addicted to exercise

I Was Addicted to Exercise

A scroll through the #fitfam or #fitspo posts on Instagram will reveal countless images of gym buffs grappling with kettlebells, before-and-after transformations and motivational quotes. If you’re an avid exerciser, perhaps they inspire you to work out harder and longer, to try new moves that will lead to a more defined body, to exercise every day. But where does being fit, healthy and strong end, and an unhealthy attachment to exercise begin?
“Exercise addiction” used to be a relatively innocuous term – a jokey way of saying that you loved exercise – but now it’s a recognised problem and the British Medical Journal has even published a piece about how to recognise and treat it.
According to an Italian study, people who strongly identify as an exerciser and have low self-esteem are at a higher risk of developing an addiction. Women are more likely to suffer from secondary exercise addiction, meaning that it’s associated with an eating disorder. Over 40% of the 120 gym-goers who completed the study were found to be at risk.

What are the signs?

Those with exercise addiction might exercise even when they’re ill or tired. They might miss out on social or family occasions so that they can exercise. They might feel anxious and irritable if they can’t work out or they might exercise to the point that they experience physical injury, such as a stress fracture. They have an inability to stop or reduce their levels of exercise.
But plenty of people love exercise and train to a high level without a problem. So where does the boundary lie between healthy and unhealthy? “The difference is that a compulsive exerciser works out not to feel good, but to avoid feeling bad,” says Dr. Carolyn Plateau, a Loughborough University psychology lecturer who specialises in compulsive exercise. “They rely on it for mood regulation, may get feelings of guilt, failure or anxiety if they don’t exercise, and tend to have a very rigid routine. It comes above all else – exercise will always take priority.”
Polly Hale, 33, agrees. In her late teens and early 20s, she was addicted to exercise alongside having anorexia. She attended dance school, where image was all-important, and during the holidays she would exercise compulsively, seeing it as a way to burn as many calories as she could.
“I started cutting down on the calories I ate,” she says, “but I would also take any opportunity to exercise, such as walking everywhere (even if it took hours) or dancing without stopping all night at a club. If I was away with my family, I would have a strict regime of strength exercises to do. My motives were all wrong. I wasn’t exercising to feel good or stay healthy but to stay thin, and I would get overwhelming feelings of guilt and failure if I couldn’t exercise. I lost the ability to listen to my body and pushed on through, even when I was exhausted and undernourished.”
The triggers can vary. “It can be a small thing, such as a comment on your body made by a friend or family member,” says Carolyn, “up to a dramatic life change such as going to university, having a perfectionistic personality where you’re always striving for high goals, or having a difficult emotional experience and exercise becomes a way of avoiding it.”
“Social media can also play a role, particularly in people that use it a lot as they can lose a sense of the real world,” she adds. “There has been a backlash against being very skinny; now it’s all about lean and strong. But that can be equally damaging if you’re striving for an unrealistic image of a woman with a six-pack and zero body fat – she could be training for hours a day to look like that.”
And because exercise addiction is so often linked with disordered eating, the “clean eating” trend can also play a part. “Hyper-vigilance about what goes into your mouth and a focus on consuming only ‘healthy’ foods can often go hand in hand with compulsive exercise behaviours,” says Carolyn.
A problem with other people recognising it in you, or even a health professional diagnosing it, is that exercise is usually a positive thing. Where starving yourself is clearly a bad idea, we’re encouraged to exercise. “It can go under the radar if it’s not accompanied by an obvious eating disorder,” says Carolyn. “It can also be disguised in much the same way as the early stages of an eating disorder – ‘I’m just exercising a bit more at the moment to stay healthy’.”
“Although my family could see it was part of my eating disorder, they questioned the amount of food I ate but not the amount of exercise I was doing,” says Polly. “I recognised it in myself and knew that it wasn’t normal, but I couldn’t stop myself. The desire to exercise was so overpowering.”

Where to get help

“The first and often the hardest step is admitting to yourself that you have a problem,” says Polly. “Then you can open up to someone else and say you need help.”
You can see your GP, who can refer you to an appropriate service. You could even open up to your personal trainer, who may be able to help you devise a healthier schedule and set positive goals, rather than exercising for exercise’s sake.
Treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy and psychological help to equip you with healthier ways of dealing with negative emotions. “You wouldn’t necessarily have to stop exercising but you might be asked to reduce it or replace it with low-intensity exercise such as yoga,” says Carolyn. “It’s about reformulating your attitudes to both exercise and food (if it’s associated with an eating disorder).”
For Polly, her turning point was a night at the pub in her early 20s. She had been hospitalised three times but always relapsed. “That night, one friend announced she was pregnant and another that she was getting married. Something in my head just clicked and I realised that everyone was moving on with their lives and I was going to be left behind. No one would want a relationship with me and I would never have children (my periods had stopped long ago). I suddenly wanted this thing out of my life. I worked with a dietitian to help me see food as a pleasure and as fuel, rather than unnecessary calories, and my attitude to exercise slowly changed.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight but Polly proves that it is possible. She’s now a personal trainer and founded The Fit Mum Formula, helping women to learn to love their bodies, exercise and eat well because they want to look after themselves. She’s also married with two children. “It took me about five years to fully recover, but I now exercise and eat well because I want to enjoy life, and I appreciate what it feels like to be strong and healthy, rather than thin and exhausted.”
online workouts


If you’re one of the busy Mums who cite no time and/or childcare to exercise as your reasons for not getting in the workouts you know you should be doing, then online training is probably right for you.


Click Here to read the original article published by Pulsin Bars


Even if you are able to get to the gym, it might not be as good an option for you as training online at home.

Gyms and even forking out for a Personal Trainer come with downsides. Most people aren’t aware of the best way to spend their time when they are at the gym – what exercises will get them closer to their goals, meaning they go week after week but don’t see results.

Personal Trainers overcome this by giving you a personalised plan (or at least they should be, not all PTs are created equal unfortunately), but are only with you for around 1-3 hours per week. What about the other 167 hours in a week? What then?

Online training has grown enormously in the past few years. In fact when The Fit Mum Formula first launched in 2013 we were one of the first, at least in the UK; a fact I’m rather proud of.

Internet, email, Facebook groups and forums, blogs, membership portals and dedicated workout plan software means that wherever you (or your coach) are, you can access the help and information anytime you need it.

This means that you have the resources and support you need, to keep you on track 24/7, and as a result are much more likely to reach your goals, and in less time.

Here are 10 benefits to training online, from home:


Time Saving

Travelling to the gym takes time. Parking the car, changing clothes, finding a locker….you can skip the lot if your workouts are done at home. I don’t even bother ‘getting changed’ properly – if you follow me on social media you’ll know my favourite workout outfit is my pyjama bottoms and a sports bra!


Good Value

With no special equipment or workout clothing you’re already saving a few quid, but the real saving comes from the (rising) costs of gym memberships and Personal Training services, especially if you’re tied into a contract you don’t end up using. Having the support of an online coach is often much more cost effective, since there are few overheads for the coach to pay (PT’s pay rent to gyms), and the flexibility means more clients can be taken on than with in person training. There are some very high priced ‘transformation’ coaches around, but I’ve yet to see one who can justify the thousands (literally) they command each month. Personally I see this as an opportunity to pass those benefits on to you by being able to charge a much more reasonable monthly price while still getting you to reach your goals.


No one else to judge

A strange concept people have is that they have to ‘get fit’ before they can go to the gym. Isn’t this what exercising is supposed to do, not the other way round? But it really stems from insecurities, a fear of being judged by others further along the health/weight/fitness goal path than you. Never should you be made to feel insecure stepping into any fitness facility, it’s unacceptable. However sometimes these insecurities come from within our own head, and while this needs to be challenged, training at home gets round this while still enabling you to make progress.


No one to hog the equipment

Applicable more to those who workout with big heavy weights or machines (and why else would you use a gym?), imagine having a plan, workout template, your preferred workout to do, all prepped and ready, only to find that the local college are teaching their trainee PT’s that day, there’s a special offer on to use the gym, and half the machines are ‘out of order’. Your home is your private gym, and equipment based workouts can easily be switched for effective and select body weight exercises in most cases, especially if your goal is simply to lose weight and tone up (which is most Mums’ goal).



No one plan suits everyone. No timescale is right for every person. You go on holiday, change jobs, have sick children, move house. Having a strict meal and workout plan won’t work in these circumstances. Paid for three times a week training but need to take the dog to the vet that morning? You won’t likely get a refund. But with online training that’s fine – just fit it in when it’s a better time for you; when you get home from the appointment, in your hotel room, before the school run, heck even at 2am if you want to (night shift workers?!).



You can’t see an in person trainer at all hours, every day. They have other clients to train, inflexible schedules to stick to, places to be. While this is still partly true for online coaches – I still have work to do – the flexibility means I can stay in touch with clients whenever they need me, and technology makes keeping in touch with many people in less time possible. For you this means you don’t get forgotten, and likewise the regular contact keeps you on track and accountable, so you’re less likely to deviate from what you need to be doing.



Let’s get this straight – with any trainer, on or offline, you’re not paying for information. We have information overload in the form of the internet. What you get with a good coach is relevant, informed, personalised information that is applicable to you. Understanding why your coach is telling you certain things makes you more likely to agree and follow through with instructions, which in turn will, you guessed it, get you closer to your goals, in less time. Never is delivery of information easier than online, where articles and links to specific information are just a click away and can be sent to you in seconds.


Monitoring Progress

Like benefits of flexibility and accountability in points 5 and 6, adjusting and tweaking your plan is important to make sure it a) is working and b) works within your life and circumstances. This is much easier if you have resources and contact with your trainer to help you tweak as and when necessary, rather than having to wait until you next see them.



While a concern might be that a coach you’ve never met won’t fully understand you, this couldn’t be further than the truth. Not only do platforms like Facebook mean that people put much of their life online anyway, but the regular contact and community created between myself and all my clients mean we get to know each other far better than if we only saw each other a couple of times a week. I’ve formed fantastic bonds with many of my clients, and this understanding means I can better determine exactly what they need from me at any given time.


Super Effective

If you thought exercising at home wasn’t as effective as going to the gym or a class, then you’ve clearly not yet seen or experienced the results that my clients, with the right type of training, are getting. In fact home workouts are the only thing I’ve ever done since having children (my eldest daughter Aurora is now 8!). Following along to a DVD is an option, but it’s a stab in the dark since it might not be right for you, and you obviously don’t get the support, accountability and help with other things like diet and meal planning that you do with a coach.



For the busy Mum  who wants to lose weight and tone up but either can’t get to the gym, or isn’t getting the results you hoped for, online training is an option that’s flexible enough to fit into your crazy Mum-life while still getting you the body and body confidence you want.


Pulsin Natural Protein Bars Review

I love protein bars because they’re filling, nutritious, and help build and repair muscle while allowing me to satisfy my sweet tooth, but natural protein bars are surprisingly hard to come by!


In fact one day I’ll make my own (watch this space) but for now my high standards when it comes to both taste and nutrition mean my options are fairly limited.


Most come coated in cheap chocolate (presumably to hold them together?), and are stuffed with artificial and unnecessary additives, fillers, sweeteners, sugar, preservatives and flavourings. Some are even just a regular chocolate bar with added protein!


All this is wholly unnecessary, I’ve experimented with homemade protein bars many a time, all natural, healthy and totally delicious, so I never could understand why it would be so hard for a brand to sell natural protein bars.


So while you can’t just buy any old protein bar it’s at least great that one brand – Pulsin – are making them, and are available online if you’ve not seen them in your local supermarket. (use code PHAL10 to get 10% off)


Here’s a review of some of the bars that Pulsin make


Beyond Organic Fruit Bars

There’s enough fruit in each bar to count as one portion, which makes them so much better than those ‘squashed fruit concentrate’ snacks I see aimed at kids (a pet hate of mine). Free from gluten, dairy, soya, refined sugars and non GM, also suitable for both vegan and paleo diets!

Being based on dried fruit these are higher in (natural) sugar than the Pulsin’s other bars, but this makes them great post workout (or intra-workout if you’re exercising for longer than 90 minutes, by which time your stored sugar levels may be running low). Or I would give these to my kids any day instead of sugary junk.

Bella loved the berry one in particular, while Aurora is my resident chocoholic so that’s her favourite.


Protein Boosters

The Protein Boosters are the bars I typically recommend to my Mums as being the highest in protein they’re the most filling, and low sugar which means fewer energy highs and lows. Xylitol, a very low calorie natural sugar alternative is used to sweeten – the same stuff that’s used in chewing gum because it’s good for your teeth!

Many protein bars on the market are simply chocolate bars with added whey protein, in other words protein boosted junk. While protein is important and most people don’t get enough, this is still completely missing the point.

Adding protein in itself does not make it a healthy bar, but Pulsin only use 100% natural, wholesome nutritious ingredients. There’s a misconception that ‘health bars’ don’t taste as good as less healthy snacks. In some cases I agree – you can’t compare a handful of almonds to a chocolate fudge cake.

But these bars really are delicious. The proof is always when my kids and husband like them and don’t realise they’re ‘healthy’ – that’s a true test of an amazing tasting bar!

I actually took the Vanilla Choc Chip bar as a breakfast on the go with some fresh fruit. I was worried that it wouldn’t keep me full all morning but I needn’t have; it was perfect (and I have a big appetite!)


Raw Choc Brownies

These are clever, because I’ve tried a lot of ‘healthy’ brownies in my time and none of them actually taste like a real brownie – you can tell they’re healthy. So considering these are so packed with nutritious superfoods like raw cocoa, cacao butter, green tea extract, maca, nuts, goji and chicory fibre it’s incredible my ‘I want real chocolate’ sugar addict husband loved them! Not as high in protein and higher in (natural, from fruit) sugar than the Protein Boosters these are more of a healthy and higher fibre alternative to refined flour & sugar brownie cakes and puddings, but they’re so chocolaty you’ll get your ‘hit’ pretty easily in one bar rather than bingeing your way through a batch of sugar and flour.


Fruity Oats Bars

These are Pulsin’s kid’s range, meaning big kids too obviously – they’re mini size and nut free, meaning school lunch friendly yay! As a parent finding healthy snacks that are both low sugar, nut free and need no refrigeration is harder than you think; most kids’ snacks are crazily high in sugar, both natural and added. Oats are a great source of sustaining energy for little people, but I’d eat these any day, especially as a quick post workout snack along with a protein shake. I felt guilty keeping it to myself even if I was reviewing them, so compromised by sharing with four year old Bella and 8 year old Aurora. Aurora is always needing portable snacks while she’s out and about doing various clubs and can eat so much food for her tiny frame, so it’s good to be able to give her more nutritious bars to fuel her active and growing body.


Protein Powders

Pulsin do a whole range of no-added-anything protein powders; whey, rice, hemp, pea, and soya, including organic versions. With no flavourings or sweeteners not only are they as pure as you can get, but they are a great canvas for adding whatever flavours you want, from fruit, cocoa, nut butters, and even savoury foods!

I took advantage of this over my usual vanilla shake and knocked up some beetroot whey protein pancakes by simply mixing whey with egg, mashed beetroot and herbs.


Pulsin have recently branched out into ingredients with Whey Protein Crispies and No Added Sugar Chocolate Drops that are perfect for healthy home baking or pumping up porridge, pancakes or as a topping to shakes and smoothie bowls.

There are also assorted hampers which make fantastic gifts, and once you’ve chosen which snacks and powders are your favourites you can save money with a subscription.

But for now you can get 10% off all Pulsin orders over £20 with the code PHAL10 at the checkout.

Happy Munching!



celeb diets

Why Celeb Diets Don’t Work – The Sun Newspaper Feature

Fad celeb diets loved by Martine McCutcheon, the Kardashians and Alexandra Burke ‘DON’T work and actually make you GAIN weight’.


People who go back to eating normally after losing weight on a calorie-restricted fad diet tend to pile on the pounds much faster.


“My main concern is that even if it works short term, it doesn’t educate the dieter on how to live healthy and eat healthy and plan meals.

“That’s one of the reasons people regain all the weight afterwards, because they stop the diet when the weight is gone, but they still don’t really understand how to eat healthily.


To read the whole article I wrote for The Sun Newspaper click the link below:




How Wiggly Are You?

Mental health problems affect millions of women around the world.

I’ve had my share – anorexia, depression, and times of danger and darkness running so deep I was hospitalised more than once, for months at a time.

Mental health issues are still a taboo issue, but that needs to change if sufferers are to accept their situation and seek help, as well as for others around them to recognise signs and be able to help.

One woman is doing her (very big) part in sharing her own story of battles with her head, as well as many inspiring stories from women around the globe.

Carly Jennings is nothing short of a fighter, and, a fitness professional by trade, is now helping support and inspire women to embrace who they are, low days and all.

And what sets these women apart is how, far from letting mental health issues hold them back, strength, courage and empowerment can come out of challenging times.

How I overcame anorexia to become stronger than ever – read my story on the Wiggly Girl blog here.

Oh and in case you were wondering a ‘wiggle score’ is a way of assessing how you’re feeling that day, with the aim being an on top of the world 10/10 more days than not.


Advice on Protein For Women

Are the recommendations on protein for women the same as for men?

Do most women need more protein need more protein than they’re currently eating?

Why? And if so, what’s the best way to get that protein?

The Huffington Post asked me if, and why, I use protein shakes.

I love (quality) protein powders – tasty, convenient, and yes, healthy!

Here’s the article where you can find out how to add protein powder into your diet:

Here’s Why More Women Are Increasing Protein In Their Diets, And The Right Way To Do It

eating disorder recovery

My Eating Disorder Recovery Story

Since my Eating Disorder recovery videos went viral and I was invited to speak on Sky News, I’ve been able to reach out and  offer support and encouragement to other sufferers and their families.

I remember the first day I was admitted to hospital – one day, when I was strong enough, I would give back and help others.

It was a long, tough journey, one I nearly didn’t make it though.

But I did it, and you can overcome an emotional relationship with food too.

This time well known Registered Dietician Priya Tew published my story on her blog as she works with eating disorder patients.

Loving and respecting your body is so important. If you can do that, the healthy eating bit becomes easy, because you want to look after yourself.

Priya says:

“When I heard Polly’s eating disorder recover story I knew I had to share it. Working in the field of eating disorders can be frankly hard work. It is a long road to recovery and a battle. It takes dedication, support from others and challenging yourself at every meal time. However it is possibly and it is worth it. I hope sharing this inspires others.”

Click Here to read my story on Priya’s blog, where you will also find other nutrition related articles, recipes, and contact details if you need guidance from a Registered Dietician.

ann summers rabit

Ann Summers founder loves The Fit Mum Formula

Ann Summers and I have something in common, and no it’s not about sex burning calories.


We’re both here to boost your confidence, and in ways that are much more interrelated than you might think!


Lingerie store Ann Summers was founded in 1972 and later taken over by it’s current CEO Jacqueline Gold, who is passionate about women’s rights, equality and empowerment both in the boardroom and the bedroom, supporting a number of female business initiatives and charities alongside her work.


Read this too – Fitness Fanatics Have Higher Sex Drives


Body Confidence is something that unfortunately so many women are lacking, and it’s not always about body size.


When you look after your body, treat it well, nourish it and train it to be strong and healthy, the weight will take care of itself, but you’ll also feel a sense of achievement and pride that no quick fix detox can ever give you.

You’ll also have more energy, better mental health and mood, and a better hormone profile which means yes, a higher sex drive too.

It’s a whole body and mind transformation, which gives you the confidence to be yourself and have pride in the body you have.


Read it over on Jacqueline’s website where it was originally published here. 


Or here’s my story of why I decided to help Mums like you:

Like many women entrepreneurs my business stemmed from not wanting to go back to full time employment after having children.  I had no way of channelling my drive and passions and wanted something that was ‘me’ outside of washing and toddler groups. The Fit Mum Formula was launched in 2013 when my younger daughter was just 7 months old, and never for a moment did I imagine it would grow to be as big as it is now.

I’m actually still primarily a stay at home Mum, since Bella is only in nursery three mornings.  That’s very much why my business is a membership site with members paying on a monthly ongoing basis until they are confident enough to trust themselves to eat well and exercise without me looking over their shoulder! The portal can be accessed anytime, 24/7, and members get support from me through a private Facebook group, meaning it fits around their personal lives and schedules as well as mine. 

Many years ago, and before children, I was a dancer, as well as a beauty and holistic therapist and nutritionist at a 5 star spa.  I’ve always loved health, fitness and wellness, and I realised once I had babies that there was sadly virtually no resources and support for Mums like myself who couldn’t find the time or childcare to go to the gym, and that most diets were unsustainable, unhealthy, and incompatible with family life and meals.

My entire ethos is that everything I do, say and encourage has to be totally doable and realistic for even the most time poor, sleep deprived Mum. This is whilst giving them maximum energy, minimising hunger, creating long lasting healthier habits, and of course giving them back their body and their body confidence!

Since I won #WOW in February 2014 The Fit Mum Formula seems to be becoming a bit of a household name!  I’m regularly featured in National magazines, newspapers, radio and was even invited to talk on Sky News. It’s fantastic as I want to help as many Mums as possible, so media helps me to reach Mums who need me. I love seeing the new WOW winners every week, I always give them a welcome, and have discovered some fantastic women, companies and products as well as joint ventures such as cross promotion and blog swaps. 

For me, the biggest challenge has been time – the business grew unexpectedly fast yet I still didn’t want to put the kids into full time childcare; I love being a Mum too much. However Bella starts school this year so I’ll be ramping up my intake of Mums as I’ll have more time to serve them.

To me being a female among the entrepreneurial world of men doesn’t bother me. I’ll do what I want to do regardless of what anyone else says or thinks, a personality trait that’s got me into trouble but serves me just as well! If there’s one thing I know for sure though from being a health professional, it’s that a strong body and a strong mind go hand in hand.

sky tv eating disorder

Live SKY TV – Eating Disorder News Feature

Not many eating disorder news stories appear on your TV unless it’s a celebrity being ‘accused’ of starving themselves for a film role or bikini season.


Last May I finally came open about my past Eating Disorder and how I suffered and was very ill with Anorexia for years in my late teens and early twenties, being in and out of hospital several times.

(My ‘coming’ out video can be viewed here)


I also did another video about my recovery and how now I’m stronger than ever, both emotionally as well as physically – (watch that video here.)


I had kept it quiet for years, not because I felt ashamed or that anyone would judge me,


Just that I had moved on, put it all behind me and honestly?


There are some very dark memories attached to the years I was ill.


But I remember the day I was admitted to hospital for the first time.


I vowed that one day, when I was recovered and emotionally strong enough I would help other sufferers break free of their demons too.


It might seem ironic that I’m now a personal trainer and nutritionist helping Mums lose weight, but actually it’s all the same really.


If you do not love and respect yourself, and your body, enough to look after it, then you will..


  • Eat junk (or not eat properly) even when you know it’s not serving you
  • Skip exercise because other things seem more important at the time
  • Berate yourself for having no willpower
  • Have no self confidence or self esteem because you ‘can’t stick to a diet’
  • Feel bad about your body, because it doesn’t have enough energy to do the things you need to do to change, let alone look the way you’d like
  • Give up trying because every time you do, you fail


And even from an anorexic’s point of view, all of this I understand.

I knew what I had to do, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I felt mentally weak, and stuck, and miserable, but I couldn’t get out of the cycle.

But I learned to love my body and treat it well, and so can you.


Anyway what’s this about SKY News?


When ‘Beat’ eating disorder charity opened their helplines for the first time on Christmas Day to support sufferers and their families who might be struggling over Christmas,

SKY wanted to cover the story, came across my videos, and were so inspired they invited me to speak live from their studio during the morning Sunrise slot on Christmas Eve!

The video has been placed on the Sky News website – Click Here or on the link below to see it.


theo dragons den sbs

Dragon’s Den TV Celeb Award!

When you’re picked up on by a Dragon’s Den investor you know you’re onto a good thing…

Entrepeneur Theo Paphitis awarded The Fit Mum Formula his #SBS (Small Business Sunday) Award on Monday 19th December, making me the final winner of 2016.


Talk about ending the year on a bang!

Don’t be mislead by the ‘small’ in #SBS – The army of loyal Mums following The Fit Mum Formula astounds even me,

It’s actually that I’m actually a Mums just like you, I just happen to be running my own fitness & nutrition business and am pretty good at helping Mums like you look and feel their best, even when Mum-life makes that really challenging.

The award will provide publicity and help me reach more Mums like you who need my help.

But BBC Dragon’s Den investor Theo doesn’t choose his winners lightly and it’s because of loyal followers like you that I caught his eye.

So thank you!

I do this for you and will continue to help Mums lose weight and get their body confidence back for as long as you need me!

My profile will be featured on Theo’s website here.

Once again thank you for all your loyal support and here’s to a healthy 2017!