"Don’t ever let somebody make you feel like you aren’t good enough or pretty enough. You don’t need to please anyone else but yourself"
Welcome to the third instalment of our interview-type blog series for Core Confidence: Insights from Advocates. I've asked body image and mental health advocates a few questions about their personal journeys - to hear their perspective about body esteem and share their learnings from their exeperiences. You can find the first instalment, here, featuring the lovely Jessica Smith and the second one, here, featuring Dr Katherine Iscoe.
Today's interviewee is the amazing Sarah King from SKActive. Sarah is an accredited Exercise Physiologist, Pilates instructor and Personal Trainer and combines her expertise to promote appropriate movement to her clients. As stated on her website Sarah "believes that exercise is empowering and can open so many doors for you in life. It could simply mean having more energy, pursuing travel dreams, or improving your mood." Sarah herself has lived experience of an Eating Disorder which adds a differentiating view of her role within the health & fitness industry. Here's what she has to say:
What does being a positive body image advocate mean to you?
As someone who has personally suffered from an eating disorder and body image issues in the past I think I’ve moved away from body positivity and more towards body neutrality. Giving too much of my time and energy to loving my body is the same as giving too much time and energy to hating my body. So I’m neutral. I respect my body for the incredible things that it can do, I appreciate the different forms it takes throughout my life, and I recognise that it’s simply housing the incredible person I am. Every single person, even supermodels, have parts of themselves which they dislike, but that doesn’t mean need to change them.
Following on from that answer, do you feel that there can be too much focus placed on body love and body positivity?
Way too much focus. Your body is not your gift to the world. It’s just the vehicle for your greatness.
Why is it so important to “exercise right”?
There’s such an overwhelming amount of information on the internet now that it’s hard to know where to start or what to do! Also a trend towards a lot of high intensity workout plans that you can pay for and download straight away I find particularly dangerous. These workouts are tough and can lead to injury if someone is new to exercise or battling a health condition. Exercising right means getting a plan that’s tailored exactly to your needs, your goals, your current health status.
How did you feel about your body as a
- 15 year old : I don’t think I payed as much attention to my body at 15. I was aware that my shape was becoming more feminine but I was more interested in riding horses, how I was doing in school, and having fun with my friends. I hope this is how most teenagers feel about their bodies at this age.
- 25 year old : Getting more comfortable in my skin, but still a few hang ups.
- now : I have a kick-ass body. Not the type you might see in a fitness magazine, but it is mine. There are curves attached to it, some muscles, and also a healthy level of bodyfat. I love my perky bum, and long legs that are glittered with some cellulite. My abs don't ripple like the ocean but they help me stand tall and strong. My shoulders aren't defined like perfect caps at the top of my arms but instead have a softness that hold my shoulders up with pride.
There are parts of my body I love and parts I wish were slightly different, but I embrace it all. I no longer want to live my days consumed by the shape my body takes or the food I consume in order to keep it that way.
What (if anything) did disordered eating take away from you?
It took away my confidence and belief in myself and placed all value on looks instead of qualities that really matter such as intelligence, kindness, self-respect, and strong relationships.
How did body dissatisfaction impact your physical health?
Disordered eating and exercise can impact so many areas of health. Mentally I wasn’t able to concentrate so I had to stop studying and working when I initially sought treatment. I suffered from depression and my mind was absorbed with disordered thoughts that I had to constantly challenge.
There were lots of physical side effects as well. Being underweight meant being cold all the time, having zero energy, losing my period, disrupting my thyroid function, lowering my bone mineral density, and disturbing my gut health. Luckily most of these are reversible with weight restoration but some effects (like bouts of digestive upset) still linger unfortunately.
I can’t tell you enough how important therapy and diet advice (from an accredited dietitian) were for me! With adequate nutrition and a better mindset I started to shift my thinking, change my behaviours, and focus on things I valued to start living a full life again.
When speaking about our health, wellness and lifestyle - is there such a thing as balance?
It does exist, but it is different for everyone and will depend on your life stage and goals. As a comparative society we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have balance in all aspects of our life all the time, but it’s difficult to achieve this. While it would be great to wake up and exercise every morning, meditate, eat breakfast calmly, take stretch breaks at work etcetera, there is only so much time in one day. I think the most important aspect of finding balance is finding 5 things that completely fill your cup and doing one of those each day. I’ll call these my ‘daily non-negotiables’ because they make me and my clients feel balanced and ready to tackle the day. Some examples might be making the time to have a cup of tea or coffee each morning, spending 10 minutes outside in the sun each day, practicing yoga, and scheduling in at least one solid workout even on those crazy busy weeks.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in starting and running “SK Active”?
Running a business means being a jack of all trades, so the biggest hurdle and most important factor to manage is time! Planning is very important to make sure all my clients get the best care and I follow through on my to-do lists.
In your experience, what are the benefits of incorporating mindfulness with exercise/movement?
A lot of people exercise to escape or avoid emotions. Tough day at work - just forget about it and go for a run. Too much anxiety to eat your next meal - a long walk will sort that out. This is a short term fix because if you don’t deal with those emotions or situations now, you’ll have to deal with them at some point. Mindfulness is a great way to be present and say to yourself ‘hey I had a rough day, but I’m not going to physically punish my body for it. I’m going to tune into how I feel and match my exercise accordingly.’ One technique I often use at the start and end of a session is deep breathing with clients. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers cortisol and stress, while helping the client transition from a busy day to a more focused calm mind.
What keeps you motivated?
Helping my clients feel their absolute best. A good health professional is one who makes sure that each person feels supported, educates them along the way, but also cares about them as a person. Making each person feel special in the process of helping them achieve their goal is what really motivates me.
Truthfully it sometimes means late nights, early mornings, and working on the weekends. But it also means putting smiles on people’s faces, building confidence and fitness in equal proportions, and doing something I absolutely love. That simple fact makes it all worthwhile.
If you could tell your 15 year old self anything, what would it be?
Don’t ever let somebody make you feel like you aren’t good enough or pretty enough. You don’t need to please anyone else but yourself.
Favourite self care practices? Making a cup of tea, epsom salt bath, walking along the coast or somewhere in nature
Favourite way to move your body? Lifting weights, practicing yoga, going for walks, swimming in the ocean, and my new favourite - boxing!
Best tips for getting out of a funky head space? Let yourself feel the emotions, talk them out with someone, cry, or write them down. But have an action plan for how to get yourself back on track after. For me it’s making sure to get outdoors for a walk. It’s like moving meditation for me.
Who inspires you? One of my best friends and BUFgirl Sian Johnson, who forever pulls my head into line when I start feeling ‘blah’ about my body and inspires so many women to move their bodies and lead healthy, happy, positive lives. A shoutout also goes to my other bestie Emily who is forever by my side and gives the best #girlboss advice. And on a professional level Libby Babet is someone I always look up to for solid biz advice because she has built some kick-ass businesses while remaining true to her values.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? Or are all pleasures guilt free 😉 ?! Peanut butter. It’s like the glue that holds my body together. I probably overindulge in this
What is one thing you wish people knew about what it means to be body confident? Confidence comes from within. You can’t hate yourself into a version of yourself that you love.
Favourite insta accounts to stalk *ahem* follow at the moment? @jamessmithpt for his no BS content and hilarious stories, @bufgirls for fun, fierce, feminine workouts, and @relauncher_alison for solid biz advice
Huge thanks again to Sarah for her time and for her openness and honesty in sharing her insights. I know I could personally relate to quite a few answers and I'd love to hear your thoughts too, especially surrounding body positivity vs body neutrality. Join in the convo in the comments or via our (anti) socials 😉 You can find out more about Sarah and "SKActive" on her website.
Til next time beautiful souls!!
Lets create some mental head space for 2018 and the decade ahead. Join us for the ultimate end of year Celebration - the Celebration of You! A Movement & Mindfulness event for Girls. For more info and to book head to our Workshops page or feel free to send a friendly email to firstname.lastname@example.org