All I wanted for Christmas was recovery


Supporting clients with Eating Disorders at Christmas:
‘Feed your business, whilst nourishing those who invest in it’

By Leah


Leah and Carly at *potentially* the final spin class of 2020!

For all of us, it’s Christmas…

OH JOY TO THE WORLD!

Yet for some, it’s Christmas with an Eating Disorder…

”Get me OFF this world!”


From a personal perspective, December & January were the worst months to live with anorexia. It was when I restricted to extremes, and wholeheartedly exercised for punishment.

YOU, and your role as a fitness professional is so important, especially at this time.

So how CAN you support your clients in a fitness setting at Christmas? (Whether or not they have an Eating Disorder). 


  • Remind your clients this is JUST another month, in the run up to JUST another day. The more you normalise this time of year, the less pressure those with eating disorders will feel to restrict and/or exercise more.
  • Be careful with your language. I always say this, but it’s even more important right now, as we’re plagued with guilt over our food choices, and pressure over movement. We can’t get away from this in many places. So make your space an extra safe one. 
  • Choosing to bring chocolates and Prosecco to class? DELICIOUS… but best not to pressurise or question the members of your class who CHOOSE not to consume them. This may be an eating disorder based choice, but it’s one they need to do to feel safe. Eating a single chocolate when you have an Eating Disorder can dictate and trigger your WHOLE DAY and may result in a decrease in daily overall food consumption.

    To you it’s “just a chocolate at Christmas”. To them it’s so much more. 
  • Are others in your class upping the diet culture Christmas chat? Validate what they’re saying (we’ve ALL grown up listening and embedding this sh*t into our rhetoric) before gently reminding them this isn’t what you or your classes are about. Doing this not only helps those with ED’s. It helps ALL OF US change the ‘norm’. If more of us do this, the better chance we have of creating a NEW NORM.

Leah decorating the tree in December 2019 – back when we were filled with hope for the new 2020 year!!

  • Think about the Christmas/New Year ‘offers’ you create. 12% of gym members join in January and most have gone by February. Question why this is. Movement is a gift you can offer all year, not just in the months the patriarchy tells us to. Feed your business while nourishing those that invest in it.
  • If you’re worried. Concerned. Have a gut feeling you just want to…reach out. Do it! (Look out for a blog post in January delving more into this!)
    A simple “Are you okay?” might be followed by a quick, sharp “Yes I’m fine”. But it might also be the 3 words someone needs to hear more than ever.

    You can’t change this for them. But you can be there with them. 
  • Sometimes, investing in you (online and offline) won’t be about the workout. It won’t even be about the movement. It’ll be about leaving a likely tense environment at home to move with people who don’t know the pain of what’s going on. Perhaps they’ve screamed at their partner over a crumpet that morning. Or lied to their mother in despair the night before. See them. Hear them. But also just ‘be’ with them and hold that space for them. 
  • Go easy on yourself too. There are SO MANY possible triggers for those with ED’s it’s INEVITABLE you’ll be unsure. Trust me, you can’t get it wrong. You can only learn from the times when something doesn’t feel quite…right.

    I’m so grateful you’re here. We’re so lucky to have you here!

Leah and one of her brilliant Sweat Sisters!
December 2019

One thing you could do for me this Christmas?

Spend the tiny time it takes you to open and eat your advent chocolate to think of one way you can create ‘safety’ for you clients this Christmas.

Thank you! From me. And from them.



*This is purely experienced based. Please refer or speak to professionals if you have concerns over a client and always remain within your professional remit.

For their safety, but also for YOURS!*


WorkEDout turns ONE!

October 2020


May 2019: The first seeds of workEDout are born…via WhatsApp (obviously!)

It’s been a YEAR since we launched WorkEDout.

A year since a coffee chat turned into a clear cut (ISH!?) campaign.

So! What have we learnt so far?!


1. We don’t know everything. We’ll NEVER know everything. We’re learning alongside all the wonderful people who interact, engage, listen and respond to workEDout. Everytime we open a seemingly brief conversation, it opens up MANY more and for this we’re so grateful. Our experiences AND your experiences…that’s how we learn, right?

2. People want to talk. People want to listen. People WANT TO LEARN. Professionals. Sufferers. PT’s. Clients. Friends. Strangers. This conversation has been quiet or non-existent for SO long, yet give people ‘permission’ and a means to communicate…and many will!

3. Campaign co-founders need coffee.

4. Campaign co-founders need cake.

5. Campaign co-founders CONSISTENTLY NEED BOTH COFFEE AND CAKE.


A brief summary of workEDout’s first year!

6. My recovery is on-going. My recovery will always be on-going. My relationship with food, exercise and body image continues to change and grow, and I hope that workEDout and our story reflects and brings more understanding to those changes. For us, for me and for you!

7. Running a campaign with someone else is better than running it alone. When one is short of time, the other takes time. When one is tired of life, the other gives them life! When one talks too much…the other tells them “enough”. It. Just. Works… and we’re just happier for it!

8. The best plan is no plan. The best structure is YOUR structure. The best pressure is no pressure. Who knows where workEDout will go, who knew where workEDout would go (Russian TV FFS?!?!)


We’ve always said…if we can reach one person. Make them feel heard, understood and/or able to speak out to someone they trust and say…

“I’ve got this thing I want to share with you”


(February 2019 – The coffee/cake date where Leah told Carly about her eating disorder history)

…workEDout has, and will continue to achieve what it set out to do. From when I first shared my story with Carly in a chocolate shop nearly two years ago…to when we first shared our story with you (now a whole year ago!)..we just want to say a big ol’ THANKS really!


Are you ready for year two? No doubt…it’ll be unprecedented…(Ok. Seriously I’ll stop using that word now).

PROMISE.

WorkEDout’s initial branding designs

By Leah

From ED to PT?

July 2020

By Leah

So, I’ve signed up to do my Level 3 Personal Training qualification.

WHAT.

How on EARTH did I get here? (Apart from MANY hospital based treacle tarts and MANY pleas to the ‘sane’ members of society…that I was in fact…also sane)

Well. This will be a summary. That can’t be called a summary. Because, it likely won’t be short.

I didn’t think I’d ever be in recovery from my eating disorder. At first, I didn’t think I’d survive it at all, but after my final admission I was able to regain aspects of my physical health, allowing me the first real opportunity to work on my mind, once discharged. Currently, eating disorder units tend to base their admissions/discharges on weight, meaning people often leave the hospital with their mind and body in two very different places.

I really saw it as my last chance. If I didn’t die from it, I genuinely believed I would spend my life in and out of hospital, and the longer I lived with it, the more ingrained it became. It was my identity, and I wholeheartedly lived up to being ‘the anorexic’. It gave me purpose in my otherwise empty life.


While regaining physical health is essential to recovery, it’s one piece of an intricate puzzle and with my ‘new larger’ body I’d never felt so disconnected from it. I had no idea what it needed. No idea what it liked. No idea of the person within it. I just knew I was mostly a miserable sarcastic b****. That part of me…remains!

My recovery care plan had been full of prescriptions, charts and graphs. I had been ‘mapped’ to an agreed weight (which was still not where my body needed or wanted to be), and now I’d reached it and been discharged, I felt like the connection between my body and mind had never been more disjointed.

I didn’t even hate my body before, but I really felt like I did now.

I moved back to Bristol in September 2017. It was my last chance at a ‘new life’.

Since I was 18, this was all I’d done. Move, start again, re-learn, get sick, be admitted, be discharged, move, start again… I was a revolving door patient…maybe it was the £600 a night room I was lucky enough to have been given or maybe recovery was just something I’d never see.

I started trying to re-integrate things back into my life that I hadn’t attempted before. Exercise was high on my list. Millennials exercise and drink coffee right!? I wanted in!

Yet, exercise was the most dangerous re-integration of them all (and combined with coffee…it turned into the most expensive!!)  

The start of a sweat sister friendship!

All exercise had ever been to me was punishment. It was punishing at school when I was forced to go swimming on my first period when I didn’t have a clue how to ‘work’ a tampon. Punishing when I was taught how each piece of gym equipment could help me burn the exact amount of calories to sweat off those ‘break-time sausage sandwiches’. Punishing when I was plagued with gym adverts at the start of University reminding me that a membership would help me fight off the inevitable ‘Freshers Flump’. Punishing in the grips of my eating disorder when it complimented starvation in the quest for thinness.

Therefore, when a friend suggested I attended a Discoaerobics class with her, I was understandably reluctant, and thought to myself ‘OH HERE WE GO AGAIN!’

What was the point? My mind had never been able to experience exercise in any sort of positive way, and in my opinion, for my own safety, I was better off without it altogether. Yet, I hadn’t initially told any of my ‘new’ friends about my past, so in an attempt to fit in I went along.

I’ll never forget that first class. I’ll never forget the alien feeling of moving my body because it felt good, rather than moving it in an attempt to manipulate my weight. In fact, I didn’t even think about my weight. For that whole 45 minutes, it didn’t matter.

For once, I didn’t feel small and insignificant. For once, I didn’t want to feel small.

My first Discoaerobics class with Carly – Hamilton House, Bristol
I was very early in recovery at this time.

The only thing that mattered was that my body was functional enough to allow me to move safely. It felt…freeing. When most people my age were stumbling home from their Friday night at 4am with a doner (shout out to Harriett who doesn’t “do doner”), I was on a high from dancing around a room for 45 minutes and being home and in bed by 8pm. I didn’t care. I felt blissfully happy!

Now that I was tentatively nourishing my body, I was able to continue attending Discoaerobics and feel the benefits that joyful movement brought. Before, sweat had always been a sign of calories leaving my body. Now it felt…different, this ‘new’ sweat felt…exhilarating…exciting…addictive…

This addiction made me want more, and Carly’s other classes provided me with this option. Yet, I knew this was dangerous, I knew I was dipping my toe into triggering territory. Having come so far, and risked so much, I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize my shaky recovery.

So I made the decision to open up about my anorexia. If exercise was something I wanted in my life, I had to be honest with the person I was going to engage in it with. I had to lay my cards on the chocolate shop table and openly admit I had never know how to safety and intuitively move my body.

“What do you like doing?” She had asked me.

I honestly had no idea.


I’d never before considered what I might like, as all my movement had been dictated to me through others, through the lens of diet culture. It had always been a means to an end.

Carly never judged me. She never claimed to understand, but more than she’ll ever know…she really did. She never made me feel like I couldn’t do what everyone else in the class could do, just because she knew I had a mind that had wanted to punish, and a body that had long been punished.

Her classes brought me friends, community, an Oat Flat White addiction, (I’M A MILLENIAL!) laughter, understanding…connection…to each other and our mutual experience, but also a connection between my own body and mind. The exact link I’d needed all along; the one which finally enabled me to understand, respect and listen to my body for the very first time.

It wasn’t about what we did; it was about how we felt…what we needed. It wasn’t about punishing our bodies; it was about listening to them.

Carly’s Sweat, Stretch and Glow class – Sweaty Betty studio, Bristol

It didn’t matter where we’d come from…what we did outside of those classes. We could have been anyone, from anywhere. In those moments, we were just happy little humans, revelling in our own low brow humour, lack of counting abilities, and collective endorphins.

This post was meant to be about why I want to be a PT. I’m laughing…because I’m not even sure (in all these words!) if I’ve actually fulfilled that aim. I suppose I’ll sum it up, probably leave you confused and exhausted (if you’ve even survived this far) and equipped with the reminder to never again read one of my blog posts. But hey, I wrote this for me too.

In my 7-year battle with anorexia, I had worked to heal my body; I had worked to heal my mind. But I had never created a connection between the two. Carly’s belief in me, combined with the ethos behind her classes, the incredible community we’re a part of, and the joyful, intuitive movement we engage in, did this for me and it changed the face of my recovery.

Why do I want to be a PT?

Because maybe…just maybe… I could give this to someone else too.

F45 Bristol team training

Isolation

April 2020

By Leah

When we were told we had to isolate ourselves, avoid family and friends, social gatherings and social connections; there was a collective sense of fear and distress amongst us.

We’re humans. We’ve evolved into social beings. Some require it more than others, but essentially it is at the core of our humanity, and we need each other for psychological survival.

However, in the midst of my eating disorder, isolation was what I strived for. I needed it. By being isolated, I could allow my eating disorder in.

My anorexia thrived off loneliness and segregation in an attempt to be my only, and my best friend. I avoided friends, family, eating with others, exercising with others…any form of community or gathering I actively opted out of.

I needed to feed my eating disorder, rather than feed myself.

As a result, social distancing is something I am very used to.

In contrast, in recovery it’s the people and the connections that I have made that helped me recover, and keep me well.

I had to go out of my comfort zone and put myself in situations, which at the time felt impossible. Eating with others, allowing others to make meals for me, opening up to others about my struggles with exercise…essentially I had to let people in, so I could get anorexia out. I had to stop trusting the illness, and start trusting the people who really loved and cared about me, and ultimately put trust in myself.

Since being both in recovery and in the best physical and mental health I have ever been in, I’ve always had these people around me. Checking in, being aware, and making sure that the choices and the life I am living is mine and not anorexia’s.

Yet, I’ve had this niggling fear that my recovery, and my happiness is based on those around me, on the life I’ve created and the people in my life that make me happy, and want me to be well. I’ve actively avoided considering whether my recovery is based on external factors, rather than my internal being. I’m safe eating with others and exercising with others. I can let them take control, allow them to look out for me, and keep me safe.

Suddenly, for the first time since being unwell, I am alone again.

I don’t have these people in close proximity. I don’t have many of the things that I believe are the scaffolds of my recovery. The external factors have temporarily gone, and I finally have to sit with my internal ones.

Am I well because of my friends? My family? Those that love and care about me?

Am I well because of the things I am passionate about?

Am I well because I surround myself with people who are good for me?

Am I well because of the life I have created?

People come, people go, situations change, time passes…ultimately external factors are out of my control, and I know I can’t base my recovery on them. Perhaps this is where my fear lies.

So, am I well because of something deeper? Something internal. Something which is stable and permanent, and has longevity.

I feared a time like this. I never wanted to be alone again.

But as this goes on, and the dust settles and we all find a new level of norm. I’m realising I actually need this time. I can’t base my recovery on others, on situations, on factors outside of my control.

I need this time to know I’m well on my own.

RecoverED?

By Leah

workEDout is made up of Carly and I. A fitness professional, and an eating disorder survivor. I am the latter, and calling myself a survivor rather than a sufferer still feels surreal. It’s not something I ever imagined myself being. In fact, I thought anorexia and I would be best of friends for the rest of my (likely) limited days.

If I did ever imagine myself in recovery, I thought I’d be running a mile from anything eating disorder related.

“If I recover, I will never utter the word anorexia again”

I wanted shot of it. I wanted out. And if that meant death, then so be it. If that meant life, then god forbid if anyone ever mentioned it again I’d throw my doughnut at them…because recovery meant eating doughnuts all day long right?

Little did I know, that if I was ever lucky enough to experience this illusive thing they named ‘recovery’ I’d wake up every day not just with a incredible functioning body, but also with a burning desire to talk.

workEDout is the product of one of those talks. For me, recovery isn’t just about moving on, getting on with your life and forgetting what happened. It’s about talking, sharing, learning and developing in ways that can support and comfort those who are where I was. 

I got ill aged 19. Anorexia took five whole years away from me. And every single day of that I was bitter, lost and full of regret. I swore I’d never be the same. That I’d never get over what had happened. That I’d never value life or myself ever again.

Grief. Anguish. Sadness. Pain. Anger. 

I believed all of these emotions would define and leave me crippled in a life that anorexia controlled, whether it was directly killing me, or just living quietly beside me.

And yet…as I got better, and defied the silence…I gained back that control.

Yes, anorexia plagued my life for five horrific years, but I wouldn’t change a day of it. What I’ve learnt and what I’ve gained both mentally and physically is worth every single one of those 1,825 +/- days.   

workEDout is more than a passion project for me. It’s proof that from suffering comes solace. From pain comes growth. And from experience comes change.

Regret? Never.

How can I regret what happened when I have a life and a purpose that I never had before?

Recovery is not easy
Recovery is not what you imagine
Recovery is not being in love with your body 100% of the time
Recovery is not being happy every single day
Recovery is not just about food and weight
Recovery is not avoiding what you went through
Recovery is not going back to the person you used to be

Recovery is appreciating your functioning heart
Recovery is learning to love you for you
Recovery is sitting with discomfort
Recovery is strong friendships
Recovery is open conversations
Recovery is spontaneous decisions
Recovery is internal and external growth
Recovery is about gaining life
Recovery is and will continue to be the best choice I have ever made.