Let’s cut to it.
It’s time for my next interview in our non-diet approach to health & life series. If you are new to this series then you really need to head to the back story here first. If you are all over it, then keep reading my friend and….
Say hello to Leah Gilbert
Based in Newcastle NSW, Leah is the founder of Body Positive Athletes. She is an endurance athlete. A mum to two young children. A Specialist Fitness Trainer and Well. An all-round awesome advocate for Positive Body Image.
If there is one person that can show us the way on leading a healthy and happy life without diets, Leah Gilbert is that person.
I’m over the moon she found the time and said YES straight away to answer my questions
So let’s hear Leah’s thoughts…
What does a positive body image mean to you?
To me personally a positive body image means having a relationship with your body that is accepting, respectful and loving in nature. It is where you accept your body for how it presents to you at this very moment, are respectful of the amazing things it does for you on a daily basis, and where you understand and embrace the need to treat it with love and care.
What prompted you to start Body Positive Athletes?
I recall the concept coming upon me at a time where I was just starting out my advocacy work. I had, and still have, a passionate belief that we can change the nature of our nation’s health by inspiring people to enjoy movement as opposed to shaming them into exercise as a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’. I also believed (and still do) that there is far too much judgement and opinion being passed on a daily basis about our bodies and other people’s, and that it was time to create a concept for people to align with that sent a message of ‘everyone has the right to pursue their athletic dreams without a fear of judgement, and we will not judge any-BODY.’
It was still very much a concept when something I wrote became quite prominent and people wanted to associate with me on social media, so I formed the community group on Facebook and the rest is history! We now have 450-odd members from all over the World who celebrate the physical diversity of sport and athleticism on a daily basis. Because of the people in it, this is by far one of the most positive online environments I have ever been a part of and it is an honour to be associated with these awesome people.
We think you are fantastic role model for women in Australia. Who else do you respect or admire in promoting a positive body image to women?
Thank you for such kind words! Although she doesn’t do it directly, I think Australian Track Cyclist Anna Meares is a very powerful figure when it comes to having a positive relationship with your body. I honestly think every female, young or old should read her book. As an athlete, Anna is extremely in tune with her body and has a great respect for how it performs for her. As we know, it can go either way when it comes to a healthy body image in elite sporting arenas, and Anna is a great example of how it can be done in a positive manner.
For a whole host of reasons, the thought of exercise can be scary for many people who have a negative body image. For anyone who is feeling scared or hesitant, do you have any advice or perhaps one small step they can take to leading an active lifestyle?
Think deeply about whether there is an activity you have always wanted to do or master. Many people have what I call an athletic dream burning deep within but have not pursued for either fear of judgment or a belief that they do not have the body type suited to the sport. Some people just want to feel stronger within themselves or have more energy. Identify what your ‘victory’ is and afford yourself the support you would give a good friend who was on the same journey.
Make the decision to start this journey from a position of love and kindness for yourself – you are worthy of good health. Then do something you can imagine yourself doing every day, be it going for a walk, or riding your bike. Then smile, because you are ‘doing’.
We find using a mindfulness approach (including no diets!) helps people who have been on the dieting roller coaster. A big part of mindfulness and avoiding a dieting mentality is self-love and nurturing. Can you tell our SOL friends your favourite way to pamper yourself?
Being a full time carer for two children under 4 mixed with my own training and my advocacy work sees me do little things across the day or week to pamper myself. It might be reading about something that I am interested in or will gain knowledge from, taking the time to massage my calves as I put moisturiser on, or cooking myself a nourishing lunch and taking the time to sit and enjoy it, for me these are little things that help me feel like I have managed to care for myself as much as my family. I also have a big, hot, bubbly bath once a week on my own in absolute silence. It usually coincides with my last training day for the week and it feels like a total indulgence for me (you can tell its the simple things for me!).
If you were Prime Minister for the day (woo hoo!), what’s one thing you would implement to promote physical diversity in sport?
Oh yes please!!! I would withdraw all of the funding from the current scare campaigns out there about health and obesity, and fund a working group that consisted of people from a range of backgrounds who had an overall HAES ethos and everyday people who could provide insights into what would appeal to them when it came to participation in sports. I would also fund a campaign that based itself on inspiring people to ‘fall in love with sport again’ and focus on celebrating the physical diversity of sport and the ‘power of doing’.
I am actually doing research on this area at the moment and as it stands, none of the respondents currently participate in sport but 80% of them would like to take up a sport. 60% of these people cited a fear of judgement about their ability/size/fitness as a barrier to sports participation.
Can you tell us one thing no one knows about you?
I am actually quite introverted and a very quiet person at home.
Last one….What are you working on for the rest of the year?- what exciting things should we look out for?
I’m quite terrible in the sense that I don’t do a lot of planning, I tend to seize on opportunities as they arise, so it’s a little bit of a ‘who knows where I could end up’ thing with me! One thing that is certain is my training will stay on a base training phase until my pelvis is back 100%, so whilst I may do some races towards the end of the season, I am not putting too much pressure on myself.
My daughter Sachi starts Pre-School next year, so one thing that is certain is my determination to spend as much time with the children and enjoy the last couple of months before my baby girl’s wings grow that little bit bigger.
As for 2016, well, I think that will certainly be a ‘watch this space’ deal!!
It’s so refreshing to hear about exercise in a way that is just so positive.
In this “get a bikini body” fitness articles season, it’s a definitely a whole lot more REAL, meaningful and KIND.
To find out more about Leah’s work, you should head to the Body Positive Athletes blog here.
Keen to read more?
If you missed the past interviews and you WANT MORE OF THIS, then you might be interested in checking out the thoughts of:
- Magnus Fridh, Mindfulness App Developer, Sweden
- Lauren Fowler, Registered Dietitian, United States
- Julie Goodwin, Celebrity Cook, Australia
- Fiona Willer, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Australia
- Dr Linda Bacon, Nutrition Professor & Researcher, United States
- Stephanie Alexander AO, Celebrity Cook, Australia
- Sarah McMahon, Clinical Psychologist, Australia
- Kerry Beake, Nutritionist & Coach, Australia