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self esteem

Life Wellbeing

Nine reasons to workout (that don’t include a bikini body)

March 19, 2016

One of the things I loved the most when I first started working out was the massive rush of endorphins I felt after every session. I was genuinely surprised by the change in my energy levels and the increase in my mood, and this kept me going night after night when I might otherwise have thrown in the towel. After years of losing interest in the gym when I didn’t see instant physical results, this change of mindset has made all the difference when it came to sticking at it – and funnily enough, the physical changes followed as soon as I stopped caring about them so much.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m out to get fit, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t important. I love watching my body changing. I love seeing hints of muscle in my arms, the feeling of clothes fitting that had been off-limits all year, craving banana and cashew nut smoothies rather than a coke. But more than all of that, and the fundamental difference this time round, I love the way I feel. I feel light. I wake up on the weekend ready to go, my mind is focused. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and that’s where the addiction to fitness lies for me.

So if you’re looking for reasons to get back to the gym that don’t include shaping up for summer, I’ve listed a few of my favourites! And if you happen to drop a few pounds whilst you’re there? Well congratulations you multi-tasker, you.

Nine reasons to workout – that don’t include a bikini body

Improve your mental health
I’d bought a SAD lamp last year convinced the dark nights were getting me down. After hours of googling and fretting over why I felt so damn low and tired all the time, I concluded it must be a lack of vitamin D and logged on to lumie.com to order myself some bright white light. I honestly believe Lumie lamps are great, but luckily for me it has sat untouched in the corner of my bedroom since last year.

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health, and regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication – without the side-effects – and maintaining your regime can prevent relapse. That’s a pretty good reason to work up a sweat if you ask me.

Increase your energy levels
After an eight hour day of tackling client meetings and creative briefs, I’m usually just about ready to drop. I’ve been known to sleep on a weekend until it’s dark and my energy levels never really moved far above ‘awake’. These days I’m home from yoga before 11am on a Saturday morning, and that in itself is quite frankly a miracle. Whilst I can’t attribute this change solely to exercise (cutting out the sharing bag of chocolate on a Friday evening plays its part) I do know that working out regularly will fight fatigue and ward off sluggish feelings. NHS Choices suggests that ‘even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.’

Improve your focus
Swap your early morning caffeine for some pre-work cardio and avoid the lull you get when the effects of the latte wear off. A report from the University of Illinois found that aerobic exercise in particular may improve immediate and long-term functioning of the brain in regions relating to attention. Handy if you have a long presentation to sit through.

Ramp up your sex drive
Ahem. Proven to improve sex drive in both men and women, an intense cardio session can significantly enhance physiological sexual arousal. A good case to schedule a post work trip to the gym, then. Plus the boost in body image and confidence that comes from regularly working out can’t help when it comes to baring all.

Boost your self-esteem
Which leads us on to body image. I can’t stress enough just how effective exercise is in improving our perception of ourselves. Even the simple act of turning up to the gym after a long day shows you’re taking charge of your body and your mind, and that in itself is seriously empowering.

Justify your ever-expanding lycra collection
Just saying.

Get to know your body
It seems strange now, but when I started working out I wasn’t at all aware how much weight I’d put on or how often I was covering up in baggy clothes and hiding from the world. I still looked presentable, if I do say so myself, in oversized COS and Whistles turtle necks, so no alarm bells rang for a long time. When I finally admitted to myself that I was unhappy with my lifestyle and the fact my confidence had fallen off of a cliff, it was a bit of a shock.

These days I feel far more in tune with my body. I’m starting to embrace the bits I can’t change, I recognise when PMS is making an appearance (yes, there is an app for that), and I don’t stress when I put on a pound or two because I know I can lose it again. Going to the gym makes you focus on yourself and on your whole body – how it feels at certain times of the month, how far you can push it in a yoga class – and I love this sudden awareness.

Realise how strong you are
Realising your own strength is a similarly amazing feeling. Lifting a set of weights you never thought you’d get off the ground feels really satisfying, and reminds you your body isn’t just there to look pretty.

General positive vibes
You know the old Instagram saying… ‘I really regretted that workout’ said no one, ever.

What keeps you motivated to exercise? Is it mainly to see a physical change or for the way it makes you feel?

Emma x

Life

A new type of role model

August 5, 2012

As a 24 year old girl living in London, I’m bombarded with hundreds of images on a daily basis telling me I should be thinner, prettier, and essentially a better version of myself. From high-fashion billboards featuring size zero models staring seductively into the camera, to features in magazines gushing about how fantastic a certain celeb looks now they can fit into that sample size dress, the message is constantly hammered home that thin, leggy and glamorous is ‘beautiful’.

Considering I have a degree in Advertising you’d think I’d have some level of immunity towards these messages, being fully aware of how they’re put together, the photoshopping methods used and the fact that they’re all just a clever marketing ploy. But somehow, I’m always left feeling somewhat inadequate after watching Gisele prance around a beach in a bikini. If even I’m left feeling this way, imagine the thousands of girls who take advertising at it’s word – that you really could be more ‘beautiful’ if you just buy this product.
 
I wrote a dissertation in my final year of uni on the effects of using size zero models in advertising, something that as a young woman felt incredibly relevant to me. After interviewing hundreds of students using images of size zero catwalk models versus healthy, normal women, the results were virtually unanimous. Almost every single male scored the ‘healthy’ sized women as being more attractive to them than the size zero models, whereas the vast majority of women did exactly the opposite. So, guys prefer curves whilst girls desperately try to diet and rid themselves of them. Go figure.
 
Even knowing all of this, I still feel guilty when I tuck into a burger or treat myself to a chocolate bar (okay, so it might be family size but still), and tell myself most days that I really must start my diet tomorrow. Being a healthy size 10 I’m by no means overweight, but can’t seem to shift the feeling that I’d somehow be much better off losing a few pounds.
 
I’ve always been attracted to the way that clothes seem to hang off of catwalk models, how elegant and expensive celebrities look with their thin arms and lean, endless legs. Looking in the mirror at myself in my favourite pastel skinnies, my legs seem short and dumpy in comparison, and my boobs always seem to get in the way of the ‘clothes hanger’ effect. 
 
So why am I, like thousands of other young women, doing this to myself? My boyfriend constantly tells me how beautiful I am, how he loves my body and wouldn’t want me to change (he panics at the thought of my boobs going anywhere), and my friends and colleagues are always complementing me on my style (what, this old thing?). It seems I’ve been caught up like so many others in a society that takes it’s ‘norms’ from movie stars, models, and unrealistic ideals generated by heavily airbrushed advertising campaigns.
 
Sat on my sofa last night however, something happened. Watching the Olympics whilst guiltily tucking into a box of Maltesers, I found a new role model. Someone that is young, healthy, motivational, inspirational, hard-working, dedicated, and shock horror – not a stick insect. And it seems I’m not alone. Twitter seemed to come alive with comments echoing exactly how I was feeling. Why are we all watching TOWIE and MIC, idolising catwalk models and pretty faces that do nothing more than strut down a runway? On the television right in front of us is someone who truly deserves our respect – who gives us something to strive towards and proves to us that with hard work and determination you can achieve your goals, and that guess what – it’s not all about what you look like! Jessica Ennis has shown a generation of young women that there’s more to life than reality tv, dieting, and obsessing over your appearance. Here is an absolutely beautiful woman with a strong, athletic body (and may I add the amount of men I have heard remark how hot/fit/smokin’ she is is quickly adding up). She may not have bony arms and legs and a lollipop head like many other women we’ve come to regard as ‘aspirational’, but with that gold medal hanging around her neck, I doubt she gives a ****. 
 
Let’s hope that the next generation of young girls can take something from this, and that a new type of role model has emerged out of the games. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a run…