Let’s face it. The human body has always been subject to scrutiny and unattainable ideals – especially now in the age of social media.
Leah Gilbert is a triathlete, mother and world‑renowned Body Positive Advocate. She believes the notion of trying to fit a certain ‘mould’ is unhealthy, particularly when it comes to the definition of an ‘athlete’. As the founder of Body Positive Athletes, a global community who share the common belief that ‘athleticism’ defines a lifestyle and not a body type, Leah promotes the belief that we need to choose positivity and support over negativity and judgement.
In August 2017, Leah will be leading our 5-day Larapinta Awakenings trip which will allow you to soak up the breathtaking highlights of the Larapinta Trail whilst unlocking your full potential.
There seems to be a lot of commentary on social media and in the mainstream media about the pressure that girls and women put on themselves about body image. Why is it such an important issue?
There is so much psychology ‘entwined’ with body image, such as a drive for perfection, self-loathing, negative world view, right down to eating behaviours, so this is a massive issue which can impact our overall quality of life. What makes it more pervasive is that often the pressure comes from outside sources such as mass media and society in general, so there is a real need for us to stand up and regulate what we take on board about our bodies and ourselves.
It’s great to see so many conversations happening around body image because it really is something which has been leveraged against us for the sake of consumption, and that’s what many of us are starting to realise and say “no thanks I’m not buying that anymore”.
You’ve been quoted as saying that the term ‘athletic’ defines a lifestyle, not a body type. Can you expand on that?
So many people are training for goals and events, they’re dedicating hours, weeks, months of their time following specifically designed programs and training with a purpose. Yet, they are not crediting themselves as athletes purely because they feel their body shape/size or speed doesn’t fit the physical ‘mould’ of an athlete. So essentially they are cheapening their experiences and what they are achieving for the sake of some physical mould we have constructed around the term athlete.
The truth of the matter is that athletes come in all shapes and sizes, with bodies conditioned specifically to function in their sport of choice. Simply viewing the term ‘athletic’ as a lifestyle expands on this concept and allows people to embrace that part of themselves regardless of physical stereotypes.
You delivered a great speech at a women’s event a year ago that had a huge impact on the audience. How does a mum of two become a spokesperson for the ‘body positive’ movement?
Haha great question! I guess I have always been someone who is not afraid to speak up for what I believe in, and I believe that there is more to life than how we physically exist in it.
The notion that we need to fit some physical mould or expectation is BS and shouldn’t fly anymore. As a mother I feel there is probably an element of acknowledging the damage that has been done to our generations and trying to prevent it happening to following generations. I want my daughter feel free to value her intellect, her passions and how she contributes to society – not how good she looks doing it.
You’ve been diagnosed with a degenerative joint disorder that causes you significant pain. How does that impact your work as a specialist fitness instructor and accredited athletics coach?
The greatest way I can nurture my body is through movement – it’s more painful for me to be sedentary than it is to move. From a mechanical point of view, I am ‘tuned into’ my body enough so I know the importance of strength training and other ‘homework’ which allows me to do what I love, which is run.
You have post graduate qualifications in psychology. How do those qualifications fit with your work?
In May I am opening my Fitness Psychology and Counselling Practice, in which I specialise in body image, event preparation, obesity, and fitness motivation and eating behaviours. So I guess it fits perfectly! I am really excited to begin working with people in a deeper context to help them re-set their relationships with fitness, movement and food so they can move forward and thrive for life.
What can women expect who join you on the Larapinta Awakenings in August in the Red Centre? What are you most looking forward to?
This is such an amazing opportunity – words can’t really describe how excited I am for this trip! Expect the unexpected on this trip as there is no better destination to re-set and re-frame your sense of self and what you are truly capable of. I always say that women find themselves in nature and adventure, and what better way to do it than together and with expert support.
I look forward to exploring the Red Centre, and helping you re-discover your true self and your potential. I couldn’t think of anything better than disconnecting from the pressures of day to day life and connecting with a group of women in this amazing setting.
Revitalise your Mind and Body on the Larapinta Trail
The exclusive 5-day ‘Larapinta Awakenings’ adventure with Leah is a hand-crafted getaway for adventurous women looking to experience the beauty of the Larapinta Trail in the stunning West Macdonnell Ranges in Central Australia. This all female departure in August 2017 incorporates a rejuvenating and enriching combination of cultural and physical activities to revitalise the mind and body. If you are ready to awaken to your own capabilities, potential and inner power in a truly majestic setting, then book your place on the Larapinta Awakenings experience today. Find Out More