United Kingdom

How I move: Personal trainer Alice Liveing on why weight loss isn't everything

I was in a physically abusive relationship 10 years ago when I was a teenager. I can only describe it as being in a snow globe when you shake it up and your whole life is in pieces. I had to rebuild myself from the ground up – I had zero confidence. I wanted to train to be in musical theatre, so I went away to theatre school. But I was never the strongest dancer or singer, so it got to the end of my first year, and my teacher said: “Alice you just need to be stronger.” That word really stuck with me, so I just took to that like a bull to a red rag and thought “I’m not going to be the best dancer or the best singer, but I will be the strongest in my year”.

Weight training has honestly been the most transformative thing. With all of the history that had happened before, suddenly being physically strong and being in the weight section of the gym, the confidence that gave me, I just suddenly became a different person. I had confidence in everything that I did.

I make sure I am as qualified as possible and I hope that is what sets me apart from others. I took my time to get qualified as a personal trainer. I’ve spent six years working on a gym floor, I have mentors, I do courses all the time. Because I really have that at the heart of everything I do – to be able to be a trusted voice within the fitness industry. It is madness to think that you can do a quick PT course and then come out and be able to write training guides and post fitness content online.

I started my Instagram as a food diary. My diet up until that point had been absolutely atrocious, uni-style bad. I was a terrible cook. Instagram was my way of being able to make my meals presentable so that I’d enjoy eating them and enjoy making them – and that really took off. I published the Body Bible about two years later.

I started my platform with transformation weight loss photos, and I have to be really honest about that. I have been on a journey and been vulnerable and honest about the practices that haven’t worked. I am the first person to hold my hands up and say when I am wrong, and I definitely did things years ago that I would never do now, but I’m glad I did them because it’s taught me why they’re wrong and there are better ways to do things.

In this world of cancel culture, when I think back to four years ago, I had a better chance of making those mistakes then, than I would have done now. I valued having an audience of people who allowed me to make those mistakes and still stuck with me because I was honest about them.

I raised £16,000 through my classes for Women’s Aid over lockdown. It was amazing because I’m an ambassador for the charity and it is really close to my heart. I saw a big spike in people engaging in my videos during lockdown and I really tried to give people some credible fitness and coaching through Instagram. I went from doing maybe a couple of live workouts a week to then doing my 21-Day Challenge, which was every day.

It was crazy. It made me feel like I was doing my bit during such a difficult time because I think all of us kind of felt a bit helpless. My favourite exercise I don’t post about is cleaning the house! I don’t put it on Instagram, but I enjoy putting some music on, dancing around and cleaning the house. I’m loving my boxing at the moment, too.

I have seen people engage in exercise in a way that they have not previously during lockdown. For so many people, myself included, the first time they engaged in exercise was when they wanted to lose weight. I know so many people who only start exercising for a holiday, or a wedding – it’s only ever really seen as a weight loss tool.

And actually, what Covid has done has been to remove any sort of weight goal – because none of us really have to look good for anything – and made us recognise that exercise brings so much to us mentally and physically. That has nothing to do with weight loss. I think that is what has helped people see a sustained engagement in exercise post lockdown.

My podcast Give Me Strength was really about exploring different versions of strength and what strength meant to different people. We often see strength as being a physical attribute and actually what the podcast did for me was to really explore different ways in which people find strength having gone through seriously challenging things.

We have had guests such as Martine Wright, who lost her legs in the 7/7 bombings and went on to compete in the Paralympics, we have had Claire Sanderson, editor of Women’s Health magazine – all sorts of people and each person has different kind of connections to strength.

Alice Liveing was talking to Molly McElwee

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