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Working in a gym and I often hear the conversations about shredding, bulking, leaning up and cutting daily. Clients and trainers talk about food, diets, calories, macros, weight and restriction constantly.

Trainers and clients celebrate dramatic weight loss without a question of how or why. High fives are given for double sessions and smash and grab training, reinforcing the idea that clients need to be leaving the gym barely able to walk after the session.

Yet on a weekly basis, I am having conversations in private with clients, trainers, and staff about their screwed up relationship with food, their bodies and themselves. This is not a mere few people struggling, this is more and more people on a weekly basis who are trying to get fit and healthy that have gone too far and is no longer healthy for their bodies or their minds.

Struggles include obsessive exercise, binging, fear of food, carbs and fat, obsessing over the scale or body fat percentage and spending hours comparing themselves to others both on social media and in real life.

These may seem like not such a big deal but these all-consuming thoughts can be absolutely debilitating to someone’s social life, ability to create healthy relationships, mental health and their belief in their own self-worth.

As someone who has been on the other side and worked as an Eating Disorder counsellor, I have spoken to hundreds of people who are struggling with this daily.  These thoughts and feelings do not just go away by themselves, it can take a lifetime to build back a healthy relationship with food exercise and yourself.

 

Why do we as health and fitness professionals need to know about this stuff?

Clients who are struggling with disordered eating are highly likely to be accessing a gym environment. As health fitness professionals we are in a unique position where we are trusted, we are relied upon for advice and we can create a safe place for clients to ask for support.

We are likely to see our clients regularly enough to be able to notice some of these concerning behaviours and to suggest someone gets help.

It’s important for trainers to look out for and recognize the warning signs when people are starting to develop negative thinking patterns around their food and body and know what to do about it.

A reminder that someone struggling with an eating disorder does not have a “look”.  What is important to realize is that someone struggling with their relationship with food or their body does not have to be underweight in fact most individuals are in the normal weight range. A sufferer can be any shape or size, male or female, young or old.

 

Giving nutrition guidance

Trainers without proper nutrition training should not be giving nutrition advice beyond their scope of practice.

The scope of practice does include behavioural based changes, eating more whole foods, 4-5 cups of vegetables, reducing processed and packaged food.

For the majority of our clients following these guidelines is enough to make a physical change.

But our clients want dramatic changes, they want to see abs and they want to see them now. So combined with pressure to “get results”, old fashioned information, trainers feel the pressure to encourage clients into more and more restrictive behaviours.

No one should be recommending extreme low-calorie diets,  cutting whole food groups, or severely restricting without any reason.

Similarly, trainers should not be encouraging clients to do the same diet they have done because it worked for them. Just because you lost 12 kgs on Keto does not mean your clients should be doing the same.

 

Red flags

One or two of these behaviours may not be a concern, but noticing more than three is worth exploring more with your client, or listening in to how they speak about themselves  when you speak with them.

 

Client’s behaviours’ you might notice

Going to the gym every day, sometimes twice per day without rest days.

Pushing through classes despite injury or sickness

Solely focused on an aesthetic goal or weight goal

Reduced socializing, withdrawal and isolation

Weighing themselves daily and the day is dictated by the number on the scale

Avoiding social situations totally due to not being able to eat off the menu

Spending hours weighing food and obsessing over calories or macros

Spending a lot of time in front of the mirror analyzing body fat

A lot of selfies and photos of abs, leanness on their social media stream

Spending a lot of time on social media comparing themselves with others

Compulsive exercising-such as running in 40-degree heat or in rain or storm conditions

Cannot take a rest day even when on holiday, or have a serious life event such a funeral or wedding that they don’t attend

Constantly cutting out food groups and then more cutting and cutting – no flour, no gluten, no sugar

Abusing laxatives or diet pills

Steroid or legal steroid use

Extreme weight fluctuations or rapid loss and regain cycling

 

Conversations or language clients may use

The negative way they speak about themselves, or inability to see efforts as a success

Labelling food as good or bad

Feeling guilty about missing a training session because they didn’t have a chance to burn calories

Constantly talking about how much better other people’s bodies are

Talking about feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment

The subtle signs in the way they talk about themselves as not good enough or useless

When they say consistently they hate their body

Feel that whatever they do it is not good enough

 

What can we do if we are concerned?

Be prepared with how you will open the conversation, don’t judge the behaviours or make comments on weight or appearance. Find a quiet place to talk, the gym floor at peak hour is not ideal. Invite your client to sit down with you after a session or grab a cup of coffee together.

Have some resources and referrals ready, even if the conversation is met with a brickwall you can provide your client with information to get support when they are ready.

 

Three conversation starters

Start by being curious and asking open-ended questions. All it takes is asking questions without judgement and creating a safe place for a response.  Even if you don’t feel you have the skills to start a conversation simply asking, “Is everything ok” and then listening can go a long way.

 

I’m hearing that you spend a lot of time comparing yourself to other people’s bodies, how does that make you feel when you’re spending a lot of time in that headspace?

 

I’m reflecting that it seems like it’s so hard for you to eat differently or eat more is that something that worries you?

 

How do you feel about the new changes you are making to your lifestyle, is this something that feels easy or is it stressful and taking up a lot of brain and thought space?

 

Wait and listen to their response.

These things will affect people differently, and for some, they won’t feel like what you’re noticing has much of an impact. However if your client says its feeling pretty stressful right now use this as an opportunity to suggest something that might feel less stressful using your professional judgement.

For others, it might be that they’re so stuck in it they don’t realize that it affects them negatively and this question gives them space to reflect on if it is a problem for them or not.

These kind of question gives your client an opportunity to reflect on how their actions can impact on their feelings, mood and daily life.  Your client may say I’ve never really thought about it, or they may say it makes me feel really horrible and I hate it.

From here you might be able to provide some resources or encourage them to speak with a counsellor or Eating Disorder support services.

You are not expected to be the counsellor but by knowing what is available you can point them in the right direction to get the support they deserve.

 

Where to refer

Ask them to speak with their GP to link them in with their local psychologist. Ideally, a psychologist who as training in eating disorders or body image concerns.

Ask them to make an appointment with a dietician or nutritionist so that you two can work  together to create a better relationship with food, a non- diet or Eating disorder trained clinician is best.

 

The national Eating disorders service in Australia is:

Butterfly’s National Helpline:

Call 1800 33 4673,  webchat.

Open 8am – midnight AEST, seven days a week.

They can also link you in with a specialized provider in your area.

 

Where to from here

One of the biggest challenges for someone struggling with food or exercise is that it can take time to reach out for help. There’s a lot of fear and shame around these thoughts and behaviours.

Letting go of these behaviours can feel like a loss of control, a step backwards, and a return to what may have been a place where they felt very unhappy. As a trainer we can provide support and encouragement that seeking professional help whilst scary will be worth it in the long run.

If you notice somebody or if the somebody is yourself there is definitely help out there.

Just know that it isn’t always going to feel this way, that change is possible that you can build a healthy happy flexible relationship with food, with your body and yourself and that there is support out there.

 

If you are a Fitpro who wants to know more about helping your clients heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body subscribe to my  Mind Body Peace movement. 

Or join our online FB group


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You might have heard of this thing called orthorexia before, but what is it and why are we worried about it?

Orthorexia about an obsession with eating only healthy and clean foods. Orthorexia is a subsection of an Eating Disorder but it is currently not a diagnosable eating disorder as it is not listed in the DSM 5. However the longer these thoughts and behaviours are around the more likely  it is a diagnosable Eating Disorder will develop.

Orthorexia sits in the middle of the spectrum between healthy regular eating and up the other end an eating disorder, and somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is a whole lot of grey, or what can also be known as Disordered Eating.

 

Signs someone might be struggling

Increasing avoidance of foods because of food allergies, without medical advice

Noticeable increase in consumption of supplements, herbal remedies or probiotics

Drastic reduction in opinions of acceptable food choices, such that the someone may eventually consume fewer than 10 safe foods

Obsessive thoughts about the relationship between food choices and health concerns – digestive problems, low mood, anxiety or allergiesIrrational concern over food preparation techniques, especially washing of food or sterilization of utensils

 

What might lead to somebody having Orthorexia

In my experience as an Eating disorder counsellor Orthorexia most commonly begins with someone wanting to make changes to their diet to lose weight, for health reasons or reasons in line with their beliefs or ideologies eg- cutting out meat to support the environment.

What this triggers is distorted thinking about food leading to more and more food and foods groups being cut from a diet until someone is eating only from a very minimal range of items or foods.

 

My experience with Disordered Eating

I’ve done a couple of those eight-week challenges, bikini body king of things. I always do quite well because I am an A type and recovering perfectionist so I get really obsessed with things like that.

What is often part of those types of challenges is a very restrictive form of eating- cut carbs and eliminate dairy, as well as encouraging black and white thinking. Sugar is evil and only every brown food over white food.

When you spend a lot of time in that kind of environment and mindset these thoughts can become ingrained and part of your beliefs. Additionally, you start to believe that if you can restrict from the bad foods, you must be a good person. And indeed the more you restrict the better you are.

I found that my whole identity and worth was very much wrapped up in what I ate and how I ate. These thoughts are often very interlinked with feelings about our bodies and yourself. By eating the good foods we will remain lean and if we eat the bad foods we will gain body fat which is bad. Staying lean was the end goal no matter the cost.

I felt I was good for avoiding the office cake, and I felt wracked with guilt and shame if I ate some. I avoided social situations if I wasn’t sure there would be food I could eat, and I spent hours of my day thinking about food and what I was going to eat. Read more here.

What fuels these thougths

 

I have seen on Instagram lately influences really pushing #Cleaneating as a lifestyle and receiving likes and validation about their dedication and commitment, as well as comments on their body and leanness. This validation only fuels the cycle so that they feel forced to keep up this restrictive lifestyle and stay a certain body fat % even when their health might be falling apart.  You can read about the story of one vegan influencer who’s hair was falling out and period had stopped before she was able to reach out for help <the blonde vegan>

Thoughts around food and body image come from people’s fear or really kind of deep insecurities about their worth, their body shape or size, or feeling out of control in other areas of their life, which come out as a form of control around food.

 

Why don’t people get help

It’s very scary for someone who is experiencing that because it comes so all-consuming.The thought of trying to change these eating patterns can become very overwhelming and it feels like there is no way out. The fear of what may happen if “non-clean” foods are reintroduced often keep someone stuck in this eating pattern for a very long period of time.

What we know is the longer that they stay in these thought patterns, the longer that the harder these to break them.

To unpack these layers helps us to understand perhaps what we can do to help one another or what we can do if we see signs or symptoms for ourselves as well.

If you are struggling reach out to your GP, local Eating disorder support service or therapist.

If you are a fit-pro looking to learn more join the movement: Subscribe here, or join the MindBodyPeace FB group.


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We are surrounded by images of bodies every day, and we know that these images can impact and distort the feelings we have about our bodies and create feelings of unworthiness and dissatisfaction. But what about the messages we received from the ones closest to use, how do they show up?

On a daily basis, we are seeing up to 600 advertisements a day and 1000’s of images of bodies on social media. This forms in our mind a picture and messages about how we should look, what we should wear and what our bodies should look like.

These images are actually a representation of only 5% of the population with the average woman being a size 14 – 16. They promote feelings of dissatisfaction and unworthiness, mainly so you will go and buy whatever product that is being promoted.

But for some people these images don’t really seem to stick, they float by and slide off like Teflon, and for others, every image of a woman exposed is triggering.

It may have something to do with what they were exposed to as a young child, the messages from family, friends and their world around them.

The messages we receive when we are children are what shape our world view. They help us form part of our identity and our beliefs about the world, ourselves and others. The messages are mostly part of our subconscious thinking and our brain likes to make things easy, so we look for information that supports our world view, rather than challenges it.

This is great because we don’t have to process 1000’s of thoughts every day, however it can create somewhat of a mental filter where we look for information that supports our belief and dismiss information that challenges it. These beliefs are so subliminal it can be hard to unpack out where they are coming from.

Take a moment to stop and reflect what are the messages that we have about our bodies and where have they come from.

 

What is the first memory you can think of that was a message about your masculinity or femininity?

Was it a comment about being a pretty little girl? Or a big and tough boy?

Were you told that is a girl’s toy, or that only boys wear blue?

 

This sort of comment could have come from anyone, a family member, an uncle, grandma, grandpa, parents, sister, and teachers. When we are growing our own identity these role models create a lot of influence in our lives. We take their opinions seriously and take them on as our own.

 

 

What did you hear being spoken about bodies, your own and others?

Did family members shame or judge others fain gaining?

Was weight loss celebrate and commented on?

Were people commented on based on their hair colour, skin colour, height?

Do you remember messages about what a real woman should look like:

Not too big, not too curvy, not too small?

 

And what about comments about real men:

Tall dark and handsome, strong and fit, sporty, not too fat and not too skinny?

When I reflect back to my childhood these are some of the comments, conversations and messages that I can remember. These are some of the messages I remember.

 

It’s ok to be big as long as someone else is bigger than you

Fat people = lazy =lazy = bad

Girls should look after themselves, do their hair and make themselves look nice

Women should keep small, nothing worse than a large angry woman.

Men should be men and do manly things (whatever that means)

 

 

Maybe your mom told you when you’re a kid that you’re “always going to be this short and fat, it’s your genes”

Or your dad told you when you’re a kid that you aren’t going to be popular if you didn’t “grow your hair and wear makeup”

 

And when you received those messages from the ones you care about around you how did you fit in the picture? Did it make you wish you were someone else in a different body? Or did it make you feel tall and proud because you fit just nicely into that ideal?

Now I wonder just how often does this message show up for you in your life now?

 

Is this part of the way you see the world?

 

Is it something that pops up for you now and then, makes you feel shame, hollow inside or not enough. These are the sort of messages that we get told, that we internalize, that live in our unconscious mind.

As adults, we can fall into the old traps of reliving the feelings we felt comfortable in as a child.  Forever dieting and trying to be smaller because we were told women should keep themselves petite to be appealing for the opposite sex.

Feeling guilty when we don’t work out because real men are strong, capable and handy.

These messages are insidious. It is not until you can see them and recognize the impact they have on lives that we can let the possibility for change come in. We can recognize these messages as not necessarily our own, but ones we have inherited. It is then that we allow space for a new view, a new way of thinking,  a new filter to our world view.

 

Ask yourself why these statements could be TRUE rather than finding evidence to dismiss them.

What if you could be irresistible to the opposite sex just as you are?

What if you could be a strong and capable man just as you are?

What if you could be perfectly happy within in yourself, but also capable of change and growth into something more?

Is there a possibility you could see things differently, a possibility for seeing the world in a different light?

 

The first step you can take is just being aware of those messages. The inner dialogue that runs inside your head and makes you feel small or worthless.

Recognize how they are holding you back.

Start being able to challenge these thoughts with your own messages, your own feelings and thoughts about your body, about your self and about others.

Ask yourself what do YOU think, and when YOU answer listen in carefully.


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Learning to move your body in a regular, mindful and enjoyable way is fundamental to our physical and mental health.  Here are my top tips to fall in love with movement again.

 

  • Reset your mindset. We are surrounded by messages that fitness equals abs and it is very easy to start a fitness routine with an aesthetic goal. But exercise gives you many other benefits like reduced stress, reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduced likelihood of injury, increased heart and bone health. If you have only ever thought of exercise as a way to burn the calories or keep yourself, small start on working on shifting those thoughts to include all the health benefits.

 

  • Find a trainer, group or gym that is inclusive and supportive of everyone having access to exercise and health. You may have to look hard but being part of a group who have similar goals, to feel healthy without focusing on diets or restriction will give you the motivation to start and to keep going.

 

  • Learn to love your body for all the awesome things it can do! I highly recommend strength training as a way to see just how strong you can be, to feel empowered and to learn to love everything your body is capable. You may also fall in love with dancing, netball, soccer, running, bushwalking; the options are endless if you start experimenting.

 

  • Don’t do exercise because you feel like you have to. If you’re going for a run because you feel like you have to burn off what you ate you will end up hating exercise and food and the vicious cycle will never end. Instead seek out activities that you do enjoy and do more of them. Remember the things you did as a child that you enjoyed, or think about taking up a new hobby.

 

  • Be kind and compassionate to yourself. If you have had a chequered past with exercise it takes time to heal these wounds. Recognize where some of these thoughts may have come from in the past and notice when and where they come up for you again. Seek professional support or someone you can talk these feelings through with give yourself space for writing and processing. Understand that by letting go of some of these old thoughts you can make space for freedom both in movement and in your mind.

If you want to check out some other body positive personal trainers tips you can read the full article which was shared by Body matters here.

 

If you are searching for a trainer who can support you to love moving your body in a non-judgemental way, get in touch with me now.


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Is this really the best we can do?

This week I have had a number of people speak with me in private about how fitness has completely ruined their relationship with food and their body.

This saddens me, but also makes me very angry.

What makes me more upset is these clients could have been better supported so that the negative thoughts and behaviours that were consuming them were stopped before they got any worse.

What makes me angry is some of these disordered eating behaviours come directly from highly restrictive meal plans, weight-based 8-week challenges and exercise prescribed to “burn calories”

From my work in the field as an eating disorder counsellor, I know that the negative thoughts that can pop up in 8 weeks, can take a LIFE TIME to repair, to bring someone back to a place of neutrality around food and fitness.

If you are noticing any of these behaviours in yourself and recognizing that these behaviours are making you feel unhappy and worthless please re-consider.

Let me tell you if this is you, there is a better way, and you do not need to feel like this every day.

 

Weighing yourself daily and your mood being dictated by the number on the scale

Spending hours obsessing over calories or macros

Feeling guilty or avoiding social situations totally due to your food fears

Spending alot of time in front of the mirror analysing your body and body fat

Feeling guilty about missing a training session since you don’t have a chance to burn calories

Being distracted and not able to sleep because you are so hungry

 

So what can we do? Here are my suggested steps in the right direction.

Training facilities and trainers need to have a though screening and intake process assessing someone’s relationship with food particularly if they are going to be giving any sort of nutrition advice

Trainers need to understand the warning signs when people are starting to develop negative thinking patterns around their food and body. And secondly, they need to be ok to speak with their clients to ask them to take a step back or speak with someone who can help them.

We all need to understand that there is no “look” to someone who is struggling with their relationship with food. You cannot tell how healthy someone is just by looking at someone.

If this post brought up any challenging feelings for you, feel free to reach out to me

If you are a fit-pro who wants to level up your knowledge on building a healthy body image, join the Movement subscribe here or join the MindBodyPeace FB group.


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Integrating exercise or movement back into a routine when you’re recovering from an Eating Disorder can be challenging, here are my top tips to help you get started.

 

1. Start slow, and have a plan and stick to it. Work on integrating one movement session into your normal routine and feeling comfortable with that before building to the next one. Work out the time frame you want to exercise for – 45 mins to 1 hour and plan what you will do during this time.

Don’t start haphazardly as you’re more likely to overdo or under do it. After each session review and reflect on what feelings came up for you? If you have a support team share your feelings with them.

 

2. A lot of people have found Yoga to be very beneficial during Recovery. Yoga can help to quieten the mind whilst also bringing awareness to your body position, muscles and movements. It can be challenging to sit in silence but it gets easier with time and practice. If you can I would recommend adding yoga into your schedule once a week either in a class or there are many classes you can access online.

 

3. Don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing, movement doesn’t have to be in a gym and it doesn’t have to be hot and sweaty. Think about movement as something that brings pleasure and fun and take the focus away from calories burnt.

Some activities that you might like to consider are trying a dance class, hip-hop, salsa, contemporary. If you can try something outdoors bushwalking, kayaking or SUP.

If you like sky high movement Ariel silks, acrobatics and even adult gymnastics are really fun options.

 

4. If you are thinking about going into a gym environment a group class can be a fun environment with music, choreography and a good social environment. They are time capped and classes usually go for 45 minutes or 1 hour.

It is important to be aware of your triggers, avoid classes that focus on calories burnt, heart rate monitors or competing against each other. Also be aware that some instructors will also use food or body shaming as ways to motivate clients, this is not okay, if this occurs I suggest you leave the class.

 

5. For resistance training, I highly recommend getting the support of a trainer who has an understanding of eating disorders. Resistance training is great for strengthening bones, muscles, ligaments and can help to make a mind-muscle connection which creates mindful movement.

Having a structured program can help you to track your progress and also keep you from feeling confused or overwhelmed by all the machines and weights. Growing in strength and feeling what your body can do over how it appears can be a wonderful part of recovery.

 

6. Ditch the fitness trackers and avoid spending too much time in the cardio area, the constant display of calories is not beneficial for anyone. The benefits of taking a walk outside in the fresh air include mental clarity, reduced stress and anxiety and improved focus. Set aside 30 minutes and see if you can focus on the smells, sights and sounds around you. There are also some mindfulness apps that focus on ‘mindful walking’.

For more tips, you can read the full article here

If you are seeking a compassionate and highly knowledgeable personal trainer to support you in your eating disorder recovery please contact me now.


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Are you a high achiever on the brink of collapse?

In my field of work as a counsellor and personal trainer, I am fascinated by high achievers, by A types, the seemingly successful, driven and ambitious men and women. I speak with them on a professional level, I listen to them speak on podcasts and at conferences, I have dated them, and in recent times I can admit becoming one of them.   They exist in many different environments, in fitness, in business, in competition, and politics or even in family life.

 

The one thing I have learnt in many conversations and my own personal relationships and experience’s is that this badge of achieving, which is carried with pride, can also become a troublesome and heavy burden to carry.

 Your identity becomes wrapped in the pursuit of more

I’ve noticed when these behaviours: drive and commitment, the relentless pursuit of gaols, the stop at nothing attitude become part of someone’s identity is when difficulties begin. The identity of being a high achiever, competitor or perhaps being the smartest or most successful becomes all consuming.

 

We know the types, corporate high achievers whose relationships take a back seat and consequently are completely falling apart.  Or the bodybuilders who are addicted to steroids because what they see in the mirror is never good enough.  And finally, the weekend warriors who punish and drive themselves relentlessly through injury and illness who never rest.

 

I can see where they are stuck, completely backed into a corner where they feel they have an image to uphold, that they need to show up with the air of success and having it all together. Slowly but surely this corner becomes one of high stress, high anxiety, and holding it together becomes impossible.

 

No matter how hard they go or how successful they are, it will never be enough.

 

On the outside all looks fine, the mask they show the world is happy and smiling.  Their social media stream looks picture perfect but behind the smile, the feelings of being overwhelmed and shame persist. These striving behaviours have become an identity and creating change feels impossible.

 

A 2-dimensional identity

This complete engross in a 2-dimensional identity of success makes admitting there may be a problem, talking about vulnerability and asking for help incredibly difficult.

Soon embarrassment and shame grow, and along with destructive ways of coping.

 

What if I stopped, what would others think of me?

What if I asked for help, would I be seen as weak?

How can I even begin to show up differently when so many others are relying on me?

 

Slowly but surely standards start to slip because perfect is impossible to maintain. Deep seeded fears bubble up and accumulate.  Overflow starts to happen and slowly but surely the walls begin to tumble and things start to get messy.

To stop listening to that voice that tells you every day you are not enough.  To stop chasing that validation and success that you will never find.

It takes awareness to recognize there is a problem, but courage to take action.

Receiving help

When the dust has settled and it comes time to receive help it can be harder still because the old way of bash, crash, push and grind is no longer working. After all, these methods of operating created this difficulty in the first place.

There is no greater strength than reaching out, than taking that first step, than wanting things to be different and having the courage to act on those thoughts.

Change takes time to readjust, to allow space for a new identity, to allow space for thoughts, feelings and difficult emotions, not just a 6 week turn around, but months or perhaps years.

It takes time for new pieces of the puzzle to be added to the sense of self, to shift the thinking from black and white to shades of grey.

To let go of the old way of functioning and embrace the new.

Learning to stop takes time.

Learning to lean into kindness and compassion for self can be hard. Once you start that journey of unpacking, unpeeling the layers and seeing yourself in different light things will start to shift. Your priorities, your values may change.

You don’t need to wait for the walls to come tumbling down, you can start to make changes now.

If any of the above resonates with you contact me today and learn more about my lifestyle coaching and personal training.


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Do you struggle with your weight, body image and self-esteem?

Are you on a mission to lose that last 5kgs?

Chances are you are one of the many millions in Australia who has a personal trainer helping you on that journey. I am here to ask you to stop for just one second before you spend another cent on Personal training and ask what is it you REALLY need right now.

You might be thinking but isn’t she a personal trainer, is she trying to go out of business? What I want to see is people succeed, to make long-term sustainable changes and to let go of the fears that are holding them back.

So much of what happens when we start to make change is the messages in our head change, the way we speak to ourselves shifts and we start to believe in ourselves and our abilities. Yes, that can certainly happen on the gym floor, but more likely it is happening during the 23 hours outside of the gym.

Want to change your fitness and health from the outside? Go see a personal trainer. Want to make a long-lasting sustainable change from the inside out, book in to see a counsellor.

Change must come from within first

Clients generally seek the services of a personal trainer when they are feeling at their lowest. They seek the guidance of someone they believe can support them to make the change towards feeling better.

Clients come in to begin their fitness journey often in crisis. They may be experiencing anxiety, depression, struggling with addictions, a relationship crisis or have gone through trauma or even grief.

These are some very serious and complex issues not to be taken lightly.
They may have gotten to the point where they can’t look at themselves in the mirror, are filled with guilt, shame, self-loathing and self-hatred.

They may have experienced an accident or injury which has totally changed their world perception where they no longer feel in control of their body.  Or work in a stressful and overwhelming environment where their cortisol levels are so high they are running on fumes.

Experiencing any of the aforementioned events often lead to an unhealthy coping mechanism such as over or undereating, substance abuse, shopping or gambling addictions.

These people are incredibly vulnerable and in need of help and support. So they turn to the most socially acceptable form of “help” available. These are not the people walking through the doors of a rehab facility, these are the people walking into the gym.

Society dictates that seeing a GP is fine if you’re sick, going to the physiotherapist is cool if you have aches or pains, and going to the dentist is important for your oral health, but going to a counsellor if your head is filled with negative thoughts and you’re mentally all over the place?
No. No way. Line drawn. Only crazy people go to see a counsellor.

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The Mind-Body connection

It makes sense if you don’t like your body go see a body change expert, but it seems that society is blind to the connection between mind and body.

Our current society tells them that if they can change externally and what they see in the mirror that this will lead to happiness, satisfaction in life and relationships, leading to long-term success.
Sure you can change your behaviours, change what you see in the mirror but will it change what’s going on in your head?

For some these steps will be just enough to get the ball rolling, to engage someone’s self-determination and self-efficacy. For others, it may lead to a path of yo-yo dieting, disordered eating or over exercise.

Using food and exercise and unhealthy coping mechanisms, plus other distractions keep the real worries pushed down and out of sight.  Society sells this idea that looking like a size 6 will bring happiness, success and help one find the partner of their dreams.

In reality though, one needs only to read about some stories of women who made their ideal weight and felt absolutely miserable like Taryn Brumfitt, Neghar Fonooni, Nia Shanks to name a few.

Happiness can’t be bought and doesn’t come from a number on the scale.

Where fitness lets us down

A colleague commented to me the other day 80% of what we do in this job is counselling. As a career changer coming from a career as a counsellor to now working in fitness I always believed this concept to be true. Now after working in the industry, I have now seen and experienced it firsthand.

The fitness industry is poorly equipped to deal with the deep level of emotions that clients present. It is still 70 – 80 % male, fresh out of school, or career changers who have their own personal journey of physical transformation.

The current certificate 3 and 4 have one module on the psychology of change but doesn’t address what drives people to the gym in the first place. It is unrealistic to expect these new trainers to be able to adequately support clients with complex life problems. It is no wonder the industry is in disrepair and has garnered such a bad name for itself.
Clients go see a personal trainer expecting their weight to change and with that they will instantly become happier more successful and love themselves.

Adding to the problem, trainers graduate expecting to be able to help someone to get fitter and healthier by just directing clients to the exercise program and healthy nutrition and following the simple steps set out for them.

What happens when clients don’t follow the plan, self-sabotage, life gets in the way or completely fall off the wagon in a big way.

Changing your whole lifestyle is actually quite hard, and maintaining it is even harder.

Body Image Coaching

What do you really need right now?

If you are a fitness client and can recognize some of the above scenarios stop and take stock of where you’re at. Take a hard look at your situation, what is it you need right now? Is it emotional support, someone to talk to, to work through these feelings of unworthiness?

Great, don’t fire your P.T, book yourself in for a Mental Health Care plan and get a counsellor alongside for support.
Is losing weight something you are doing to heal old wounds, or because you had a difficult relationship with your body, or with food growing up?

Ok so maybe you need to do some internal work with a therapist before embarking on a weight loss journey. It doesn’t mean stop exercising, just put the focus on movement and other benefits of exercise over any weight loss goals.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations for your trainer, talk to them about what is going on and be open to accepting help from someone else.

If you are a trainer, learn, read and talk with experts in the field. Understand psychology, what makes people do the things they do. Don’t just say “they didn’t do what I told them to”a then fire your client.

Understand why people are not willing to give up their dysfunctional coping mechanism: alcohol, comfort foods, cigarettes, these are their tools to cope and to feel a sense of control. Learn how to help people develop healthier coping strategies and how to support them through change.

Build a network of health professionals you can refer to and know your boundaries and don’t be afraid to say “I think you need more specialised support than I can offer you”.  Don’t try and counsel your clients if you don’t have the skills and experience to deal with it because you will end up burnt out and overwhelmed.

If you want a personal trainer who has helped 100’s of people make change as a counsellor and focuses on health from the inside out,  you can learn more about my personal training and lifestyle coaching here.

 

 


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Clients often come to me and say they have read about this latest study in a fitness magazine, or another trainer has told them that they are not going to get the results they are seeking if they keep training the same way.

The article tells them they are making huge mistakes and they are unlikely to see much progress if they see any progress at all. This creates fear, confusion and anxiety for clients. Worrying that they are doing the wrong thing, that they are wasting their valuable time investing in the wrong training methodology. They get mad at themselves or mad at the trainer for clearly steering them in the wrong direction when there is certainly a better way.

These fitness myths lead to clients programming hopping, quitting something if they don’t see results fast enough and lots of confusion around exercise. This, in turn, makes it feel like exercise is hard work and needs a lot of energy and concentration and they are likely to quit as it feels too hard. As a trainer that is certainly frustrating and saddening to see clients quitting before they are able to start to see the rewards and benefits of exercise.

The gyms want to see you in there, paying money, chasing an elusive feeling of not good enough, working harder and harder until it becomes overwhelming and you quit.

Here are a couple of myths floating around that you may have heard one twice or too many times to count.

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1. That more time in the gym equates better results.

 

I’m sure you have seen the hashtags and messages implying that if you’re not smashing yourself 7 days a week at the gym your efforts are pitiful. People bragging about 3-hour sessions or double sessions on social media. More is certainly not better, double the time does not mean double the results.

There is a sweet spot in your training which is about enough exertion, effort and enough rest. The real magic of your training in the gym happens when you are resting and sleeping, that is the time when your muscles grow and recover stronger for the next day. Additional hours in the gym above that sweet spot are going to have very limited results.

Doing this consistently will lead to injuries, burn out, and completely screw up your relationship with fitness and yourself. Unless you are an athlete we don’t need to be doing 7 days a week, double sessions or 4 hours in the gym. A realistic aim is to work towards 2 -3 sessions of resistance exercise a week and increase activity outside of the gym.

 

2. Your results are solely coming from your workouts

Say you spend 1 hour a day at the gym, 4 days a week that is only 6.7% of the hours in your week. The time you spend in the gym may contribute to your results in the following ways.

  • Increased metabolism after working out
  • Boosted mood and endorphins
  • Muscle repair and recovery requiring more fuel throughout the day
  • Increased focus, motivation and alertness
  • More likely to make healthier food choices later in the day

Time spent in the gym can also have a negative effect if we don’t plan properly or tell ourselves the hard work is all done

  • Increased your appetite  cravings more likely to binge eat after a big cardio workout
  • Move less during the day as they are more tired or sore
  • More likely to overeat if they have told themselves they have done their workout for the day

Most of the physical results come from NEAT and nutrition. NEAT is Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, basically, any effort that comes from outside of the gym, running for the bus, moving boxes at work, or every time you go from sitting to standing. Increasing your daily activity by walking from the train, moving more at the office, investing in a standing desk, spending time outdoors on the weekends are easy ways to increase NEAT and get more movement outside of the gym,  and will have a bigger impact on your health and fitness than the 4 hours in the gym.

 

3. You must be smashed at the end of a workout for it to be beneficial

A workout does not need to leave you sweating, gasping and half dead to be beneficial. Unfortunately with the latest focus on HR monitors and calories burnt a workout is now a competition of who pushed themselves the hardest and with the most intensity. This also creates an intensity mindset which says working out is all or nothing.

Even if you know your body needs to rest and stretch you go to the gym and smash yourself because you don’t “burn or sweat” from a solid stretch session. This kind of thinking also takes the focus away from the numerous other benefits of exercise, including improved mood and reduced stress.(Read more here)

It also leads to more likelihood of injury, overtraining, and an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Anxiety can be created when a workout feels like it wasn’t hard enough and going back for a second session isn’t going to give you the best results, as mentioned above. An ideal training week looks like a mix of intensity’s, some cardio and some resistance training as well as planned rest and recovery session.

 

4. If your sweatier your burning more calories

The more you sweat, the harder you worked, the more calories you burn. You see this with the hot studios now, trying to trick you into thinking you burned a bucket load. It gives you the perception of working harder but has no overall effect on the energy used in your workout.

Instead, sweat is just your body trying to cool your skin and regulate your internal body temperature, and it depends on you, different people will sweat different amounts. So if you are using sweatiness as a guide to how much fat you burned, try to tune in to your internal cues instead.

 

EATING DISORDER COUNSELLOR

 

5. Fasted cardio is the cure for stubborn fat

The idea behind fasted cardio is that by burning energy first thing in the morning you can target specific body fat stores. Research does show this to may be true during your workout, however, it is the overall daily energy intake and usage which makes the most impact.

  • Are you are doing fasted cardio are you then going home and eating everything in the cupboard because you are starving?
  • Are your workouts sluggish and tired because you don’t have the energy?
  • Are you finding a massive afternoon crash when you run out of fuel?
  • And is this going to be something you can commit to long term?

For most of us, it is really going to make so little difference to your overall health that it is not worth worrying about. What is more helpful is to think about moving more in your daily life and focusing on eating nutritious whole foods.

6. You can spot target fat

I feel like this myth has come from the late night infomercials where the product promises to lose centimetres from your waist merely by hooking up some fancy electrodes that guarantee to lose 5cms in 5 mins per day. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

There is no such thing as targeting a certain area to whittle away the fat. If you are losing fat your body will take fat deposits from certain areas based on your genetics. 20 minutes on the elliptical bike will not slim my thighs, neither will a full day of tricep work tone your arms.

Working with resistance exercise may change the shape of your muscle which may, in turn, lead to more shape in your arms or legs.

 

Personal training

 

7. The only way to improve your fitness is to go to the gym

I understand that a lot of people hate and dread exercise, the mention they feel sore the next day, it feels uncomfortable when you first start and its just something they don’t enjoy. This makes it twice as hard to get motivated, to stick with it when life gets tough, and to maintain it as a priority for your own health and wellbeing.

If you hate going to the gym, just go there because you feel you have to, or feel it’s the only way to maintain your weight, you don’t have to. Instead, find something you do enjoy and do as much of it as you can.

Pick up an old hobby you practised as a child

Learn a new skill such as dancing or horse riding

Join a team sport and find a fun community

Spend more time outside and walking before and after work or join a walking group.

Start yoga, all the benefits of flexibility and body awareness plus will help to reduce your cortisol- (stress levels) which have a huge impact on your sleep, digestion and overall health.

Let go of the idea that exercise has to be in the gym and has to be a punish.

 

You may have fallen for one or all of these myths at some time in your fitness journey. Thats ok, me too! If you want to learn to let go of the confusion and overwhelm and just focus on being the best version of yourself, I can help.

I have done all the hard work to sift through the BS and find maintainable and sustainable strategies for your fitness and health. Want to know more join our FB group For the LOVE of Fitness.


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My relationship with fitness and has changed and evolved over time. It has been positive and negative, there have been false starts and restarts. I am not an athlete or a competitor, I am just someone who loves movement, loves the positive and transformative effects exercise can have, and I have now made my love of fitness my career.

Where it all started

Nearly ten years ago fitness to me seemed like something others were doing, it was like some secret club that I would never have a chance to be a part of. I was an outsider looking in. I was never sporty growing up, I participated in trampolining for a number of years and enjoyed that, but I was gangly and uncoordinated and generally hated exercise, especially running. I remember being told a number of times how un-sporty and awful I was at exercise and those comments stuck.

When I first start trying to get healthy and fit I quit and joined the same gym 3 times in a year. At that time I was studying at Uni and worked in bars and nightclubs from late night to 6 am, leaving work as the sun was coming up. My diet was made up of Jagerbombs and cup of soup, I did not drink water, not even a single glass, instead, I drank coffee and coke all day long. I spent most of my weekends asleep or hungover.

Back then my lifestyle was making me miserable, depressed, unmotivated and lonely. I was in an unhealthy relationship, in a dead-end job, and felt isolated and alone and alcohol was no longer enough to push those feelings away. There was no sudden epiphany, I didn’t experience any trauma or loss, I just slowly started realizing that the only person who was responsible for making a change in my life was me.

Instead of blaming everyone around me, I started to shift my mindset to make my health a priority. It became something I valued, rather than something I ignored. I made myself a priority and stopped putting myself last. These shifts took time,  tiny steps day by day and many stumbles along the way.

The first steps

I quit my job and I started a new incredibly stressful job in Child Protection where I was bullied and overworked. Fitness became somewhere I could go to manage my stress, anxiety, and frustration from work, an outlet to clear my head and manage my emotions. I was being made to feel small at work and was still in a crappy relationship. The gym was the only place where I felt no longer small, but powerful.

During this time my relationship with fitness and my body changed, fitness became something that I was getting better at, my body became something which I could see changing and transforming. Seeing progress became addictive and as a beginner, I was seeing massive improvements from each session. I still remember how proud I was when I nailed my first push up and pull up.

Movement was my therapy

Shortly after this, I was involved in a fairly major trauma, which sent me to intensive care for a week and required major surgery. I left hospital completely losing all the muscle and strength I had gained from my hard work in the gym over the last few years. I was a tiny shell of myself both physically and mentally.

During this time fitness became a form of recovery from the trauma. I rehabbed my broken body and found strength in being able to move, being able to lift things, and noticing the function and strength return to my body. Lifting become my therapy. The voice in my head was there every day telling me I am good enough, I am stronger than yesterday and I am unbreakable.

 Somewhere I got lost

Along this journey that voiced changed, it planted seeds of doubt in my mind. The ex-partner who told me I needed to hit the gym because my butt jiggled, the trainer who told me I could get on stage if I was just a little leaner, the male co-workers who made comments about my body and my training. Those voices and these negative feelings and beliefs from my past that were usually only outside of the gym had now started to creep in.

The relationship I had with others and with myself had become unhappy and destructive. That same voice was there telling me I am not lean enough never good enough, never perfect enough. This is where my love of fitness and health had now become obsessive, restrictive and punishing. Where I was always pushing myself, never giving myself enough rest or recovery and struggling with feelings of inadequacy.

On the outside I was fine, I looked great and didn’t even recognize what was going on whilst I was living in that crazy obsessive bubble. The problem was I was surrounded by people who deep down felt exactly the same way, I was taking advice from others who also felt small inside and out of control.

So much of this was me and my own insecurities, however I was also surrounded by the brainwashing that comes from the fitness industry a focus on aesthetics, leanness,  perfection, and pressure to look and behave a certain way.  Food shaming, body shaming, and orthorexia are rife in the fitness industry, punishment and suffering are celebrated.  Only now I can reflect back on it and see just how much it screwed me up mentally.

Slowly things began to change

Things all really changed for me in January 2017. After an epic fail in a new job in my social work career I made an impulsive decision to go to Nepal, with the intention of going trekking. I had done little to no research and figured I would work it out when I get there.

I ended up spending 30 days worth of hiking through mountains at altitude, in the peak of the winter, with barely any other tourists in sight. I went in and around the Himalayan mountains, up to Everest base camp and some even higher and more picturesque spots. My favourite moment was at a peak at Kalar Pattar which is the highest part of the Himalayas that you can climb without special climbing equipment. I scrambled up there nearly whilst everyone else was knackered in the hut and just enjoyed the view, peace and achievement.

It was an amazing experience, and I started to reflect on all my body could do, not what my body looks like. All the hours in the gym were now paying off to let me achieve with ease these impressive and uncomfortably long days of hiking and climbing at altitude.

And slowly and surely that voice that was there many years ago came back,  telling me I am strong, I am powerful, I am unbreakable. I remembered the power and the strength of my mind which created feelings of power and resilience, rather than insecurity and doubt.

Where I am at now

While I was there in the freezing mountains I knew that I was not the only one going through this, but that everyone around me was. I was in the majority, not the minority.  I knew that this is the important stuff we should be talking about, sharing and being open with, not hiding behind and feeling suffocated by these thoughts and feelings.

I can look back now and recognize that there were a lot of things in fitness that I didn’t do very well and a lot of things I did that kind of ruined my body. I recognize there are also a lot of things that probably I pushed on to other people too, I have to own that.

I’m at the point now where the bubble has popped,  and once you see some of the BS that goes around,  you can never unsee it. I am here to point out BS when I see it if it helps someone from stopping going through experiences I did.

I have a very healthy relationship with my body, food, and exercise and the things I love in the gym. Feeling strong and powerful are also the things I now enjoy doing outside of the gym. I love exploring in nature going on adventures in the outdoors and I still push my body and challenge myself to be the best version of myself in a way that is kind and from a place of compassion.

If you can relate to any of these feelings, you are not alone.

I am lucky enough that I get to help others who may be stuck in those feelings of insecurity and never enough. I work with women and men to build a healthy relationship with their body, food and self.