A strong advocate for body acceptance, Jameela Jamil threw diet culture out the window this past weekend with a workout you could feel *really* good about.
For most of her life, Jameela Jamil avoided exercise because she “associates it with weight loss and I’ve had too much of an eating disorder history to mess around with all of that.”
She’s speaking to me (and hundreds of others) on a Saturday afternoon during an Instagram live, ahead of her ‘diet culture free’ aerobics session. She’s wearing a black baggy button-down t-shirt and shorts (PJs, specifically), a statement red, glittery lip, and her black hair cascades over her shoulders. It’s not your typical workout look and that’s deliberate.
“The bralette tops and tight leggings and rooms full of mirrors and focus on definition, shape and size is just too much for me,” she says. “It triggers old thoughts and habits. So, I do it in baggy clothes with light snacks.” She isn’t alone in this feeling, either. Jamil says she’s had countless messages from fans saying how they haven’t worked out in years because toxic gym culture has alienated them from exercising.
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Along with her today is an old friend and personal trainer, Al Jackson. When Jamil first started in television, she would go to him to ask for help in losing weight: “He would always resist my intention,” she says, “he would always try to pull me away from the diet culture side of exercise.”
Today, it’s just about exercise’s benefits for our mental health. Do you have a snack as per the instructions? Jackson does, he’s tucking into some Dairy Milk chocolate. Jamil, on the other hand, has a piece of toast with jam. I’ve some Allen’s snakes that just arrived from Australia.
We start out with basic mobility; arm circles, hip circles, and just getting the blood flowing. All moves, says Jamil, were designed to be modified if need be, even done sitting down. The audio quality isn’t great (Zoom, huh?) but you can hear the tunes faintly: ‘Disco Inferno’ by The Trampps is just one song on the soundtrack to side-steps, box steps, arm raises, and kicks. I probably looked a little silly and I’m sure my neighbours thought so too, but if the goal was to get grinning, mission accomplished.
How exercise should be
20 minutes later, I am surprisingly warm and energised. I’m not breathless, but the most important thing is that I feel good. I haven’t punished myself for eating takeaway food last night and I haven’t ‘worked off’ those Allen’s lollies, I just feel happy and confident in myself.
“Isn’t it nice to have that feel-good vibe right now?” says Jackson at the end, after we’ve stretched.
“Heartrate’s up, I’ve got a smile on my face and I don’t know why, it’s a wonderful thing. That’s what exercise should be and can be.” And I couldn’t agree more.
You can watch Jameela Jamil’s diet culture-free workout on her the IGTV section of her Instagram.