It wasn't long into my career in the booming fitness industry I discovered there was an abundance of anxieties that people had about exercise.
To me, this seemed like lunacy. How is it possible people are anxious about one of the very things our bodies are meant to do - move?
It was a huge cross-section of people this angst and anxiety affected - differing race, sexuality, body shape, social or cultural backgrounds. But the population that seemed to be most distressed by the need to exercise were females.
To believe we can do something, to believe we can achieve something, it has to appear real.
Female fitness is photoshopped. It's over-photoshopped. No matter what medium you are looking at or which media forum you are perusing, there is no denying female fitness is photoshopped beyond being anything but real.
And I understand advertisers feel the need to employ picture-perfect models assembled in minimal active wear, a pair of sparkly shoes, faultless hair and make-up, and digitally enhanced abdominals to help them sell. But, actually, more people would buy into the products they're selling if they appeared more real to the greater population.
Put a sweaty Susan attacking a good old deadlift, with messed up hair, a glowing red face, and beadlets of visible sweat on a magazine page or online advertorial and so many more of us would think 'if she can, then I can too'.
It can be so disheartening when I meet clients for the first time and I ask them what their goals are. At least 90 per cent of them want to change how they look.
This can be presented in many ways - including the desire to have the perfect beach body, to simply just lose weight, to get rid of bat wings or muffin tops, or to firm up the buns. And I will bluntly say that this comes as a direct result of what the media portrays we need to have in order to be happy and to be 'fit'.
In my opinion, being healthy should not be about how you look. Instead, it should be about how you feel - both physically and emotionally. If you're feeling a little sluggish then perhaps you need to try a eliminate a type of food from your diet. If you're feeling a little stiff then perhaps you need to move more. If you're feeling like your clothes are a little tighter than they were six months ago then perhaps you need clean up your eating a little. If you're feeling like you've lost some strength or fitness then perhaps you need to add another exercise day into your week. If you're feeling a tad stressed then maybe you need to reduce foods that could be causing your body to stress (i.e. coffee and sugar) and embark in some invigorating exercise that'll allow some calmness to overcome you.
We need to become intuitive to feeling what it is our body needs, instead of focussing on some unrealistic expectation to be like the flawless women in the fitness posters.
I try to erase years worth of media-driven brainwashing by teaching my clients to stop measuring progress by what the scales say, and start feeling their progress through what their body can do, and what their body has achieved. What your body can achieve is completely unique to you. The only person you should ever compare yourself with, is yourself.
Newsflash: When I move my body my face goes tamarillo pink, sweat drips from my forehead, my nose, my chin, my arms, my back, and my hair is the complete opposite of immaculate. And that is something I am extremely proud of. And all other women should be too! We should be swapping sweaty selfies with one another. The solidarity, support and motivation of doing so is crucial to breaking the unrealistic healthy expectations and makes us feel more empowered and in charge.
Health and fitness should be accessible to everyone. We should exercise because we love our bodies, not because we're punishing for not being like 'them',
Let's have a goal of binning the pressures and unrealistic conceptions of what being healthy is, and concentrate on being proud of ourselves and each other for lifting weights, dancing in our pyjamas, falling over during a Zumba class, going for a jog or managing to do one more push up than we could last week. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, feel happier, and feel fitter - make sure you do it, and do it for you.
- Corinne Austin is a movement and wellness motivator.