I've had a few conversations recently with people who've asked why Spark Life is the way it is? Why are we weight neutral? Why don't we coach weight loss? What about those people who want to lose weight?
So, if you've wondered that, here's a little bit of a background on how Spark Life became what it is today.
Spark Life, was born as Spark Fitness and, indeed that's still a large part of what we do today, but we changed our name to be more reflective of the wide-range of wellbeing services that we offer. However, what didn't change was the ethos behind everything that we do. We are a size-inclusive studio and that sits behind absolutely everything.
There is a (false) notion in our society that has been long-held and it's one that's incredibly damaging to many people's physical and mental health: smaller bodies are better bodies. Whether it's the belief that being smaller is more aesthetically pleasing, or whether it's the belief that smaller bodies are intrinsically healthier, it is simply that... belief, not fact. It is upheld by false-assumptions, cognitive biases and an exceptionally profitable worldwide industry, but it is not upheld in fact. I know there'll be some of you screaming at me right now and I've certainly had my fair share of 'what-abouts' and 'but this study says' thrown at me. And certainly, there is much evidence that I can share with you as to why this is not fact (many of which are metaanalyses and systematic reviews, not individual papers)... and I will share these, but not just yet. Because right now, if you're looking for that, it's probably because you're looking for something to prove me wrong. Something to back up your confirmation bias.
Because, that's what I used to do.
The reason Spark Life exists as it does is because of the journey I (Maggie) have been on. When I first became a personal trainer, I did coach weight loss and so this journey started with a sense of frustration, if I'm honest. Why was it that some of the people I worked with were not losing weight? Despite their desire and their best efforts, they would work towards their goals, then suddenly stop and before we knew it, they were back right where they started but feeling worse about themselves. The research took me down deeper and deeper rabbit holes as I began to better understand the biology, the physiology, and the psychology behind things like calorie control, intentional weight loss, body size, and body image.
And at the end of it? It left me not only flabberghasted at the misinformation out in the social and public health spheres around this, but angry at the damage the perpetuation of these myths does to real people and the way they feel.
We are a fat-phobic society.
It is one of the last, acceptable forms of discrimination. The judgement placed on larger bodies in our society is horrific and it's supported by claims that it's for the better good... 'because health'. Only it's not. Evidence tells us that weight-stigma (weight discrimination) causes low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, social isolation, medical avoidance, disordered eating, eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal ideation. And the mainstream way of dealing with this is to perpetuate the 'thin is great' ideal even more, attempting to eradicate larger bodies through any means possible be that diets, drugs or surgery - all of which come with their own set of hiddeous side-effects and no evidence of long-term success - but it's better than being fat right?
And that's why Spark Life exists as it does. What makes me so, so sad is that there are very few spaces in the fitness industry which make a complete escape from this available to people. No matter which gym or studio you walk into, someone will be celebrating weight loss, discussing calories or encouraging the use of the next great diet! And whilst these things may seem totally innocuous to you, for those who have spent their lives being apologetic for their own body, or feeling as though others will never accept them for being authentically themselves, or if these things are triggering for their mental health, this is not a safe space to be in and that means any kind of movement or physical activity becomes unaccessible.
And that's also wrong.
So, what many of you may not know is that the concept of Spark Life was born out of anger. Anger that unless your body 'fits' you are not welcome 'as you are' in the fitness space. Yes, you're welcome if you're trying to lose weight, if you're willing to shrink yourself, or if you're accepting that your body is considered a 'before' picture. But not if you want to be truly and honestly accepted just as you are with complete unconditional positive regard and lack of judgement.
And whilst our concept may have been born from this anger, it now exists in love.
We love that our members have chosen us as their safe space. We love that our members feel confident to be unconditionally themselves when they're with us. And we love that they are spreading that unconditional acceptance to everyone who walks through our doors and into the community and beyond. Because everyone deserves to feel safe, supported and to have the opportunity to be themselves, no matter what.
It's why Spark Life is a weight-neutral studio. In our space, we don't talk about body-size, weight, weight-loss or diets because our space is a safe-space from that. So what happens if you want help in losing weight? Don't choose us! We actively discourage you from joining us... not from persuing your goal because there are so many places which will help you to do that... it's just not us!
Finally, to return to an earlier point, if you are interested in finding out more about the science behind our decision to become a truly size-inclusive space, you can start your jouney here.
If you'd like to find out more about how you can become a part of our wonderful size-inclusive community, drop us a message at @[email protected]