for some reason, the moment I’m in someone else’s space I start to feel out of control and anxious, which leads to comfort eating. Sigh!

But, good news, we moved back into our house on Friday and I instantly began to feel better. As part of ‘Love Yourself’ February, I’ve decided to promise myself a treat each week. Last week I’d promised I would buy a brand new clean-eating cook book and set aside a couple of hours at the weekend to sit down and read through it. So I did.

I bought the new Deliciously Ella book and made a point of starting right from the beginning and reading through the introduction instead of skipping straight to the recipes. Ella is a beautiful writer and has an inspiring story and the recipes all seem to be very simple and relatively quick to make, which is always a bonus for me. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t have a lot of time in the week so I’m always looking for healthy, but convenient meal ideas. You can find out more about Ella at her website: www.deliciouslyella.com.

I took a few recipes from Ella’s book and also decided on a few of my old favourites that I hadn’t made for a few weeks. Then I got cooking. On Sunday morning, I did the fun baking stuff with my 2-year-old. We made raw chocolate energy balls (known in my household as ‘power balls’) to go in the freezer for when we want something lovely and sweet; we made blueberry muffins from the Deliciously Ella cook book and put those in the freezer too. Then I made a new batch of sweet potato gnocchi. I usually have this in the freezer at all times as a quick meal to give to my daughter. She loves it and once the gnocchi is made it’s even quicker than pasta to cook.

That was a pretty good start, but it got even better. Yesterday morning, I made my favourite homemade baked beans (just chop up and fry onion and garlic, then add tomato puree, passata, a bit of vegetable stock and some beans. I went with cannellini beans and butter beans this time. Yum!). I also made the the quinoa tabbouleh from Deliciously Ella’s cookbook, coconut chicken nuggets from I Quit Sugar and then I made a delicious frittata in the evening. OK, I know that’s a lot of cooking but it only took a couple of hours in the morning and about 30 minutes in the evening and now I have loads of delicious food waiting for me in the fridge. Just knowing I’ve put in all the hard work and have so much good food waiting for me when I need a quick meal makes me feel calmer and more positive about being able to eat healthily throughout the week. It may seem like a chore, but I definitely think it’s worth taking a little time each week to prioritise your health because if you can get that right, then you’ll have so much more energy and motivation in other areas of your life.

x

Ps. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding stories about people who have healed themselves through food intriguing and inspiring. As well as the Deliciouly Ella blog, I have found Against All Grain and I Quit Sugar so helpful and I go back to them time and time again for inspiration. I’d love to get some recommendations from readers if you know of any other good blogs.