Nadia Sawalha is hailed for her body positivity on Instagram, yet the Loose Women panellist has admitted her journey towards self-acceptance was a long road of "anxiety, self-loathing, stinking thinking, and vicious cycles of always ending up back at the same place."
In a candid interview with HELLO! about her turbulent relationship with her body, the empowering mother-of-two revealed her hopes for encouraging more people to accept their body, after David Lloyd Clubs commissioned research that showed nearly two thirds (64%) of people admit that they never see success from diet and fitness fads that promote a weight loss quick fix.
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Nadia fell victim to fad diets and 'quick fix' fitness trends from a young age. "I was looking for a shortcut all my life. I did every single fad diet, I know them all. I know the calories for anything, even now. I would only exercise to burn calories rather than to improve my mental health or physical wellbeing - it was the most miserable of existences," she says.
After working on a campaign with David Lloyd Clubs that encourages people to say no to fitness fads and yes to a lifetime of wellness, Nadia opened up about how she and husband Mark Adderley are working hard to be mindful of their own children's mental health in a world of social media FaceTuning and TikTok fitness fads.
Read our conversation with Nadia below...
You love to keep things real on social media, what gives you your confidence?
"I don't like it when people say I have body confidence, because I'm coming from a place where I had so much loathing for so many years. Body confidence for me, is actually unattainable," the Loose Women star admitted.
"What I can do, is accept that my body is only ever going to look a certain way, and instead, I want to just be really healthy and strong and clear-headed. The way for me to do that is eat well and exercise better. I also give daily attention to accepting the way I look. I'm not going to go down that road of self-loathing and punishment and punitive exercise and punitive eating, because I did it for decades, and it didn't work.
The Loose Women star decided that 'decades' of fad diet culture was enough
"I spent my entire adult life not showing my arms, and yet here I am 57 wearing a strappy top. And it took me long enough!" Nadia laughed.
Have you given your daughters any tips on how to be more accepting of their bodies?
"They're [Kiki and Maddy] growing up in a household where we talk about this stuff all the time," Nadia explained. "They're led by a very good example in that both my husband and I work out, we always talk about how we feel, and we talk about our mental health in the same way that we do our physical health. And yet they will still show me these TikTok videos of ridiculous fitness 'quick fixes'. It can be very scary as a parent."
"I always say that the greatest influence on a daughter is their mum," she continued. "That doesn't mean that they're not going to float away and get sucked into these habits of thinking, but if you lead by positive example it will eventually sink in."
"And to listen. To really, really listen. The worst thing you can say to your daughter is 'now don't be so silly, you beautiful!' It means nothing.
Nadia posts empowering photos on her Instagram
"What you have to say is what I say is, 'I can really hear how difficult that is, and how you're feeling that way.' I look back now at old photos of me and I was gorgeous. There are no two ways about it, I was gorgeous. Yet it all passed me by because I was too busy hating on myself to appreciate my body when I was younger. So I try and encourage a bit of that self-acceptance into them."
What advice would you give to people who are prone to being sucked into these kinds of fad diets and quick fixes?
"I think the thing to say is, what's the rush? How many times has this worked for you before?" says Nadia. "I learned this years ago, when my husband went into rehab for his alcoholism. One of the first things they asked him to relay is all the ways he's tried to control his drinking. They then ask, 'And how's it working for you?' And you have to admit that it's not.
"For somebody that is just starting out on that road to hell, I would just say to them, like I tell my daughters: 'think about why you're eating more than is probably best for your body.'
Nadia says she now exercises without thinking about the calories she's buring
"I look back now at photos of myself when I was younger, and I was gorgeous. There are no two ways about it, I was gorgeous! And yet, it all passed me by because I was too busy hating on myself. I try to encourage people to escape that way of thinking."
Why is backing the David Lloyd Clubs 'Wellness Pledge' so important to you?
"It's everything that I talk about and believe in," Nadia explained. "It's taken many bumps in the road with the way that I've eaten and the way that I exercise to arrive at a place where I understand that moderation is the key to a better lifestyle."
"Don't people think that moderation is sexy?" Nadia continued. "After years of fad diets, I eventually realised that none of it works. Every time I went on a diet, I would lose weight and put it back on but with interest. I would always be bigger. This vicious cycle kept going until eventually I was four and a half a stone overweight.
"So the fact that I run now, I do yoga, I finally started weight training - and I never think about the calorie burn is so refreshing. That's what wellness is to me," Nadia says.
TV Personality and Actress, Nadia Sawalha is supporting David Lloyd Clubs’ mission to encourage Brits to say no to fitness fads and yes to a lifetime of wellness. Nadia is supporting its Wellness Pledge which calls on the fitness industry to advertise responsibly and encourage healthy habits. To view David Lloyd Clubs’ Wellness Pledge, please visit it here: https://www.davidlloyd.co.uk/lifetime-of-wellness
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