“MODEL and fitness coach Pollyanna Hale lives with her husband and their two daughters, aged ten and six, in Bosham, West Sussex.
Pollyanna, who believes people assume her looks are the only thing she has going for her, says: “People still think that you can’t have brains and beauty – it’s just assumed that I’m thick. Before I even speak, strangers write me off. They think your looks are your strong point so you have no need to capitalise on anything else like brains or talent.
“I’ve been told the reason for my success is my looks, when actually I reckon it’s skill and hard work. Another thing that annoys me is when people imply I’m so good with clients because I’m attractive.
“I’m a really friendly person – I’ll talk to anyone anywhere – but then people go, ‘Oh, well of course – every guy wants to talk to a pretty girl’. I think, ‘Hang on a second, that’s not fair – I can hold a conversation too’.
“It’s like people are blinded by me being pretty, they just can’t see past it. It seems incredible to them that I might have other qualities.
“I once worked in a health spa where part of the job was to look presentable – and men would always just assume I was a pretty face without a brain in my head.
“If you’re beautiful, you’ll spend half your life trying to prove you’re more than just your face and body. “A lot of people think that I’ve got life easy. And when I give people exercise or nutrition advice they just say, ‘Oh well, it’s alright for you to say that – look at you’.
“But actually I work damn hard to look like this. It’s really tiring trying to convince people that I don’t just wake up like this every day.
“I suppose if I was a bit more, shall we say, “normal” and carrying a bit of extra weight, people would relate to me more and think, ‘OK, she knows what it’s like not to be perfect all the time’.
“But because I come out well in photos, I have to make the point that I’m a highly trained expert on nutrition and fitness – not just some bimbo who fell into the job because she looks great naturally every minute of the day.
“It’s tough working for myself, but I think I would have struggled more in a corporate environment. I’m very confident in my abilities but I’m also aware of what other people will assume about me when I walk into a room.
“It’s frustrating that I always have to try that little bit harder to be taken seriously.”
“POLLY HALE was originally turned away for treatment because she was not technically underweight.
The 35-year-old said: ‘I was 18 when mum took me to get help but I was not technically underweight so I continued to lose weight rapidly until finally I was admitted to hospital.
‘I only became stable at about 23 after several hospital stays.’
The Bosham resident now works as a personal trainer and uses ‘exercise to enjoy life rather than to stay skinny.’
Polly said the lack of help caused her to lose more weight. ‘When I first saw someone about it I wasn’t considered underweight so I was referred to a counsellor for weekly sessions,’ she said.
‘I kept losing weight a kilo a week – and a few months later I was diagnosed and given more intensive treatment.
‘I first remember thinking I was fat when I was about eight or nine. I first made myself sick at 12.
‘I am stable now. It’s quite rare that people become completely recovered. I stay well by managing it. It’s more like asthma or diabetes in that when it’s managed I am happy and healthy.’
Polly backed Hope’s movement. She added: ‘Eating disorders are such complex illnesses, so anything that can be done is good.
‘I fully think that what Hope is doing is brilliant.
‘When you’re anorexic the ill part of your brain wants to be thin. Never comment on someone’s weight. If you tell me I look like I’ve lost weight then I will think that’s a great thing even if it’s unhealthy. And if someone says I’ve put on weight – which could be a good thing – I will want to lose it again.’ “
The links between stress and exercise usually refer to working out being stress relieving, but if you’re already stressed, should you be exercising at all?
Exercise, while good for you, is another stress on your body. In fact it’s this stress that make it fitter and stronger, as your body adapts to be able to deal with the same stress (and more) next time you workout.
Other things which speed up recovery and de-stress are yoga or pilates, meditation, stretching, massage, and some supplements such as tart cherry, curcumin and ginger, though these shouldn’t be relied on in place of adequate rest.
Stress could be psychological such as a bad day at work or the kids playing up, or it could be physical like a cold.
‘Chronic, ongoing stress will mean your body is taxed, tired, will tire more quickly, and recover more slowly,’ Polly tells Metro.co.uk ‘It doesn’t have to be mental stress like a bad day at work; not enough sleep, catching a cold, and alcohol are all “stressors” on the body, and performance will suffer.’
All these effects of stress sound pretty bad – so what should you do if you’re stressed out but want to work out? Do you really have to avoid exercise?
Polly doesn’t think so, and she’s highlighted some of the benefits of working out when you’re stressed. ‘Acute stress may actually help exercise performance,’ says Polly. ‘The adrenaline of “fight or flight” gives you energy by instructing your liver to release stored sugar into your bloodstream for energy. ‘Also, cortisol is naturally high in the morning to wake us up, making first thing a great time to exercise.’
Is pretty lingerie demeaning to women? Is attributing getting glammed up and sexy to a woman’s worth dismissing everything women have fought for in equality?
Personally I think absolutely not.
It’s perfectly natural for a woman to want to look sexy to attract a mate, it’s how the human race has kept going all these years.
If peacocks do it, why shouldn’t we?!
The Sun Newspaper wrote a story featuring 6 women, myself included, who feel proud and empowered to wear sexy lingerie, and love how it makes us feel.
The story unfortunately never got published but here’s a selection of photos from the shoot…
“POLLY HALE, 34 Following the story about the snowflake who called M&S “sexist” and “vomit-inducing” for displaying “must-have” lingerie in their window, and daring to put them next to men’s suits, we speak to four women who LOVE their sexy underwear. They adore buying pretty sets of lingerie, and say it makes them feel feminine, sexy and empowered. And why shouldn’t women feel that way? It’s not sexist to love pretty underwear.”
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU, YOUR BACKGROUND AND THE FIT MUM FORMULA?
I help Mums lose weight, get fit, and have more energy and body confidence with online coaching, programmes and tonnes of free content with The Fit Mum Formula, in a way that’s compatible with busy and often stressful family life. A qualified personal trainer and nutritionist, I realised once my first child was born that staying healthy wasn’t nearly as easy. I found myself at the bottom of my priorities and if I was to stay fit and healthy I was going to have to find a way to integrate this into motherhood, regardless of how little time or how much sleep I’d had!
I’ve always wanted to help as many Mums as possible so didn’t want to just be an in-person personal trainer. I’ve written two books, have thousands of blogs and videos online, and collaborate with National media and big brands so that I can spread my message, knowledge and support to Mums up and down the country. It’s taken longer to build the business this way than if I filled my hours with personal training clients from day one, but the wait and patience and persistence has been worth it and I can now reach many more Mums in much less time, wherever I am in the world and whatever family life demands of me.
WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR SETTING UP THE FIT MUM FORMULA?
I have a very active, creative brain and have always have some project or other on the go, but when my then business partner approached me with the idea I fell in love with the concept immediately and as passionate to get stuck into it. At the time in 2013 online fitness and nutrition coaching wasn’t around and there were very few resources to help Mums stay fit and healthy.
Exercise classes are all at ‘bath and bed’ time, gyms rarely have creche facilities, and I was repeatedly being told by Mums that they resented having to make separate ‘diet meals’ for themselves and having to cook twice each evening.
It was ok for us as a personal trainer and nutritionist respectively, but we could see other Mums needed some support from people who really understood what it was like being a parent, and could create plans and programmes that fitted into motherhood.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE BUSINESS AROUND FAMILY AND CHILDCARE?
Everything is online, so as long as I’ve got internet connection, I can work. That also means I can fit things in around the children. They only went to nursery school 2 days a week before starting school, I do 99% of school runs, and have never missed a sports day, show or parents evening. It’s meant some early mornings and I’m often checking emails or social media notifications while standing in queues, but I’d rather that than miss out on being with the children.
I was brought up with a stay at home mother and benefitted hugely, and I want to give the same experience to my girls. That’s not a dig at working Mums as everyone has to do what’s right for them, but this is how I’ve made it work for us.
SINCE SETTING UP THE BUSINESS WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE?
I have no fear (!) so I go for things other people might be nervous about doing. I approach journalists and brands, post controversial videos online about health-related topics Mums are passionate about, and am not afraid to try things. As a result I’ve managed to round up huge amounts of publicity including regularly being in National newspapers and magazine, presenting at fitness festivals, and speaking live on radio and even prime time Sky News. I now get approached by brands who are using influencer marketing, and have met some amazingly inspiring people from all the events and International networking I’ve done. I want to reach many thousands of people and help as many Mums as possible, and that’s required big thinking outside of just being a local, in person business. I don’t want to do in-person personal training sessions because I can only reach a handful of people each week that way. I want The Fit Mum Formula to be a household name which inspires Mums to put themselves first and care for their (mental as well as physical) health and body.
WHAT’S YOUR TOP TIP FOR MUMS WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT SETTING UP THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Find others who are doing what you want to do, but are further along the path, and learn from them. Read their blogs, books and social content (but don’t copy it – have your own message and voice), and reach out to them to see if they can offer any advice or even mentorship.
Don’t jump on every shiny new course or software in the hope it will radicalise your business, it won’t. There’s a time and place for business coaches later down the line to help with specific matters such as Facebook ads or growth strategy, but you don’t need them in the beginning. All the information you need to succeed is readily available for free, but most people don’t take action on it. They’re too afraid to tell people about their business for fear of rejection, don’t blog regularly because they don’t feel they have anything valuable to say, and think that because they’re a beginner, no one will care about their social media posts. Go against the grain and feel the fear and do it anyway! There will be people out there who need you, your services or products. You’re doing them a disservice by not telling them about it!
Plans have recently been announced that it may become compulsory for all restaurants to list the calorie content of their menu items, but is this a good idea?
The amount of people needing to lose weight in Britain is increasing so the thinking is that knowledge and awareness of calories would help people to make better choices.
The studies so far are mixed; people do eat fewer calories when they can see what’s in menu options, but only enough to amount to 1 lb loss over 3 years, not much if we’re being honest!
So it’s clear that calories being listed isn’t the only answer and motivational and behaviour change approaches would probably be needed alongside.
The main backlash comes from Eating Disorder specialists and sufferers who believe focussing on calories will detract from intuitive eating and other markers of a healthy mean, for example nutritional content.
But I had a different view despite being a recovered anorexic:
“However, criticism of proposals to make calorie information more readily available is not unanimous. Polly Hale, who suffered from anorexia, found that having calorie information more readily available makes eating more relaxing. “A therapist would say that’s giving into the ED (eating disorder) but if I don’t know the calories, I undereat ‘just in case.’ I eat better when I’m in control,” she says. Hale’s account suggests there may be mileage in a middle ground that allows individuals to more readily access calorie information, but without forcing it into the consciousness of anyone who looks at a menu (an example of such an approach would be making labelled menus available upon request).”
I started taking antidepressants when I was 19. I’d been suffering with anorexia for a year and talking therapies weren’t helping. My mood was very low.
At my worse, when I was sectioned in hospital, I was on a high dose of five types at once. Nothing worked and I was given lithium, which radically improved my mood.
I took the medication for six years without any breaks, then decided to come off it when I was 25. I’d been mentally stable for a while, even though I’m on the bipolar spectrum. I wanted to start a family and put that part of my life behind me.
I reduced the doses of each pill very slowly, one type at a time, until I was on the smallest dose of just one, to make sure my mood didn’t worsen. I also saw a psychiatrist regularly.
I would say don’t stop taking antidepressants without medical supervision; if your doctor won’t support your decision, find another one who will.
Come off them very slowly and add natural anti-depressants into your life, such as exercise, fresh air, sunlight, sleep, good food and time with your friends and family.
These things seem so simple, but they are incredibly effective.
But not everyone’s experience of both mental health problems, medication or coming off meds will be the same so if you’re currently on any mood stabilising medication or know someone who is please have a read of the other women’s stories so that you are prepared or can hopefully prevent any nasty antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.
P.S. If you struggle with mood problems of any sort please do not suffer alone. The best place to reach me is in my free Facebook Group here. I’m not a psychologist but I have been there and I understand.
In a back to school special earlier this year, charity Action for Children set out to help parents improve their kids lunch boxes, and asked me to help.
As a parent myself it’s a cause I care about – kids need good nutrition to have energy, learn, grow and behave well. Yes the studies even show conditions like ADHD and Autism are improved when diet is improved!
But most parents know that already. The problem is getting your child to eat a good meal in the middle of the day that they won’t reject. Kids tend to favour sweet and processed foods, so how do we create a win win situation?
The charity Action for Children are on a mission to help parents improve kids’ lunch boxes and set out to do some research:
A massive three quarters (75%) of British parents with children aged 5 to 13 who make a school lunchbox admit to feeling guilty about what they pack, according to new research (1).
The poll showed parents’ top four favourite lunchbox items are a ham sandwich, yogurt, a packet of crisps, and an apple. A carton of juice was the most popular specific drink picked out by parents, while biscuits and chocolate bars were also popular. (3)
Worryingly, the latest Government statistics show one in three children in England are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. (2) But the charity’s research found that the most important factor for parents in packing a lunchbox was being confident their child would eat what they were given (38%). Making sure the lunchbox is nutritious was the second most important reason at 28%.
I was invited onto Sky News as they were covering the story to talk about the issue live on air with my 9 year old daughter Aurora in tow (she did such a good job and I was so proud of her!):
Or listen to the full compilation of soundbites with my views on what we can do about kids’ lunch boxes my clicking on the video or here on YouTube.
“Children can be notoriously picky eaters – they do have a preference for sweet foods and they will go on hunger strike. I disagree with people who say if children are given no other option but healthy food, they’ll eat it. I’m a nutritionist and if I can’t get my children to eat lentil spinach salads then I don’t know how anyone else is supposed to be able to. If they don’t like what they’re given they won’t eat it. If that happens at school they won’t be able to concentrate, they’ll be falling asleep in class and they won’t have the energy to take part in sports.
“I think it benefits everyone, not least the children, if they’ve got a full belly. The easiest way to do that is to give them food that you know they love and you know they’re going to eat. Children being children, that’s going to be the sugary junk foods. that’s why people do it; it gives everyone an easy life.
“But healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. Children can eat things that are very familiar to them but also nutritious such as swapping processed cheese for mild cheddar cheese or cocktail sausages for sliced ham off the bone. Instead of giving them a packet of crisps it could be plain breadsticks that don’t have loads of added flavourings and salt and sugar. I don’t know many children who won’t eat some sort of fruit and vegetables, even if it’s just a couple – maybe blueberries or cucumber sticks. If that’s all they’re going to eat, it’s better than nothing.
“Children are creatures of habit and they tend to prefer routine. They probably prefer it if you give them exactly the same thing to eat every day . It’s familiar to them and it taps into that safety net – they understand the food and they know it’s safe. Variety doesn’t tend to be a problem for them.
“It’s about making compromises. They may not like granary bread that has loads of seeds in and tough crusts, but they might eat a wholemeal wrap that’s a bit softer and easier to eat. I can’t shove salad into my kids’ sandwiches but a few slices of cucumber might be ok or some cherry tomatoes chopped up. There’s lots of options out there. I think people make it more complicated than it has to be.”
Polly Hale, nutritionist, Chichester
Parents need the knowledge and confidence to give their child the best start in life when it comes to nutrition. Anyone in need of inspiration for packing a fuss-free healthy lunchbox that your child will want to eat can visit //actionforchildren.org.uk/lunchbox.”
Registered Public Health Nutritionist Mari Clark, who designs menus for Action for Children’s Eat Better, Start Better service, says: “Through no fault of their own, many parents simply don’t know exactly what their child needs. This isn’t helped by confusing packaging that has pictures full of fruit and happy children, when the products inside are packed with sugar and fat and salt.
“There is no need for any lunchbox to contain crisps, sweets, processed food, cereal bars, chocolates and things like that – if you have sandwich with some good quality protein, a portion of fruit, veg and dairy then that’s enough.”
TOP TIPS FOR A HEALTHY PACKED LUNCH FROM ACTION FOR CHILDREN’S NUTRITIONIST
Swap juice for water or milk. Or choose a low sugar drink or dilute fruit juice 50/50.
Give your sandwiches or wraps different fillings; cooked chicken, turkey, egg, tuna, low fat cream cheese are all good options
Ditch the crisps for chopped vegetables and a tasty low-fat dip like hummus
When you’re shopping, choose the lower salt bread options stocked by most supermarkets
Use spreads and condiments sparingly and choose lower salt versions
Don’t pack a sandwich every day. Think salads with pasta, potato, couscous with vegetables and some protein like chicken. Other things to think about include boiled eggs or omelettes.
(1) All survey figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4348 adults, of which 535 are parents with children aged 5 to 13. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th – 10th August 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
(2) National Child Measurement Programme England 2016 – 2017
(3) List of most regularly packed items: ham sandwiches (59%), yogurt (54%), crisps (60%) an apple (53%). 31% selected biscuits and 26% selected chocolate bar. Whilst the most selected drink was “Other drink” (47%), the most selected drink from the list provided was a carton of juice (39%).
HOW ACTION FOR CHILDREN WORKS: Action for Children helps disadvantaged children across the UK through intervening early to stop neglect and abuse, fostering and adoption, supporting disabled children, and by campaigning tirelessly to make life better for children and families. With over 550 services the charity improves the lives of more than 300,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers every year. Actionforchildren.org.uk