- 25 Mar 20
Fitness inspirer Nathalie Lennon sat down with Nia Beckett to discuss her fitness journey, social media, mental health and coming back from rock bottom.
With over 60 thousand followers and a range of health and coaching services, Nathalie Lennon has built a healthy lifestyle brand. But her experiences with health and social media haven’t always been easy.
Looking for a new way to get active, Nathalie decided to give fitness guides a try during her final year of college. Each week, she engaged in fitness and strength training according to Australian personal trainer Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guides. As her stamina improved, she could feel her confidence building as well. Nathalie really enjoyed fitness and even signed up for a personal trainer course. By week 18, she was ready– and nervous– to share a photo of her progress on Instagram.
Nathalie’s photo gained support from friends and family alike who were all amazed at her hard work to improve her health. When Kayla Itsines shared Nathalie’s photo with her millions of followers, Nathalie’s account quickly began to pick up.
“It started to grow off the basis that I was someone who is improving or had improved my body,” Nathalie says.
At first, her Instagram became an outlet for health, happiness and striving for personal best as she continued to post her progress. But over time, she realised her sense of worth was becoming intertwined with the appraisal she received on her physique on social media.
“Without realizing it, I became victim to being addicted to progress/praise, because I think I started to lose a part of me along the way, and I didn't see it going”.
Meanwhile, her online audience wanted to know exactly how she’d gone about getting her body to look the way it did, asking meticulous questions like how many grams of carbs she ate daily or what her body fat percentage was.
Looking for an edge as a physical trainer, Nathalie joined a bikini physique competition in 2016. Aiming for perfection to win the competition, she became obsessed with numbers, restricting her diet and counting each calorie and each like on her page. Her body fat percentage and bone density became dangerously low. At the same time, she grew increasingly anxious with social interactions.
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Today marks the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2020. Technically - I never had an "eating disorder". But I did suffer from what I feel could be deemed one. In my dietician appointments we referred to what I was experiencing as "the ED" - the ED behaviours, ED thoughts, ED triggers. In 2016 I competed in bikini physique - as I thought that controlling my diet to this degree was simply a challenge to showcase abilities or gain more "worth" in the fitness industry. But let me tell you, it's not. The physique competing industry continues, but it is as damaging as diet culture. Diet culture led me to this point. After which, it let me further into a darker place of obsession I wasn't sure I could come back from (shared before). THE GOOD NEWS ❤️ You can overcome this. I am the one with the steering wheel - not "the ED", or diet culture. Not everyone can relate to competing, but many of you can when it comes to disordered food relationship as a result of having dieted in the past. You are not alone, it gets better💕. Also a reminder to everyone that disordered eating or an ED, doesn't have a "look". Dieting - needs to stop. Diets, need to be established. Lifestyles, need to be established. 66 billion dollars is spent annually on dieting in the US. A money making hoax built to target insecurities we have brainwashed women/men into developing. I am so bloody proud of myself for fighting the obsession, sharing the journey and now working to battle the culture thats so difficult to win against. I think the issue is often that we use dieting & controlling exercise as a means to ignore the deeper issues, this is why it's so important to TALK about anything you are struggling with. Too often dieting ends up being the trigger for EDs or "ED behaviours". Too often we pretend these behaviours are normal and praise them - your body doesn’t have an “off season". Too often men and women are damaged long term because of dieting. Establish one, one diet. 👊 For anyone thats new here, this is a little insight into why I am so passionate about my message. Heres to more balanced living & passion building 💫. #EDAW #EDAW2020 #DietCulture #Passion
After the competition, she wasn’t sure of how to change her body anymore. She was physically and mentally unhealthy, and with social media engagement not rolling in as quickly, there was nowhere to turn.
“Anxiety is such a big issue and it's so hard to overcome,” Nathalie says, “Because to overcome anxiety, you have to face it and it has to get worse because you need to do the thing that's giving you the anxiety. No one wants to do that.”
Nathalie began going to a dietician and regaining a healthy relationship with food and her body. She began posting on Instagram again, this time with fun recipes and inspirational photos talking about her journey with her health. Since making changes to the content she posted, Nathalie’s following has shifted, and messages from her followers reflect a more positive outlook on health and nutrition.
“I don't care about the numbers. I don't care whether it grows or if it falls if I am impacting the right audience and growing an audience that is based off the message I want to share.”
Now Nathalie also gives public talks at wellness events where she shares her inspirational story. She is scheduled to teach a class at WellFest this May.