Skip to main content

No place for shame in self-improvement

When I began this blog I wrote a post that outlines my ethos in health and fitness. I want to take those ideas and expand upon them.

Today I want to look at this bit

"Positive results are achieved through positive means."

And more specifically I want to take a quick look at the culture of shame and guilt that sometimes creeps into fitness, and why I believe it is detrimental, to individuals and "Fitness" as a concept, and an industry.

There's a theory that says that we have to hit rock bottom (or some variant therof) before we can truly commit to a major lifestyle change. That people need to feel dreadful about their current situation before they can properly invest in the change. I'm not sure whether I buy into that or not. I think that it is definitely possible to make small, manageable changes to our lifestyle, by choice, from a positive place. A complete change in lifestyle does take a serious trigger - but I would question whether, as a personal trainer, I should be encouraging people to make difficult, major changes that they are unlikely to sustain. Surely it's all about gradual, achievable steps. Baby steps forward, not a giant leap followed by the inevitable slide backwards.

Even if we assume that the rock bottom theory is true, is it ethical, or even helpful, to "encourage" the process by adding to the negativity? In my mind, that's just bullying, and certainly not behaviour becoming of anyone who states an aim to help an individual improve their circumstances.

When I decided to expand my work from dance/yoga instruction into Personal Training, I really wanted to work with people who didn't consider themselves to be "gym people", and that made me think hard about what it was about gym culture (real or perceived) that was putting people off exercise.



Coming out of the bellydance community, I am very acclimatised to a culture of body positivity. Within the dance community women are considered beautiful not because of the shape or size of their body, but for how they move it. At the same time however I see dancers, pros and hobbyists, who are working on their fitness. Hard. Not to change their looks, but to improve their body function.

18 months ago I was 20kg heavier than I am now. I was still very fit, smashing my way through 5 HIIT workouts a week, plus around 10 hours of dance training and teaching. But I wasn't losing weight, because I wasn't trying to. When I decided to lose the weight, it was not a decision that came out of shame or self loathing. I was happy with the strength and function in my body, I was performing regularly and feeling good about myself. I just didn't feel quite like me and I wanted to see if returning to my pre-baby weight ironed out the last niggles and made me a bit more comfortable within myself. I can guarantee that if someone had told me to lose weight because I looked somehow unacceptable I would have retreated to a quiet corner and quite possibly ended up caring less about my fitness.

Everyone has their own story, but I know that in mine, being accepted as I was helped me to have the drive to take care of my body, out of love, not shame. That's something that I believe is very important.

Negative emotions often lead to negative behaviours. Learning to be positive and non judgemental about your own choices keeps you on track. It is shame that leads you to the chocolate box when you "mess up" and "break your diet", because somehow you decide that a single choice defines you and your potential. It is shame that keeps you away from the gym when you've fallen out of the habit and regressed a little, because you forget that you are worth the effort.

Shame is a natural response, when it grows organically we can work with it; but lets be mindful of it and lets not introduce or feed it, because there's little place for it in a healthy mind or body.

Brene Brown has some interesting things to say about dealing with shame, starting here:






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Managing Fibromyalgia flares

I've written before about living with EDS and Fibromyalgia ,  much of my personal fitness and health practices are geared around managing those conditions and keeping me as well as I can be. When managing a chronic health condition, particularly one that involves fatigue and potential flare ups, pacing, good nutrition, good sleep and generally taking care of yourself is always the first priority. Ideally we want to have as few flares as possible. But sometimes they still happen, and when they do, it's good to have a strategy in place. And I'm going to be talking in fairly general terms, because while EDS and Fibro are my personal experience, there is so little understanding of the mechanisms behind these conditions, that most strategies are going to be applicable to a number of conditions where crashes of exhaustion and pain are a feature. So what is a flare? A flare is a period where someone with chronic illness suffers increased symptoms for a short while. The

What's the deal with yoga and hypermobility?

I wanted to address a question today that keeps coming up on various hypermobility and EDS forums that I frequent. It comes up so often in fact that I feel like I have to write this all up in one place, to save me 1000s of key strokes of individual responses and distil some of my opinions and thought processes on the matter. It always goes like this. Someone asks a question like "I've just been diagnosed with hypermobility, I've been told I can't do yoga anymore..." The responses are always a mixture of "yes, my doctor/physio told me yoga was the worst thing I could do for my hypermobility" and "I do yoga and it's been the best thing for my hypermobility". So what gives? Well, I'm firmly in the "yoga is useful" camp, and I have to disclose that. I'm a yoga practitioner of around 20 years and a perinatal yoga teacher , as well as a personal trainer and bendy person. While I have the deepest respect for the medic

Step away from the scale. Why weigh ins and weight loss don't match.

I have a persistant bugbear when it comes to health coaching, and it's this issue of "weight". People are often talking about "losing weight", the number on the scale becomes a focus. "If only I could just get under 65kg" they say. Or worse I see advertised "buy this supplement and you can lose 20kg in a fortnight". I've found myself frequently sitting with a weight-focussed client and asking "if you were 2 dress sizes smaller, fit and toned, but you weighed the same as you do now, could you be happy with that?" You might be surprised how challenging a question that can be. For many people, particularly those who have struggled with weight loss, that number is the absolute key. They can wake up, feeling energised and full of life, slip into those jeans that used to live hopefully in the bottom of the drawer, check themselves in the mirror and love what they see... then they step on the scales, see the number is half a kilo

Is being polite sabotaging your weight loss?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the barriers that make it hard for people to stick to healthy habits, or even take them up in the first place. My personal training clients are a lovely bunch, and one thing I can certainly say is that none of them have come to me completely uninformed about healthy eating. Most people have done some homework before they get to the point of hiring me, and while I always go over the basics (never assume anything) I know that when I tell them stuff like this, it's not new information to them: Eat less to lose weight Eat protein with every meal Eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day Consume high sugar and fat treats rarely and in moderate portions Drink water with every meal or snack Exercise regularly That's not rocket science, so why are so many people still struggling with it? Is it because "the rules" are more complicated? Are they missing the "weird trick" (spoiler alert, there are no weird tricks

Running with wolves

When I started trying to reverse my post-baby weight gain , I spent several months, probably a year or so really floundering. I was exercising, hard. I didn't feel like I was overeating, but I wasn't losing weight. In fact sometimes I was gaining more and I couldn't figure out why. Often I get personal training clients coming to me with the same problem. They eat wholesome foods with few treats, they exercise hard several times a week, but there's no weight loss. The answer to this problem is a staple for a PT or nutrition coach. It's about activity levels. If I sit on the sofa all day, I burn through just under 2000 calories. If I do a 30 minute HIIT workout, I burn about 200 more. But if I spend my day doing housework, walking to town to do errands and generally being on my feet, I burn 3000 calories or more. It's not the workouts, it's the activity or NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis if you feel fancy). So how do you keep up your NEAT or