‘We will walk through blazing fires and come out gold, having learned more about compassion, our need for touch, the vitality of the words ‘I love you’. We will have realised all the money in the World cannot save us. Maybe we see this as a chance for rebirth. To stand in the sun and say “We are humbled and we will learn”.
I write this from my home – sat in leggings and slippers, my hair scraped back off my face. Outside the streets are quiet (a first for my little central London location), however inside, in the little device sat next to my left hand the noise is deafening. ‘Get summer shredded’, ‘I’m terrified of packing on the quarantine pounds’, a bombardment of perfect quarantine images; women and men intent on proving something even at a distance.
I do not say this as someone outside of this bubble of perfection, quarantine or not I can admit I adhere and strive towards these expectations, however, the time to stop and breathe has provided me with space to consider what this is doing to me and its purpose.
When it comes to exercise I’ve always struggled to keep a balance, it baffled me how this version of ‘recovery’ seemed to be heralded as a positive character trait. ‘You’re so good’ people say, as if they’ve forgotten that only a few years ago, when I was waking at 5am to do star jumps in my room, this was seen as disordered and a compulsion. Now, getting up to do a 5am exercise class is seen as virtuous. This has really hit me since the pandemic and since we became locked in our homes. We have mourned so much, however something we seem to be obsessed by is how to keep up our rigorous exercise regimes.
When did a hobby switch to compulsion and when did this become ‘normal’? So many friends have spoken of shame and extreme guilt around not exercising daily. I get it, of course I do, but just like I worry when people see ordering a salad with dressing on the side as a sign of virtue, I worry over how this attitude to exercise has been normalised.
I will not sit here and tell you not to take that class, or to just lie on your sofa all day, I do not think it is my place to tell you what to do in the slightest. However, I will turn to those who say ‘no excuses’ and say; exercise should be something you want to do, you should enjoy it, it should NOT be something you’re searching for a way out of and if it is, you’ve probably not found your ‘thing’ yet.
As a trainer (along side my acting/modelling career) I often tell people that if they don’t enjoy my classes that’s fine, I’d rather they didn’t come, not because I don’t want to see them, but because I’d rather they found a form of exercise that brings them joy. I ask them to think about why they do it. It would be a bare faced lie to say part of my reason for training is not aesthetic, however, there has to be more to it.
Your training should not be motivated by the amount of likes you might get for your flat stomach, or from a place of self hatred, it’s not worth it.
We live in a time when we are bombarded by perfection and perfect image is seen to equate success and happiness. Let me tell you a secret; all of the DM slides in the World for the curated life will not make you happy. If a task master in your head is telling you that you are not worthy because you have not exercised or you cannot eat until you’ve achieved a certain amount of steps, step back and realise THIS IS NOT NORMAL. Do not accept this narrative, you are worth so much more.
My recovery from anorexia involved exercise, it involved building a resilience both mentally and physically. However, at the core of my recovery lay the foundations of a new life which I’ve slowly built upon over the past 5 years. Bricks of people I love, a career that constantly excites me and a lust for life built this recovery.
Some days my stomach seems flat, others it does not. There are bigger things to focus on. So, take a moment to remember everything you are other than the perfect body: You will realise you are more than the gap between your legs or the cage of bones you have built. You are the stories you will tell, the lovers you will have, the ice cream you will eat, you are the adventures you will plan, the nights you spend dancing, the daughter who needs to be strong, the tears you will weep, the people you will love, the home team who will drag you over the finish line, the days of theatre, the meals out, the meals in, the people you hate, the people you love, the repetitive disasters that will cause your friends to groan, the moments of loneliness, the days of sheer elation, the success, the failure, the sparkle to your eyes, the passion over politics, the words you write, the fights, but mostly the love.