I was going to release a course before Christmas. The moral of this tale is that I’m not going to finish it. Something still feels a little jarring. Something with what I am
doing doesn’t feel quite right. Like a jigsaw that’s almost done but your dickhead dog has eaten the last piece. I’d literally recorded half of it.
You know that feeling of restlessness and unease? Where you don’t feel particularly comfortable no matter what you do? I feel that right now multiplied by 100. And I know what it means. I have had this exact feeling twice before. The first time was when I knew I’d outgrown my sports centre job and wanted to open my own gym. And the second time was when I closed my gym and I realised that I didn’t want to be part of the fitness industry as it currently operates.
So I have a couple of choices now. I can either force a piece from another puzzle into the last spot just so that I can say it’s finished. Or I can wait for the dog to do what dogs do best and put a shit piece in the gap (all puns intended in that metaphor). Or I can leave the fucking jigsaw unfinished and just see what happens next.
So welcome to my unfinished jigsaw. I’m hoping that you’ll hang around for whatever ride happens next. Because for the first time ever I don’t have a destination. But I’m OK with that. Every time I’ve felt this way before has resulted in a massive evolution of my thinking. And I can feel that this is going to be the same. I just don’t know what it will evolve into yet.
But to help me out I’m going to use this whole piece of writing as a brainstorm with you. It might be messy and unorganised but I’m fine with that. Maybe it will help me figure out how I got here and what will happen next…
You see, I think I had a pretty standard upbringing for a middle-class white girl, and of course this included societal beauty standards and a healthy fear of food. This usually demonstrated itself to me with comments like…
“Don’t eat too many sweets or you’ll get fat.”
“No you can’t get down from the table until you’ve finished everything on your plate.”
“You can’t possibly be hungry, you’ve just had lunch.”
“Ooh look at Sue down the road… she’s put on some weight.”
“I can’t wear that top, it shows off my bingo wings.”
“Ugh, I had such a bad day so I’m going to have [insert food or alcohol here]”.
I’m pretty sure that you heard the same kind of things in varying ways. The well-meant comments that actually veiled some proper disordered thinking around food and body image. It’s so common in Western society that we don’t really hear it how fucked up it is any more.
Conversely I was brought up with an excellent view on moving my body. Weekends were all about the fun and more often then not that meant moving. Whether it be bike rides, or football, or tennis, or swimming I was always doing some kind of active shit.
I suppose the combination of a love of exercise and a fear of food meant that being a personal trainer was kind of inevitable. And so I dedicated my professional time to being one of us special folk who “saves the nation’s health”. Yes, that meant a job in fitness.
I have worked in and around the fitness industry since I was 16. That’s 20 fucking years ago! But don’t worry, I wasn’t just saving people and grabbing my paycheck. I actually learned some important things along that journey too. I learnt that…
- Personal trainers are – on the whole – amongst the most judgmental people I have ever met. But they kind of have to be. Their job is to make you look a specific way.
- The fitness industry pretends it is all about your health. It’s not. It knows it’s not. It’s about making you thin. You are allowed to be body confident and be a little fat, as long as you are dedicating your time to making yourself thinner.
- They make more money if you don’t achieve your goals. People turning up to the gym is actually not that great for business (they create wear and tear on the equipment, theytake up staff time, they might actually get thin and then stop coming in as much). People signing up for a year and not coming in makes for some pretty good business. Take a look at any gym’s books. They will demonstrate quite clearly that more money is pumped into getting new customers then is spent keeping and looking after the ones that they have.
- Very few instructors keep up with current studies on health, fitness, and nutrition. Most get their information from the same sources that you do… social media, the news and those goddamn awful Netflix documentaries (if one more person asks for my opinion on “What the Health” or “Game Changers” I will throat punch them).
- Very few instructors have actually read the science about what they’re telling you. They follow the same accepted wisdom that you do.
- Being fat is the worst thing you can be.
- Food is either healthy or not healthy.
- You can eat and look however you want as long as you actually still follow our rules. And if you fuck up then just call it “bulking” or a “cheat day”.
- The industry thinks that everyone has a problem that only diet and exercise can fix. And if you aren’t dieting or exercising, then you’re doing nothing. And why would you do nothing, you have a problem, so fucking fix it.
- Trainer’s think that your physical appearance is more important that your mental health and happiness. They think fat instantly means unhealthy. And so we get to judge the shit out of you for it. If you are overweight then we think all of your time should be spent being less so. Because all we think about is food and fitness. So why don’t you?
- I thought all of these things. And probably a shit tonne more unhelpful and potentially damaging things.
I think back over my career and I can’t help but feel sad and slightly ashamed. And if you are a gym instructor and are reading this then I reckon you should too. Think back to how many times you gave someone information which could be impacting their mental and physical health.
But maybe I shouldn’t feel bad. After all, I was only doing what was expected of me. But this brings me to my current unease.
The Anti Fitness Project came about because I amfed up. But quite honestly I didn’t realise quite how pissed off I was until I started it!
Initially all I wanted to tell people was they you don’t have to exercise to get thinner or healthier, and that you can eat whatever the fuck you want and still lose weight. Because, that’s how physics works. And so I started researching this train of thought.
Now I’m one of those people who always has to be right. It’s not a good personality trait. But it does mean that I don’t say anything to anyone unless I have thoroughly researched it first. And that is exactly what I did with The Project.
Fuck me, what a rabbit hole!
And it is this rabbit hole that has changed not just the way that I am going to conduct my business moving forwards but also how I do my entire life. Yup, sounds dramatic I know.
You see, I have only just scraped the surface of what I am planning to learn. And every bit of research leads me to something new. I am determined to share all this shit with you. Because as well as always being right, I have an annoying personality trait of being as tenacious as my dog when he sees next door’s cat. If I enjoy a subject then I will learn everything there is to know about it. Get me interested in bees and I will be the best apiarist you’ve ever seen within a week.
This might sound cocky, but here’s the thing… I am.
And as well as that I am fed up. I’m fed up of watching the people I love be sad about how they look. I’m fed up of my friends saying that they’re confident with how they look whilst asking me for diet advice at the same time. I’m fed up of preaching body positivity whilst having to catch my first thought which is the societal standard of “fat is bad”.
I have been many different versions of myself. But now I’m ready to evolve to be the next one.
I am the gym owner that is telling you to stop going to gyms.
I am the nutritionist that is telling you that sometimes cheesecake is healthier for you than salad.
I am the personal trainer that is telling you that being fat can be healthier than trying to attain a beauty standard that is made up by society.
I am the woman who is telling you to love your body whilst often looking at my own with disappointment.
I am the cocky mother fucker who often doesn’t feel that confident.
I am the positive happy person who sometimes feels sad, and needs to work more on understanding that that’s ok.
I am the human that after 36 years of listening to blatant lies about our health, happiness and appearance is properly fed up and ready to change that shit.
I have really important things to share with you, a lot of which I haven’t figured out yet. But I know that I want you to come on this journey with me. I want to figure all this shit out because I guarantee you that our lives will be better when we learn to release our current paradigm about our own health and happiness.
We can do better than this. And we will. Together.
Stay weird, people,
(The Anti-Fitness Trainer)