Blue Mountains Hike

Health: Why I Love #Fitspo

I read an article in the Guardian this week got me pretty mad. In it the writer tried to go in for some kind of moral panic about the #fitspo trend, and how it wasn’t too far off from the dangerous, pro-anna #thinspo hashtag. I immediately wanted to write an angry blog post refuting all the article’s points but instead I thought it would be a lot more productive to write about why I love #fitspo instead and why I actually think it’s great for women, if they should so choose to follow it.

Getting my yoga on

My first real brush with fitspo happened around this time last year when I found myself working with a very enthusiastic follower of all things exercising and clean eating. Pretty soon our whole team was sharing mason jar breakfast ideas and protean ball recipes. I live in Melbourne so of course we’re all insufferable hipsters but I was so pleasantly surprised to see a whole group of women banding together over something so positive instead of the usual complaining about our weight and the latest restrictive diet we all wanted to try.

Here’s the thing, I’ve always been pretty slim and pretty fit but I realise now that I never really understood the basics of nutrition and exercise until I started this fitness journey, all inspired by some of my favourite Instagrammers. Where I once avoided strenuous physical exercise in favour of my daily cycle ride and a little bit of pilates, now I’m eagerly running to my boxing and bootcamp sessions every week. Where I once ate an OK diet, now I think about food in terms of how much nutrition and nourishment it will give instead of how many calories. And I’m so much happier for it. I can’t even explain how much my overall wellbeing and mental attitude has changed now that I’m serious about my health and fitness.

Look how high I can Jump!

Could some women, particularly those recovering from eating disorders take #fitspo too far? Of course they could and my heart goes out to anyone suffering like that. But fitspo has some great positive messages that the majority of women really need to hear. We’ve been (mostly) raised in a society where being skinny is what matters and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a female friend say they’re worried that too much exercise will make them bulk up and look unfeminine. Fitspo empowers women to take control of their own health and to question the ridiculous skinny aesthetic that is pushed on us by fashion companies and the media. And of course the whole movement has come from social media. It’s made by women, for women and we get to choose what messages we want to see by voting with likes. Are the incredibly toned bodies on Instagram also unrealistic? Yes perhaps they are, but I personally think it’s a lot better to strive for a strong and healthy body rather than try and look like a 14 year old runway model.

Another thing that makes me sad is the incredible negativity put towards bloggers like The Food Babe. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to people who have harassed her so much, they’ve been banned from her page. Vani Deva Hari is an American blogger who campaigns for cleaner eating and gets constantly derided for her unscientific, unprovable claims. I don’t understand why some people are so insistent on tearing someone down who is just trying to challenge the additive-filled, junk food diet that is being pushed on us by food companies. OK so she’s not a scientist. I don’t think it takes science to see that eating natural whole foods is best and that big food companies care about profit more than our health. Anything that encourages people to think more critically about the foods being pushed on them and making more mindful decisions about their eating habits it a great thing in my opinion.

IMG_4379

And I love headstands!

Anyway I did promise that this was going to be a positive article so thought I’d end on a short list of the biggest things that have made a difference to me health this past year:

  • Ordering a weekly veggie box. Not only is my fridge always full of healthy food now with no extra effort from me, I actually help stop waste in the farming system by buying the misshapen veggies that supermarkets refuse. Oh and local farmers get a fair price for them. Double bonus!
  • Working with a trainer. I now attend an outdoor fitness group along with my husband and some friends. Having someone to push you and the support of your peers really has a huge effect on how hard you work.
  • Eating more mindfully. My diet has changed so much now I think about what I’m putting in rather than what I’m cutting out. Brown rice, pasta and quinoa have replaced those low fat rice crackers and bread. And I treat myself regularly too!
  • Paying attention to my stress. I can now see that stress was the number one barrier to better health because when you’re body is wasting energy on worrying, there’s not enough left for anything else. Regular yoga, meditation and more smiling have helped me let go of all that worry and focus on the positive.

Natalie x

Advertisements

Travel: The Best Walks in the Grampians

What is it that makes us want to climb mountains? It’s a really universal urge, I feel. I’m getting really into hiking lately, partly inspired by my fitness focus (I’ve been all about the bootcamp, surprisingly). Not to mention that I happen to live in such a beautiful place, surrounded by gorgeous walks. This weekend was my second trip to the Grampians and this time we focused on staying to the south and centre, rather than the north.

Grampians Mt Rosea

On Sunday we spent the day clambering up Mt Rosea, which is one of the longer and more challenging day hikes in the Grampians National Park. I’d really recommend this for anyone looking for a more challenging walk away from the crowds. We started by heading up Stony Creek Road from the Mt Rosea carpark, which is definitely the best direction to challenge this loop as you get to clamber up and then take an easier walk down again. It should take around 2 hours to reach the top via the Gate of the East Wind. Any aches and grumbles will soon be silenced by the unbelievable views that greet you once you reach the top. These are widely agreed to be among the best in the Grampians and the great news is that the difficult climb means you’ll get to enjoy them in peace, without the crowds of families that can be found on some of the easier walks.

DSC_0140

DSC_0141

From the top, you need to make sure you turn left from the summit towards Burma Track, an old 4WD track. Be careful though as the signage isn’t great and the path itself is a little overgrown. Just make sure you turn left at any intersection and you’ll reach your original destination eventually. Also I came pretty close to being bitten by a snake, so watch your feet! After jumping at a noise, I turned to notice a large black snake slithering in the other direction. I couldn’t help but wonder how far away the nearest snake bite kit would be.

Other walks I really recommend include:

  • Mt Sturgeon for panoramic views to the south
  • Wonderland Carpark to the Pinnacle for iconic views and a challenging climb
  • Mt Difficult for a really challenging walk with waterfalls

DSC_0087

DSC_0050

DSC_0144

DSC_0042

DSC_0049

Blog: London Fields Fitness Studio

Being a freelancer in London, I have found the high cost and inflexibility of most London gyms a significant barrier in my quest to get fit and maintain a healthy exercise schedule. That is why I couldn’t resist a small post on this amazing fitness studio under the railway arches in London Fields.

Last night fellow OhDearism writer Damien Clarkson suggested that we try out a yoga class and a quick Google search pointed us to a studio in London Fields. On meeting where we thought the studio was, however, we found ourselves completely lost and at the mercy of the dodgy GPS on our phones. Luckily we noticed a sign for a fitness studio and were ushered in by a lovely and enthusiastic fitness instructor called Katy who asked us if we’d ever been to the class before. Assuming that we were in the right place, Damien started explaining his experience with yoga to the lovely lady who nodded along enthusiastically.

As we gathered around for the class, Katy had us run laps of the studio, causing myself and Damien to exchange concerned glances. What kind of yoga class starts with running? As we were forced to run laps punching the air and doing side steps, we couldn’t help but realise we were clearly in the wrong class and burst into giggles. Our laughs quickly faded as Katy had us doing hard-core circuit exercises in between sprints outside in the rain. Yes, these two yoga lovers had found themselves in a circuit training class, which by the end had us near tears and unable to move our limbs.

Although it was ridiculously difficult, the fact that Katy had me working harder than I have in years along with her great positive encouragement meant I really enjoyed myself. Also, as the class was only £5 and you can come to as many or few as you like, this is probably the best value for money workout I’ve ever had. And luckily for Damien, they do yoga on other days, so there is something for everyone. If you’re looking to get fit in the new year and you live in East London, you should definitely check it out. They even have a space at the back where you can put your bike, which made me smile as this is of course East London we are talking about – the hipsters need somewhere to put their bikes!