What if, your health and your fitness were centric to your personal wellbeing?

Wait, we already know it is! Negative diet culture is impacting our mental health and wellbeing, but we’re so programmed with ideas of what ‘healthy’ looks like, or what we think we should look like, moving away from this norm is real challenge.

In this article, Yorkshire Businesswoman member, Rebecca Hopwood from Youbee Media chats with Kim Stacey, founder of Body Image Fitness to understand how her ‘Health at Every Size’ (HAES) coaching business is disrupting the fitness industry.

Rebecca was keen to speak with Kim as she’s been making bold moves around the Northeast of England and has a reputation for saying it ‘as it is. This message reached Yorkshire and is causing a stir in the fitness industries across our region.

It’s fascinating to see how the journey of Body Image Fitness has evolved over the last 12 months and how others are starting to catch on to a new way of thinking. May marks one year of Kim’s revolutionising perspective and ambition to take over and change the fitness industry. In this Q&A with the founder, feminist and icon, Rebecca wants to learn more about the story so far.

Kim, can you start by telling us a bit about your journey?
I have always wanted to work in the fitness industry, but I never felt that my body was good enough. Just 9 months after having my little boy by emergency C-Section, I was on Weight Watchers and managed to lose 3 stone. But I still didn’t feel good enough. I feel as though I’ve always been on a rollercoaster of diet, being gym-obsessed, body dysmorphia, rejection and intense workouts.

The last few years have been turbulent and challenging as I’m now a single mum. But, after doing a lot of work on myself and my own perception towards my body, I realised that I am good enough, and that I was totally missing the point. There is so much more to fitness I was missing, and a huge amount of people were missing. I wanted to create a better future for my little boy and make sure he understands that every body is unique and should be celebrated. If we can share this message far and wide, I truly believe the world will be a brighter place.

So you could say that the HAES changed your whole perspective in some ways?
Yes, completely, it saved me from a lifetime of feeling like my body was not good enough and allowed me to see that my body is not flawed. It allowed me freedom to be me rather than this constant pressure to try and shrink myself. It allowed me head space to fight against toxic diet culture and fitness professionals, and to create this business, rather than having my head constantly full of anxiety around food and body hatred.

Tell us about your approach with Body Image Fitness…
My aim is to save my clients a lifetime of feeling like their bodies are a problem, exactly like I used to feel. To liberate them and allow them to celebrate who they are right now. I do this through a membership that offers different types of movement classes, with absolutely no diet talk and no body shame. The membership is online, so you can join from anywhere in the world. Many of my new members are from Leeds and Huddersfield – so the message is resonating with a Yorkshire audience. We offer body image support, and a course on intuitive eating with a certified intuitive eating counsellor and nutritionist. It’s a really safe space for our members and we’re creating a community among our members which gives them strength and a new found confidence.

Often fitness comes with a side of shame – a side of feeling like we exist to change our bodies. Body Image Fitness is different because I make it clear you do not need to change a thing about your body to gain body acceptance or a better perception of yourself. It comes from what’s inside – no amount of changing the outside will help

Why is this so important now?
Like many people, I experienced a lot of pressure and anxiety over the course of the pandemic. I discovered I was using the gym to suppress real emotions and had no choice but to work on myself. I started to realise that the message of ‘being healthy’ had been lost, it has turned into a look, with the rhetoric that you must achieve the ‘look of health ‘at all costs. I started various courses, gained a lot of qualifications. Then I went on to coach people worldwide with body image issues. I could see a similarity in what everyone was saying right across the UK. This developed my business into what you see today.

Lockdown was incredibly hard for people’s body image, eating disorders are on the rise and it has become normal for people to be discontent with their bodies – this is called normative discontent, and that is not right. Research suggests that between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder and that is not something I am willing to accept.

Over the last 12 months I’ve been creating a safe space away from harmful dieting messages where people can work on their mental and physical health.
Celebrating your body, right now, as it is, can allow you to reduce stress and overcome pressures. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We need to give ourselves permission to take up space in whatever body we happy to exist in.

Body Image Fitness works around your schedule, and you can be as involved as you like. There’s no pressure from us, on any level, with your membership, we’re just here to support you.

Do you have a ‘Top Tip’ for anyone looking to start this journey with you?
Each experience we have in life is an opportunity to learn, nothing is a waste of time unless you don’t take at least one lesson from it – you can either grow stronger or you can let it defeat you.

What’s next for Body Image Fitness?
I am collaborating with a whole range of other Health at every size (HAES) aligned health and fitness professionals to offer tools for my members to really celebrate who they are, now. We’re on a mission to change this horrid culture we’ve become entrapped in. Together, we’ll celebrate with classes including Pilates, belly dancing, strength training, burlexercise, body image coaching and more. With help from intuitive eating counsellors, Body Image Fitness will really be the ‘go to’ tool box for all things body image. This is an online platform, but it is also growing to be in person as well and is set to take over Newcastle’s fitness scene (which IMO is much needed).

I have big dreams for this business to really disrupt the industries that profit from our body shame – I am here to tell them, it is not something we will stand for anymore.

How do we sign up?
You can visit our website or find us on social media. I’m also offering a free 15-minute 121 consultation to help people understand this approach. I fully appreciate that a lot of what we talk about, celebrate, and stand for is different to what people are used to, rejecting diet culture seems extreme. But times are changing, people realise now that diets just don’t work and it’s time to start celebrating our bodies and what they do for us.