Chances are if you're on Instagram, you already know Alice Liveing. If you don't, click the follow button immediately. The fitness star has built up a loyal community of followers thanks to her live workouts, relatable approach to fitness and positive outlook – which has never been more needed than during lockdown 3.0.
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HELLO! chatted to Alice about all things health and fitness, from how a daily workout boosts your mood to why you shouldn't believe everything you see online.
Unpacking the myths of diet culture, Alice – who readily admits a six-pack and restrictive eating never made her happy – is on a mission to inspire everyone to move more and focus on healthy behaviours, rather than the numbers on the scale.
So if you're feeling a little sluggish this January or are struggling with restrictive eating during lockdown, read on…
Alice Lieving is a qualified personal trainer and fitness expert
Hi Alice! Why did you decide to revive your 28-day fitness challenge this January?
Lockdowns are particularly challenging, so I really wanted to call upon my skill set and think about what I can do to help people during this time. Physical fitness and general movement are so good for our mental wellbeing. At a time where we're all experiencing a collective trauma, the only way I can help is to give people structure and start the day with a workout which is going to help them feel good. None of my workouts focus on weight loss, I'm not about burning calories or changing your body in any way. It's a positive and uplifting space!
Why should people be careful about Instagram workouts in general?
I'm a qualified personal trainer, I've been in the industry for six years. I still train clients and I'm passionate about learning and furthering my qualifications. I think credibility and a level of qualifications is so important in the fitness industry, and sadly something you don't see that often. I would like to become a credible voice and I want to use that to champion people trusting PTs and listening to people who have the qualifications to give exercise advice, rather than just anyone and everyone on Instagram.
It's so crucial to teach virtually with knowledge and safety in mind. Even little things like giving regressions of exercises when you know there are some people who can't do every variation. Making sure there's a full warmup, working through mobility that's session-specific.
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Many of us are feeling sluggish this January – how can we get motivated to get off the sofa?
This January is unlike any other, if your motivation is waning, know that you're not alone! It's probably incredibly normal right now. It's really good to have a structure with exercise built into your day, just to make you feel good. We know exercise is so linked to our cognitive function, mood, our ability to feel motivated to do other things as well. Find some structure, try and get into a routine with it. Don't be hard on yourself if you miss a day, just pick back up where you came from.
And secondly, try and reframe what exercise looks like to you. When you take exercise out of the box of doing 100 burpees in a row, exercise can look really different across the board. It could be as simple as a 20-minute walk, some mobility, yoga… Don't feel like you have to be really killing yourself in each workout. It's not sustainable, but also not conducive to progression, you need to have adequate rest to support recovery.
Alice says reframing what exercise means will work wonders
What are the benefits of exercise for mental health?
There is some really good research that shows the correlation between exercise and reduced symptoms of things like depression and anxiety. We know that it really does support our mental wellbeing. But also, exercise is really crucial in improving cognitive function. If you're feeling the 2pm slump, getting out for a 10-minute walk can be just the tonic to get yourself back into a focused mindset for the rest of the day.
It can also be somewhere where people really take the time to tune into themselves. By focussing on what your body's doing, there's a level of concentration there and some internal reflection. It's a time where I can check in on myself.
One of the things I've also found really crucial to keeping myself in a positive mindset is music during your workout. It's the only time where I put on blaring music, get my stress out and feel like I'm really enjoying myself.
Diet culture is everywhere, but it feels like there's been a shift in recent years… is there still a long way to go?
A lot of women in the digital space have wised up to the fact diet culture is pretty toxic. We don't need to be skinny size 6 in order to have worth in society and feel good in ourselves. That environment feels a really positive space.
On the other hand, we do have a large portion of society that is obsessed with weight loss. It isn't inherently bad. Some people can have a positive experience of it, my mum being one of them. She was 22 stone, ended up losing 10 stone in weight and she's now kept it off for 15 years, she feels great. For that reason, we still need to be mindful of the fact people might want to lose weight because we don't know their mindset, we don't know their incentive, that might be a positive thing for them.
The Instagram star believes we're moving away from 'toxic' diet culture
What we do know, is that 97 per cent of diets don't work, for most people. How can we encourage health behaviours – getting out for a walk every day, drinking plenty of water, eating vegetables with every meal – all these simple, non-restrictive rules, without shunting them down a route of needing to control everything they're eating, and falling down a disordered route. I grew up in an environment where my mum was constantly on a diet, and I saw first-hand how exhausting that was. That cycle of never being happy and always looking for the next thing to fill that void. I don't want the next generation to grow up feeling that.
I think we are moving in the right direction, encouraging positive health behaviours and steering away from diets and looking at how else we can make ourselves healthy and well. But we need to understand that we aren't there yet.
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What sparked your own personal change of lifestyle?
I've been on a journey of diet culture where I had extremely restricted eating and lived that life where I thought a six-pack was going to cure all of my worries… and it didn't. Coming off the back of that, that's where I started thinking, 'Hang on, I lost the weight, I got the body, and it didn't make me happier, so… what next?' That eventually led me to where I am now, which is a much more positive space.
It was at a time in my life where things were really taking off for me. I would be going to these events and I'd worry about what I was going to eat. I'd be the smallest person in the room and I'd still think, 'I don't feel that comfortable today'. It wasn't the reality I expected it to be. I had to look inside and think, 'What's the point?' I just wanted to live my life and enjoy it. Going out for dinner with my friends, going for drinks with my boyfriend. Food is so crucial to my happiness, and I really cut out a big part of that. Now I exercise, I eat well – most of the time – it's about balance.
Alice often shares candid posts about her journey with fitness and self-acceptance
Why do we keep dieting if diets aren't sustainable?
It feeds into that mindset that you're somehow a failure if you're unable to adhere to a form of eating. The only thing that's failed you is the fact the way of eating is way too restrictive for the lifestyle you're trying to lead. I've seen some awful things – I've downloaded a number of big fitness apps from women who are a similar audience to me. One of the apps told me I should be on 960 calories a day. This is so dangerous, I could not believe the poor mechanics that did that.
It's a recipe for eating disorders. When you do fail, you feel so awful so you probably binge, it becomes a cycle. People fall into a binge, restrict cycle because they think the only way to eat healthily is to eat a lot less, which is really not the case.
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Finally, what are your goals for the year ahead?
I want to bring an app out that is hopefully going to be a real disrupter to the fitness space and hopefully, do something differently. I've spent six years building the trust of my audience to the point where I feel ready to do it. This isn't something where I've done a PT course on a weekend and then suddenly I'm releasing an app.
The fitness industry is big bucks and if that was my incentive I would have done this years ago. I have a real conscience and responsibility within my space and I'm very aware of that. I finally feel ready to do it, but it's not come without the hard work up to this point.
Follow Alice on Instagram @aliceliveing.