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Five women share how fitness helped their body positivity

Healthy woman doing exercise at home

Body types aren’t trends – it’s time to embrace what you’ve got (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It has recently been said that ‘heroin chic’ is back.

This look was popularized in the early 1990s by models like Kate Moss thanks to their waif-like frames, pale skin and dark circles under the eyes.

However, even the suggestion that this negative body image could make a revival is frowned upon.

Thin is definitely out – and let’s hope it never returns.

“I think there’s been a real shift in body positivity over the last few years,” says therapist and author Marisa Peer.

‘It really helped challenge stereotypical “ideals” of what a woman should look like and highlighted how all women’s bodies are different and beautiful. Social media is an important part of the awareness process, but I think we still have a long way to go in an age where influencers, reality TV stars and filtered photos still fill our news feeds.’

Marisa Pear

Marisa Peer advises unfollowing people on social media who make you feel bad about your body (Photo: Provided)

Body positivity is definitely on the rise and the UK has been revealed as the third most confident country in the world, according to Cult Beauty. The online beauty retailer analyzed Google searches, Instagram hashtags and online articles about body confidence, which put the UK in third position after India and the US, respectively.

The data also shows that Britons account for the second highest number of Instagram posts using body positive hashtags, behind Australia.

The latest research from David Lloyd Clubs backs this up with 30 per cent of women saying they feel it is important to prioritize their wellbeing over how they look and 52 per cent saying their motivation for exercise is to feel healthier.

In an effort to embrace body acceptance, Pinterest banned weight loss ads last year, reporting this summer that searches for “body positivity” have since doubled and “accept your body” quotes have tripled.

Meanwhile, Instagram has updated its ‘sensitive content controls’, allowing users to block diet and weight loss ads from their feeds – and Facebook says: ‘We don’t allow advertisers to post ads that imply or attempt to generate negative self-perception. in order to promote diet, weight loss or other health related products.’

Body positivity is moving in the right direction and according to Marisa, the key to embracing your body starts in your mind.

‘Stop comparing yourself to others and instead focus on the features you like most about yourself,’ she adds.

‘Define your perceived flaws as positive. The lines around your eyes are signs that you smiled, laughed and enjoyed life, while stretch marks on your stomach reflect the fact that you lived a small life.

‘Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad, exercise for your mental wellbeing rather than weight loss goals, embrace your curves by wearing whatever you want and be proud.’

Health and fitness come in all shapes and sizes, so we asked five women to share their thoughts and feelings about their bodies.

Rachel Sacerdoti

PT and founder of It’s So Simple

Rachael Sacerdoti, PT and founder of It's So Simple

Rachael was almost 40 when she turned her attitude towards her body around (Photo: Provided)

Online fitness trainer Rachael, 43, the mother of three young children, wants women to feel good about themselves without worrying about body stereotypes.

“Women should feel comfortable in their own skin, regardless of the scales or dress size,” she says. ‘Fitness should be about improving your life, not losing weight.

‘When I was younger I turned to every fad diet under the sun and developed an unhealthy relationship with exercise and food. When my weight reached 85kg I was constantly tired and lethargic. I couldn’t be the mum I wanted to be – and that was my driving force for my change.

‘Now I train six days a week and try to hit my stride where I can. I eat a well balanced diet and avoid any food groups. I would never judge my body size by clothing labels. It is so important to understand that each brand has a different fit.

‘I was almost 40 before I decided to flip the script. I never want my children to feel that way. I want them to grow up and learn the importance of nourishing your body in a healthy way. The importance of getting strong, not thin. Work out to help improve their strength. Not because they have to, but because they want to.’


Beth Robinson

Former SAS Who Dares Wins contestant

Beth Robinson, former SAS Who Dares Wins contestant

Beth found that powerlifting helped with her mental health (Photo: @sportybethcf)

At 100kg+, Beth wants to encourage women of all shapes and sizes to take up physical activity and regularly posts videos of herself squatting 130kg. “When I was a teenager I was heavily influenced by figures like Effy from Skins and Kate Moss,” says Beth (30).

‘I really wanted to be thin, but I have quite a large frame and that’s something my body could never achieve. After a bipolar diagnosis, my doctor suggested healthy eating and exercise, so I started weightlifting and loved it.

‘I qualified for the English Championships this year which I’m proud of and I recently cleaned (lifted from the ground to shoulder height) 110kg which I never expected. Appearing on SAS Who Dare Wins was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done, but my battles with mental health have given me many tools to manage mentally difficult situations.

‘I get a lot of hate comments telling me to “put down the doughnuts/cookies/pizza” and when I struggled with my eating disorder again, my training suffered. But I realized I needed to stop focusing on losing weight and focus more on health, fitness and being strong.

‘I’m a UK size 18 and a lot of clothes aren’t structured to fit muscular bodies, which I find difficult, but I’m so proud of the strength of my body. I think it’s cool that I can lift the equivalent of two big men on either side of a barbell.

‘Body positivity has helped me reject all toxic beauty standards and live a full, exciting life regardless of what I look like.’


Lucy Campbell

CrossFit trainer and athlete

Lucy Campbell, CrossFit coach and athlete

Despite being the UK’s fittest woman, Lucy once worried about her body (Photo: @lucycampbell5)

A national level gymnast, international swimmer and second ever woman to finish in the Individual Elite category at the CrossFit Games, Lucy came 16th – earning herself the title of 16th Fittest Woman in the World and Fittest in the UK has.

‘I can’t remember a time when I didn’t do sport,’ says the 26-year-old. ‘I was often told to lose weight when I swam. I felt like I didn’t fit in. I was too strong to be a distance swimmer and too fit to be a sprinter.

‘Then I discovered CrossFit and the things women were doing looked amazing and it changed my view of how I wanted to look. As a professional athlete, I train anywhere from three to six hours a day and it consists of weightlifting, gymnastics, strongman and cardio capacity work.

‘I’ve struggled with disordered eating in the past so I’m careful to prioritize a good relationship with food, but it’s essential for me to get enough food to fuel my training and recovery.

‘As for weight loss, I only worry about it if I feel it will benefit my performance, and that’s a conversation I have with my trainer.’


Emily Furey

Personal trainer and model

Emily Furey, Personal Trainer and Model

(Photo: @emfurey)

After studying dance at university, Emily became a personal trainer and is very open about her social accounts of the pressures of mental health within the industry.

“I was always quite thin and had very little muscle tone,” says the 29-year-old. ‘I hated being small but had a fast metabolism and found it difficult to build muscle and gain weight. People used to think I ate salad all the time, but I’ve always eaten a lot of carbs. I was a swimmer so I couldn’t function without them.

‘I can eat anything between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day. I do a lot of CrossFit now, working out three days a week, with a conditioning class on another day. Now I love how strong I am for how small my frame is. I have strong legs and they are my favorite part of my body.

‘My biggest achievement is having the mentality I do now. I exercise if and when I feel like it. I think society has greatly improved in its expectations about the desire to be thin.

‘Body confidence means being confident in your own skin and personally I want to be strong.’


Cat dealer

England Rugby World Cup winner

Kat Merchant, England Rugby World Cup winner

The English rugby star wants female power to be more standardized (Photo: @katmerchant14)

Kat was thrust into the limelight as an English sports star and received online trolling for her muscular appearance. She is now on a mission to make female power more accepted.

‘My father encouraged me to try rugby and I fell in love with the game,’ says the 36-year-old. ‘Winning the Rugby World Cup is the highlight of my career and because I was so committed to the sport, any comments I got about my appearance felt pretty good.

‘I might have guys comment on the size of my arms on a night out, but I’d just think, “Of course I’m big, I’m an England rugby player.” Interestingly, when I retired from rugby, I had to adjust my mindset as I no longer had that “purpose”.

‘For a while I wore clothes that would hide my shoulders or upper body, but now I try to show off my hard work. Not only being strong, but also feeling strong makes me happy.

‘We recently had a pool table delivered to our house, and the driver made a comment about, “You can probably carry it yourself.” Sometimes in my life I would have felt self-conscious, but yes, I am strong, and now I am not ashamed of it.

‘The trollish comments about my body hurt and I thought about getting off social media. However, I feel it is important to address and highlight the issue, rather than shy away from it. I want to make female power more standardized. It’s all about being proud of your body.’


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