The Her Movement Interview: Tally Rye
Interviewed by Sabrina Greenberg-James
Initially training in Musical Theatre, Tally discovered a passion for health and fitness which resulted in training as a personal trainer, working with clients 1-1 and teaching spin regularly.
After graduating Tally had a change of heart and decided to pursue a career in the fitness industry. Throughout this time Tally has always shared the ups and downs on her Instagram account, and then YouTube, where she give a deeper insight into my life, share workouts and try to help her followers live the life that best serves us.
Through social media Tally also met close friends Zanna Van Dijk and Victoria Spence and they founded the online community GirlGains to help educate, empower and inspire women to feel good about themselves inside and out. Most recently they have become hosts of the Podcast Fit And Fearless with BBC 5 Live.
Tally believes in the fitness industry there is so much talk of weight loss, diets and transformations that we have forgotten what ‘health’ really means. Tally is passionate to share her knowledge and understanding that fitness and exercise is a small piece of the health puzzle along with Nutrition, Mental health and Lifestyle factors. And to help figure out how we can put it all together so that we might become our own version of our best and happiest self.
As a PT & fitness influencer you must be constantly surrounded by people promising quick fixes & imagery of misleading aesthetic goals. How do you stay so positive & make sure your message is heard above the noise?
It’s all about leading by example. As a personal trainer, I am diligent enough to make sure my clients are constantly improving and they feel like they are getting somewhere; they are getting stronger, fitter and enjoying the process. When you focus on those things, no one brings up how much they weigh or how much they need to lose, everyone just enjoys it for what it is.
Online, people have been so supportive. I feel like I have been putting myself out there and perhaps being somewhat controversial with my approach; The way I talk about diet culture within fitness, and how I think we need to stop focusing on weight loss as a cure all. I thought I was really going to rile people up, I’ve had maybe one or two messages, but beside that, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
I really believe in what I’m doing. I’m reading about it every single day; I’m learning more and more about this approach and looking at all the evidence to support it. I know I’m not going to please everyone, and people are going to disagree with me, but just knowing that I am staying true to myself and staying true to what I believe is important and that keeps me going.
You recently launched Be-Fitting, a community for PT’s & Fitness Professionals. What was the inspiration behind the launch?
Be-Fitting is a community for personal trainers looking to move from a weight normative approach to a more weight inclusive, health based one. Moving away from the idea that health is based on weight and looking at fitness in a more holistic way, focusing on the big picture rather than getting bogged down by numbers on the scale.
The problem with a weight normative approach is that it isn’t sustainable. 12 weeks, 5 years down the line, when the ‘plan’ stops working, people feel lost, guilty and ultimately like a failure.
A weight inclusive approach is all about creating behaviours and habits that your clients can sustain and maintain for life. Helping them work with and build their trust back with their bodies, rather than trying to fight against them.
A lot of diet culture within the fitness industry comes from within the industry itself – even in the courses you do just to qualify as a personal trainer! I felt the best way to communicate my message effectively was by targeting the root cause.
The scary thing is a lot of trainers themselves exhibit a lot of disordered behaviour. They are caught up in diet culture as much as the next person, just because they have been doing it for 10 years doesn’t mean that they are immune, and their own issues can cloud how they help others.
I am in the process of putting together educational days, getting experts to give their professional options and look at the evidence and science behind this approach. Ultimately, education about anything is key. When people realise how negative, and potentially harmful, it to encourage what is essentially disordered behaviours, they will want to, we should practice differently.
You have talked very openly about how your relationship with your body & food has changed over the last 3 years. Was there a particularly turning point where you realised your previous choices were no longer benefitting your overall wellbeing?
This started about 6 years ago when I started documenting my health and fitness journey on Instagram. I wanted to be lean and had this idea of getting 6 pack and really wanted to make it happen. I started ‘clean eating’, tracking macros and counting calories. I found out what weight training was and just threw myself into it.
Over the course of 6 months, I dropped a lot of weight. I eventually realised I was engaging in extremely disordered behaviour. If I think back now, I had a really distorted sense of body image.
The more I because aware of the food and the gym, the more I became preoccupied with my body. I was about a size 14 as a teenager, I never exercised, I never worried about what I ate I really wasn’t that fussed. I don’t have any memories of having bad body image. What I find ironic is when I’m leaner, and supposedly much healthier and fitter, my mental health around my body image was at its worst. I was so preoccupied by every little fluctuation and change, it completely consumed me.
I started little baby steps – things like deleting my fitness pal and not tracking my food. Then I started working out a little bit less in the gym and gradually began to give myself a bit more flexibility with the food I ate. The whole process went on for around 5 years, trying to undo all those obsessions that I had, all those rules I had around exercises and food.
This was around the same time I qualified as a personal trainer. When I started working in the industry, once again I felt a huge amount of pressure to look a certain way to be good at my job. At that time body building was really at its height, as was washboard abs! I felt like I was coming up short, but as I tasted more and more freedom and actually living my life rather than being consumed by calories and the gym, I found it harder to restrict myself and lose weight again.
About 18 months ago I started to understand more about intuitive eating and health at every size. Laura Thomas gave me some of her time and Helen West from The Rooted Project gave me a reading list. I started looking into the more intuitive approach to health and fitness and it just clicked. That has really set me on a path of spreading this message to more people and putting it out there in a fitness context.
My body image now is great in the fact that I just don’t think about it that much. The biggest breakthrough for me, was realising I am far more than my appearance. I have so much more to offer the world than what I look like.
It really opened me up to filling my potential as a person. Realising I want to make a difference with personal trainers and instructors, help other professionals. I can do that because I am not worried about my body, about my training routine, what I am eating.
I realised that by being obsessed with what I looked like and the size of my bum and whether or not I have abs, has actually been really oppressive. I’m not going to do it anymore because I have more important things to do. I’m not going to let it hold me back.
Fear of judgement is often cited as one of the primary barriers to exercise for women. How can we support each other to feel more confident when exercising?
Firstly, we need to have more diversity within the industry, and more representation in terms of body shape and size, ethnicities, old, young, disabled... We need to see all these people represented in imagery that promotes fitness. At the moment, the sort of person who is depicted as ‘fit’, is slim, they are probably white, and they have visible muscles. It makes it seem as if the gym is for those people. The This Girl Can campaign is a great example of how imagery can be inclusive and illustrate how there was so many different ways to move your body. We need more messaging like that to help make the gym, or any work out environment feel less intimidating.
Secondly, the language and environment created by fitness professionals needs to change. Let’s stop using language that shames people, makes them feel conscious about their bodies. Such as, ‘we’re going to do squats to stop your thighs jiggling’ or ‘working out for that summer body!’
Moving your body is ultimately one of the best ways you can look after your health. People get so put off because they feel like they are going to be shamed. The stigma that comes along with that is a barrier in itself to exercise and movement.
Ultimately, we want to get people moving for life. If they feel crap about themselves, they are going to stop. It is so important to create an environment where people feel like they are part of a community, they are supported and cared for and therefore are going to keep coming back.
What are some of your frustrations with the health & fitness industry?
I think my main frustration is the way professionals in the industry overstep the boundaries of what they are qualified to do. They justify by saying they are giving the client what they want, but the client only thinks they want that because that is what you have marketed to them! It stops with you. Professionals in the industry have to take responsibility. You can still make money by making people feel good about themselves.
I wish there was greater education within the industry so we realise how we could really positively make a change to how people’s lives for the long term.
Secondly, the lack of diversity in imagery and within marketing. Even within the influencer realm, I mean, I am part of the problem, and I am aware of this. I would love other people who are in a privileged position such as I am to use their privilege to leverage other people.
I also wish we would stop focusing on aesthetics, but one baby step at a time…
If you could give on piece of advice to someone wanting to move more, what would it be?
I think you should ask yourself, what do you enjoy doing? What are you curious about doing? In the fitness industry we love to get bogged down with splitting hairs about what is the best work out. Ultimately, the best thing is the thing that you can sustain in the long term. Something you can do consistently, you enjoy and it makes you feel good! What is the point in putting yourself out there if you are not enjoying it?
Let’s stop being superior. Unless you are an athlete preparing for the Olympics, you don’t need to stress about these things. The average person just needs to get moving and find something they enjoy. Dancing, gardening, climbing, skipping, rowing, roller-skating. I don’t know, whatever you want to do, its all valid!