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A Body Positive Approach to Exercise

Posted Aug 12 2010 2:56am
It's been my great pleasure to know personal trainer Danni Watts for a number of years and I'm besotted with her approach to exercise and training.  Danni has successfully recovered from an eating disorder and her unique approach to helping people achieve health and wellness does not involve any weighing or measuring of clients.  Why?  Because, unlike so many other fitness professionals, Danni does not believe a person's weight is the only determinant of their health and that nurturing our body image and self esteem is a vital part of the wellness philosophy as well.  Just for good measure Danni's work in the community with young people, helping them to develop positive self esteem and body image has seen her featured in both Cleo and Cosmopolitan magazines.  She's amazing all round. 

Read on for some inspirational words of wisdom from the woman The Biggest Loser should be listening to.

Danni, You are a personal trainer with a marked point of difference. What is that? Too often in the fitness world we see messages that push the reason we should exercise is for aesthetics only.  Primarily this is about encouraging people to lose or manage their weight. My philosophy with personal training has a person’s overall health as the focus. I help people understand that when they move and nourish themselves, they are doing an incredible thing for their body and self esteem.  Exercise can then become something they will want to do for their health. 

You are a very strong advocate for positive body image and building self esteem through healthy activity. How do you achieve that and why is it so important to you? I truly believe (from my toes!) that having a strong sense of self provides us with the foundation to be the best we can be.  It's what equips us with confidence and skills to handle life’s curve balls. With a healthy self esteem we can be more liking and accepting of our body and shape too. When we respect ourselves, we do good things for ourselves such as being active and eating in a positive and non punishing way.

There is a very sound reason as to why I promote, believe and practice this. I played Netball at the highest level in the state for over 10 years. As a result of being involved in elite sport I learnt that exercise = sport and sport = winning. It was all or nothing thinking, no pain no gain.  I had to be fit, strong and lean to achieve.  I wasn’t able to process this well and I ended up internalising messages about leanness, weight/body fat composition and exercise, in a negative way. Those things ended up determining my worth as a person. This experience, combined with many other factors, contributed to the onset of an eating disorder which presented, not surprisingly, with over-exercising behaviours.

With years of support and determination I re-programmed my thinking patterns in order to be able to view myself, exercise and food in a positive light. I needed to understand and believe that exercise and activity was performed as a means to take care of myself and for my overall health. Exercise and food had been the tool in which I punished myself with – it is now the tool I use to keep myself fit, strong and free.  This valuable life experience is why I am the way I am as a trainer and I don’t budge on this training philosophy, which I respect is not for everyone. Body Positive Personal Training operates outdoors and results are definitely achieved, but the focus is not on weight or external appearance. There is no weighing, dieting or measuring. It’s about having fun whilst taking care of our precious body consistently. Sessions are most definitely challenging, but I meet clients where they are currently at and we move forward together to a healthier place.

I just love helping people to feel great and positive. The beauty of being a personal trainer is that every time someone exercises, (with you or on their own), they have done something fantastic for their health.  You can’t put a price on the feeling I get from seeing people feeling good about themselves!

You have a fantastic blog. Tell me about that and the messages you are trying to get out there. Thank you Julie, it’s only very new, as is my website!  A friend and I wanted to put something different and inspiring out there about health and fitness, which challenges the typical messages and information currently circulating. We write about all the pieces of the puzzle in relation to fitness, health, self esteem and body image. The most important thing is that it is real and honest, and not misleading.  We would never prey on people’s vulnerabilities.

There can be alot of misleading information in the media about issues relating to health, weight and shape. Are there any that you think are particularly dangerous or worth busting open? As there are so many, one thing I always suggest before people buy a product, piece of equipment, or engage in a diet or unrealistic and exercise program that promises to solve all their ‘body problems,’ they ask themselves a few questions. Is this good for my body and mind? Is this good for my health? Can I do this for life?  Will this and can this actually work?

There is no such thing as a quick fix that lasts long term. Something that claims that it may or could reduce your body fat in a few days (or even minutes), blast something off, or remove a ‘problem’ area – most probably won’t. All this language screams it is a gimmick. People don’t fail at diets or exercise programs – diets and exercise programs fail them.  And for the record – no one has a problem area.  There are no right and wrongs when it comes to a person’s body!

What are your thoughts on The Biggest Loser? Don’t get me started. From a health and fitness perspective it is dangerous. From a moral and humanitarian perspective it is so wrong, promoting feelings of shame and guilt.  I really want people to know that The Biggest Loser approach is not the only ‘hope,’ solution, or way to address health issues. With consistent, slow, steady, nurturing and respectful support, better health can be achieved.

Can you leave us with your most important health and wellness tip.  Train, nourish and nurture yourself from the inside out... and everything else will fall into place.

Thanks Danni.  I really appreciate you taking the time to connect with Beautiful You readers and wish you all the best with Body Positive Personal Training.   If you are interested in connecting in regularly with Danni's thoughts on health and fitness I can also highly recommend her blog - A Body Positive Australia.  
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