In spite of growing up in a sport vacuum myself, in a town as sport mad as Melbourne it’s hard not to be swept up in the excitement that is finals footy. Whether you’re supporting the red white blue, the red & the white or filled with purple pride this weekend, it’s sure to be an amazing display of strength, fitness, team work & perseverance.
As well as general admiration of the athletes at the centre of it all, this has got me thinking about the paradox of Australia’s health crisis.
How can a nation so obsessed with sport be vying for the gold medal in the obesity stakes? Australia certainly breaks the mould when it comes to issues around healthy / unhealthy countries…
We are a very wealthy nation, we are educated, we have clean water & air, we have amazing produce, we have incredible food culture, chefs, and restaurants, we have beautiful climate and environment.
So how then are we one of the most obese countries on the planet? In my article below The Body Paradox, I explore one of the possible reasons and share some insight into how we might reverse the trend…
The Body Paradox
Since 1999 I’ve been helping people use exercise to help them feel better about their bodies. And whether it’s bigger or smaller, faster or fitter, taller or shorter, lighter or darker, I’ve never met anyone who honesty says, “I’m very happy with the me I am right now.”
We’re always on a journey somewhere, which can be very positive or very negative, but instills in us a belief, that right now we are not good enough.
Recently I’ve begun to realise why many people weigh themselves. It’s not to check their relationship to gravity (which is all it should ever be). It’s to see if they have succeed or failed. Are they better or worse, are they fatter or thinner.
This only perpetuates the belief that where I am right now is not good enough.
This often starts at a very young age. As children, we hear our mothers talk about themselves in terms of their appearance, their weight, their figure. This continues into adolescence as we become aware of our changing bodies and compare ourselves against our friends. Who has which curves and where. Then we start to notice others looking at (and commenting on) our bodies too.
As a scrawny child, I was bullied. Criticised for being too thin, condescended to for being slow and uncoordinated, I’ve been made to feel inferior, incapable, crap. All for being thin (and being a red head with a cooky name didn’t help either). The same girls & women who bullied me for my size were also on the receiving end of bullies for being overweight. They felt, I guess, it was their right to pass it on, down the chain to a weaker target.
Although my “physique” was a prerequisite for pursuing my passion of ballet, my lack of strength quickly showed me I didn’t have the stamina to stick out the often gruelling training. Delivered, as it was, by another generation of “thin” women who’d been lined up, checked out, judged, poked & prodded and bullied for their size, when they were in my shoes. They felt it their duty to point out a curve here, or a kg there to us girls, exposed as we were, as teenagers lined up in our ballet uniforms.
I distinctly remember one day, where they asked 3 of my friends to stay behind after class. They happened to be 3 of the taller and more developed girls (for ballet dancers that doesn’t mean much). They were told to start watching what they ate, and that their “body type” needed controlling. Looking back at pictures of those girls now, they were lean, strong & healthy, but not the waif like body type expected of ballet dancers. We were 12.
So what has all this to do with our obesity crisis?
When I started working in the fitness industry, I was struck by how positive the environment was. Passionate instructors, helping people feel strong, fit, healthy, powerful. This was everything my dance training should have been, but wasn’t. The hyper competitive body shaming of the dance world wasn’t to be found in my health club, but it was in the outside world, and it still is now. Everywhere we turn the world is telling us we’re no good.
By being so hyper fixated on our appearance compared to others, we’ve forgotten how to care for ourselves. How to be kind to ourselves and be active for wellness. How to eat for enjoyment and nourishment. How to unplug, relax, and rest to heal. How to listen to and connect with our loved ones. All this leaves us feeling empty, hungry, and unfulfilled. So we become hard on oursleves, we work more hours, eat more sugar & crap, drink more alcohol, stress more. Then our bodies outwardly reflect what’s going on inside. And by the time we stop to look around and take a breath it’s often too late.
So how do we fix the problem?
Start by being kind to yourself. Focus on being active for fun & energy, eat for nourishment & enjoyment, relax, rest & sleep, work less, stress less, love more! And over time, your body, will return to balance, the excess weight will be gone, and you will feel lighter in your heart. Then teach this to your kids! Break the cycle of competitive body shaming in your own home, and you’ll be all the better for it.