Join the #vitalitynotvanity campaign! 

I feel very strongly about the health and fitness industry’s effect on people’s self-esteem; that it often does more to make people feel bad than good. I feel that an industry that is meant to encourage us to be healthy and the best version of ourselves that we can be, it instead becomes a haven of ego; a place of narcissism and self-worship usually in the form of a topless selfie in the gym mirror.

With the advance of socia media, the rise of celebrity obsession, and the pressures on mums to 'have it all' and still be 'bikini ready' (what is that really anyway?) we have become focussed on how we look, how taught our tummies are and judge our worth by how others think we look and forgotten to take care of our health, hearts and minds and BE HAPPY.

 And so I have started this campaign to fight against that and remind us all that this industry is about feeling GOOD. That we should ignore the posers, put our phones away and just get on with working out and feeling awesome when we’re done…with real, red, sweaty faces that don’t need to be showed off online.

 Please join me. Get on Facebook and Twitter and share, retweet and spread the word.

 #vitalitynotvanity 

 
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comfort zone 

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 Meet the latest #vitalitynotvanity Hero!

Each month I will publish a short interview with a REAL person who has used fitness and/or nutrition to better their life, mental health and/or physical health. I want to share stories from those of you who have 'found' fitness and/or nutrition which has changed your life for the better in order to inspire, encourage and celebrate those of you who are the reason I love working in this industry.

Let's motivate people to change their health and their lives for the better and show you don't have to be a superhero or athlete to do so. Please share with the #vitalitynotvanity tag and spread the inspiration!

Want to share your story and be featured?

Contact me on [email protected]

(name and photo are optional, it can be anonymous if you wish)

 

 

Samantha Hardingham - 43 years old

Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a change.  

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Life before my transformation: 

  • Never slept as a child this continued into my late twenties
  • Hormones hit in teenage years with hideous PMT
  • Hypermobile
  • In my late teens I was underweight, just crept under seven stone
  • In my 20’s had glandular fever and Euryatheum Nodosum
  • Always rode horses but had terrible lower back pain and sciatica as a teenager through to late thirties with times that wouldn’t be able to get out of a chair and walk
  • IBS
  • Started to struggle with weight, not overweight but couldn’t get it down
  • Suffered terrible migraines that would take me out for four days at a time
  • Painful arthritic hands - could no longer pull a mane on a horse/plait up a horse
  • Suffered several miscarriages
  • Depression kicked in
  • During the pregnancy of my second child experience PGP - pelvic girdle pain - extremely painful, couldn’t walk or hold my weight after a few hours of being moving around
  • Put on four stone during the pregnancy
  • Lethargy and fatigue ruled my life never properly ill but never felt well either

 

Three months after the birth of my second child I couldn’t take the pain/life in pain/never feeling 100% anymore - is this really what life is? It inspired me and has driven me to make the change and the thought of a life in continued pain, there had to more to it than this!

 
How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey?
 
Had researched every diet going during my pregnancy to find something that would work for me as I loved food. Around late Jan 2012 I started my own Love Natural Eating plan - that I’d made up myself from what I’d read - lost 10lbs in 10 days - nearly all painful symptoms gone, IBS, headaches, hands, back much better.
 
What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle?
 
The only hurdle in starting was being prepared.  It took about 10 days to get my head round it and sort out how it would work in with the family meals.  As I was so focused and had such a clear vision of where I wanted to be, my only hurdles were mainly other people's opinions on health and what I was achieving and whether they thought it was maintainable.  
 
How has it changed your life now?
 
I’m pain free and all the symptoms I experienced have gone.  I’ve become a Health, Fitness and Mindset Coach to help empower and educate women so they can thrive in life rather than just survive.  To date I’ve run three London Marathons - in 2016 (I didn’t do any running preparation for it just 6 weeks of HIIT) ran with a client who had open heart surgery less than two years ago and is diabetic type 2 all the way with her at my shoulder.  Trained Olympic Bronze Medallist event rider Caroline Powell and explorer George Wells who broke the World Record in 2015 kite surfing and sledding across Greenlands ice cap.  More importantly I love my life!
 
Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself? 

Take responsibility for your health and believe that you can do it, visualise and be with people that are already where you want to be.

 

Jenni Bonifacio - 37 years old

Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a change.  

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not fat

During pregnancy I fell into the old age mistake of eating for 2 and put on a fair amount of weight. When baby arrived and I was dealing with the constant tiredness I would grab sugary snacks to keep me going, and lived on sandwiches as I struggled to find time to cook proper meals. I had a very needy baby that was pretty much attached to my breast 24/7. Then we discovered why I had such a fractious baby, as he was diagnosed with Cow milk protein allergy which mean I then had to cut all dairy from my diet. No chocolate, no cakes, no icecream etc. When he started on solids I found myself finishing his leftovers, and then eating my own meal. When he was finally weaned from breastmilk to soya milk I went a bit mental with shovelling all the tasty stuff I had not had for a year. The weight piled on pretty quickly and before long I was a very unhappy size 16. It was at a family gathering, a photo was taken of me when I realised just how big I had gotten and at only 5ft 3" I was really unhappy with the way I looked and felt. My confidence was at an all time low and my sex life non-existent as I didn't want my husband to see me naked. I decided it was time to do something about it rather than being constantly trying to avoid mirrors.

 
How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey?
 
I am pretty strong willed and when I put my mind to it, I cut out all naughty treats and drinks which was a good start, but I soon plateaued and knew I needed to start some exercise and more nutritious meals. So a friend of mine suggested I join her at a Body balance class at my local YMCA and then I lost my first stone through Tara's Healthy You Plan.
 
What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle?
 
I fall off the health eating wagon on occasion for maybe a day or two, but I always manage to pick myself up and put it behind me. My attitude is that today is a new day. As long as I treat my body properly 80% of the time, I manage to maintain my weight and health.
 
How has it changed your life now?
 
I've gone from size 16 to a size 12 and maintained it for over a year and feel so much better. I have more energy for my son, my husband and work. I used to suffer with back pain but now that I regularly attend the Body Balance class my core and posture have improved so much that I rarely have pain. My sex life is back on track and I am confident in every aspect of my life.
 
Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself? 

If you're unhappy with the way you look and feel, it's only you that can make the change. You have to really want it and put the work in. It's no good changing your diet/exercise for two months so things improve for that time, it's a long tem commitment to yourself. It's not just about your physical well being but getting into the frame of mind to get and stay healthy.

 

 
 
 
 
 Andrea McGowan - 26 years old

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Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a change. 

I have always been overweight, not just a few pounds over where I wanted to be, but at least 3-4 stone heavier than I should have been. I didn't have the worst diet overall, but I really had no idea how to say no to food, I was definitely of the "clear your plate before you leave the table" school of thinking, no matter how full I was feeling. I did little or no exercise, my days consisted of work, home, eat, sofa and tv, bed, so I didn't really factor any kind of regular exercise into my routine. While I'd spent years wanting to be healthy, fit and lean, I hadn't ever been able to stick to any kind of lifestyle change. What finally motivated me to make a change was adopting a rescue dog. I knew that he needed lots of exercise so I had to get into a routine of walking him every day. I also realised that at the weight I was, our daily walks were a lot more difficult for me than they had to be, so I decided to try eating low carb. Within a year I had lost 3 stone, and then I joined a gym. That was a year ago and I've now lost 5 stone in total, but it's not about the numbers on the scales, I'm so much healthier, happier and fitter! I took the dog for a 5K run last weekend and he was holding me back for a change!
 
How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey?
 
I started out with a very specific routine, I was going to walk the dog every single day, and then cut the main carbohydrates I knew of (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice) from my diet. Social media has proved to be invaluable for sourcing recipes and nutrition advice, I find Pinterest great for recipes, and I've joined a couple of Facebook groups where members share recipes and motivational posts, so those help too. When I decided I wanted to join a gym, I looked for one with a specific "8 week transformation" programme so I had a specific, time-constrained goal, I had a lot of support from my trainers, and I knew I could give it my all for a specific amount of time and see results. That format helped me a lot, before I had always set very generic goals with no specifics, like "I'll go swimming a couple of times a week" so there was no point where I thought "I've achieved that goal." I need structure and accountability to keep myself motivated, and realising that was a big step!
 
What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle?
 
Believe it or not, I didn't struggle for a long time into my journey! I had finally found a nutrition plan that worked for me, I was seeing results, and there was no way I was going to give up while the results were coming so quickly. The first hurdle really hit when I started to feel happier with myself, and I began to think "oh if I eat this it won't matter, it's not going to put half a stone back on me" and that escalated into eating lots of unhealthy junk food through the week. I didn't put weight back on because I was training hard in the gym, but I definitely didn't get the results I had been seeing before hand. It took a long time to be honest with myself and realise that I still have goals to reach and I need to work for what I want, it's not going to be easy!
 
How has it changed your life now?
 
My life is completely different now, I am so much happier with how I look, I actually enjoy clothes shopping now, and I no longer live in giant hoodies! I've become really interested in fitness, weight lifting and training, and I'll be starting a personal trainer qualification soon. Every time I see old friends or family members, I'm faced with a million questions about how I have changed my habits, so I have a list of friends who want me to teach them how to do it too! Not only have I changed how I look, I've changed how I feel, and potentially changed my entire career path too.
 
Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself?
 
Find what works for you. There's conflicting advice everywhere. If you know you're not the type of person who can regulate your meals and control portions, find a nutrition plan that doesn't make you track calories, and get some results under your belt to kick start you. If you know you'll never do this alone, find support in the right places, either get a great trainer who understands what it's like to be really overweight (I've lost about 30% of my body weight so far), and let them help you set goals, or reach out to a friend who knows their stuff. There's always a way to change your lifestyle, and it's definitely nowhere near as difficult as you think.

 

 

Katie Joyce - 33 years old

 Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a change.

I was overweight, eating badly, I had insomnia too. My first born was a very large baby that left me with a big baby belly and I convinced myself there was no point in losing weight as my body was ruined already. I went to a local gym but could never get into classes. I used to binge eat and comfort eat lots of bread, sugary cereals and chocolate. I would lose weight, and then winter would come and I'd pile it all back on again. I decided I wanted to run a half marathon last year but found the weight I was carrying made it hard to run as my legs and knees would hurt after long runs. I realised my diet wasn't helping my running either as I was regularly getting stomach cramps during running.

How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey?

I joined a new gym last year at the end of January. A friend was already at the gym and I tried out a spin class with her, I liked the fact it was in the dark as no one could see me. This led me to start going to classes on my own. One night after a class I plucked the courage to ask an instructor about body pump (a class I had previously loved but wasn't confident to attend). She told me when her classes were and I went along and she set me up, showed me the correct technique and off I went. I started going to 4-5 classes a week, and I realised that no one is even looking at you during it as they are concentrating on themselves. My diet was still poor though, I would calorie count but say "stuff it" half way through the day. One day I decided it was time to stop the crisps, the chocolate, the fizzy drinks, the cakes and the bread. Before I knew it I was 8 weeks away from a half marathon and I had lost 33lbs. My husband started to run with me on my longer training runs, and would help with ways to run better. Over the summer holidays my eating had slipped, I was running so much the weight stayed off. I completed the half marathon in October, it was a massive achievement but I still wasn't happy with my diet. I have since completed the body coach 90 day plan and I now have a better understand of food and exercise.

What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle?

Being organised to have all the meals organised and cooking dinners with two kids to feed too. I also love my bed and would come up with a million excuses not to get out of bed and work out, though I actually had insomnia before and that's much better since I started regularly exercises. I no longer struggle to exercise as I love how it makes me feel so keep going, I make time for it as it won't make time for itself. If that means waking at 6am, so be it.

How has it changed your life now?

My life has totally changed!! I used to wear size 16 jeans and dresses and now comfortably wear size 12 jeans and 10 dresses. I struggle/suffer with endometriosis and the symptoms have all but gone, I don't even take pain relief anymore. My depression and anxiety is in better check as I realise my mind controls so much of what I thought I couldn't do, when actually I can but spend my life telling myself I can't! I feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in about 17 years!

Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself?

Try something new, don't be scared to fail. If you slip up or decide to have a massive meal out, don't worry but don't start again in the morning, start again once you've eaten it, don't beat yourself up for being human. Remember when going to the gym that no one is looking at you, they're mainly looking at themselves. Finally, take photos of your progress and acknowledge progress (something I am working on!!), keep an old item of clothing to keep trying on. Set a realistic goal, like I want to run 5km, or I want to get up one day a week and exercise, not I want to lose 2 stone by May!

 

Lucy Arnold - 25 years old

 

Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a change.lucy arnold

I was overweight and unhappy, I hated how I felt in clothes, I hated what I saw in the mirror and I just hated myself. I was depressed and couldn’t understand why my partner loved me or found me attractive. One day I woke up and decided today was the day, I joined a gym and I joined Slimming World as I knew I needed to change. This was my mission, I knew that if this didn’t work I was going to need to go back on antidepressants and I didn’t want that, so I knew I had to start looking after myself as well as I looked after everybody else.

How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey?

I was motivated, I don’t know why it happened then but I was so motivated, I was at the gym everyday. I followed Slimming World. I read tonnes of articles online about healthy eating and exercise and how to get places and it became my world. The internet is an oyster when you need it.

What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle?

It was hard when people would invite me out for dinner or for drinks and I was on this healthy eating kick and they didn’t understand. I wanted to change my lifestyle and sometimes I felt they were holding me back, but soon they did and realised I was committed to this lifestyle and it wasn't just a fad.

How has it changed your life now?

I love myself and I love my body. I love training and eating healthy. I just sold my business to make a massive leap to go and train to be a personal trainer to help inspire others like me. I also now run an online blog which has become a massive success out of the blue.

Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself?

You can do it, if I can, so can you! Invest in yourself. 

 

 

Emma Kirke-Reynolds - 38 years old

Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a change.

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I was fairly fit and active until 2000. Whilst I was at university I was involved in a serious traffic collision which lead to me having severe, permanent spinal damage and neurological damage in my left leg. I have to this day numbness, pain and altered sensation with balance and coordination difficulties. In 2005 I met my now husband and everything was stable with my injuries for a few months. I then suffered a trauma to my spine once again and Tony had to move in as my carer. I had days when I couldn’t dress myself, let alone have an intimate relationship with him. He saw me at my worst and was there when I was told I could never have children. Within a year I was rapidly gaining more weight than I already had due to lack of mobility, comfort eating due to my depression and large doses of steroids in my 25 a day medication regimen. I was told my situation was inoperable. At less than 30 years old I was faced with a life of not being able to go on holiday as sitting on a plane was unbearable, eating in a restaurant was almost impossible for the same reasons. I regularly was rendered house bound whilst people around me were living their lives. I was depressed and suicidal.  

How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey? 

I had hit rock bottom. I had tried and tested every type of treatment imaginable. They were all unsuccessful and the pain was ragging me down. It was also interfering with my life and relationships were suffering. I made a choice and that was to take control. I began a dietary regimen that removed any foods that I had researched that could aggravate or irritate or increase pain potentially. I started to add in anything that I could find that may have been beneficial. Within 4 months I had reduced my medication down to nothing, but within 8 months I had lost 7 stone and was unprepared for the psychological effects of this. I was becoming unhealthily obsessive and associated lower weight with less pain so was becoming dangerously underweight. I began studying nutrition to get a scientific handle on my body's fuel, gained my Clinical Nutrition qualification and set about making my own food interesting and sharing my recipes to assist others maintain their health. My Fit Kitchen and Medicinal Kitchen concept was born. I had begun exercising but only did light weights and cardio. On October 17th 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the BRCA gene. In February 2015 I had a double mastectomy but was out of hospital after 2 nights as oppose to 12, and back in the gym after a week gently, I went back to work performing physical treatments on my patients after only 3 weeks. The standard down time is 12 weeks. 

What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle? 

Psychologically I struggled to maintain my weight and a sensible handle on it. One way I gained control was by throwing away my scales. I decided to focus on improving the strength of my body and changed my training focus. I now lift weights and perform complex functional movements to try to maintain my strength and balance. Fear held me back with certain exercises and still does if I’m honest. I have a few people that I trust and they are the people that I ask for help on technique and to help push me forward. 

How has it changed your life now? 

I am healthier, fitter and ultimately happier. In my 7hr operation my anaesthetist told me I had the cardiovascular health of an elite athlete. I have a better relationship with my friends, family and husband. I enjoy holidays, restaurants, food and fitness. I love exercising and actually now get frustrated if I have to alter my schedule and miss a session. I find that training first thing helps my mood immensely, helping to keep me positive and focused. 

Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself? 

Never lose faith. Impossible is nothing. Find people that support and encourage you and allow them to help you. Keep going, keep pushing forward and don’t be afraid to take control or try different ideas. One suit doesn’t fit all and we will find the best fit for ourselves. Just because one thing works for our idol it doesn’t mean it will work for ourselves. Fear can hold us back but it can also push us forward. Fear of me spending a life in pain pushed me to seek alternatives and changed my life for the better. I competed in the UKUP York regionals 3 weeks after my last operation to give post op mastectomy women a positive image to look to. I am hoping to continue to inspire and I have been nominated and short listed for several awards in the last 6 months. I won un sung hero highly commended in December last year which was such an honour. I am excited about life now and I have such a positive outlook that I wonder how I ever hit that low. I believe my experiences have made me a better practitioner and I believe I experienced them for a reason. 

  

 

 Lorraine Job - 30 years old

Tell me about your situation before you found fitness and/or nutrition and what inspired you to make a 10620765_10153187646499498_5069878617438161742_nchange.

I have suffered with depression and bulimia on and off for 15 years. These would be joined by anxiety, panic attacks and self-harm at different stages of my life. I manage my condition through medication, therapy and exercise (not to mention an amazing boyfriend, family and friends).

I exercised on and off through my teen and 20’s but never in a healthy or sensible way due to the eating disorder – bulimia means you take the all or nothing approach. 

How did you then go about motivating yourself, sourcing information (ie classes, recipes, etc) and beginning your journey?

I have been interested in fitness for a few years now. Spin is of one of my favourite classes now but I used to loathe it (also helps when one of your best friends’ is training to be a spin teacher!).

I try to exercise between 3 and 4 times a week and prefer to train on weekdays, although still push myself to go at the weekends. I mainly do spin, Body Balance and yoga. And I have PT sessions with Tara once a week where we do a mix of HIIT, free weights, boxing and some killer ab work!

What struggles, if any, did you face in starting - and maintaining - this new lifestyle?

I find it hard to get motivated on the weekend and think I need a bit more variety in my gym classes.

How has it changed your life now?

It has completely changed my life. I no longer care about how much I weigh, and I used to weigh myself up to 26 times a day! I want to be fit and strong and think the human body is a wonderful thing and we need to work hard to keep it that way. I now have a realistic idea of how a person can make themselves look and that the scales don’t mean a thing, that we are all different shapes and sizes.

I know it sounds like such a cliché but it really does help keep my mind ticking over. If things start to get tough and I feel I am losing touch, I put my trainers on.

Finally, what advice would you give to others in a similar situation to yourself?

Talk to someone, it really is the best advice that I can give to anyone. But if you are feeling a bit down or the fires of anxiety are burning in your belly, there are other ways to cope that are easy and free.