For those of you unfamiliar with the Body Gossip sofa, it’s a couch with a plain white cover, on which passers-by are invited to write a sentence about their body. Body Gossip HQ now boasts seven sofa covers choc-full of Body Gossip from various events we’ve had.
The Arc’s Body Gossip week culminated in a performance on the Sunday. Naturally, proceedings had an Olympic theme (doesn’t everything at the moment?). At Body Gossip, we wanted to use the Olympics to explore the nation’s relationship with sport and exercise.
We’ve discovered that we’re a complicated nation, when it comes to health. The British default state is naturally rebellious. We love sticking it to the man and pride ourselves on being non-conformists. So when the government tells us to eat our five-a-day, to drink less alcohol and more water and to exercis, our response is “no! We shall be alcoholic, dehydrated coach potatoes! Stop telling us what to do!”.
A lot of the stories we receive at Body Gossip talk about the addictive nature of gyms, however. Many of you have told us how you have become caught in a cycle of compulsive exercise. So, whilst half of us are gleefully opposing what we see as constant oppressive messages telling us we need to exercise more by sitting on a beanbag with a tube of Pringles, the other half are slogging away in a windowless, enclosed cell, hooked on those endorphins. Our relationship with physical activity has clearly meandered into dangerous territory.
But, here’s the thing. A moderate amount of daily exercise is necessary for optimum health. We all know this, deep down. So, at Body Gossip we donned out best private investigator style garb (well, BodyGossipTash sometimes wears a beige mac) and sought to find out what exactly is causing our aversion to exercising in the right way.
What we discovered was fascinating – Your beef, you told us, is with the notion of being told you have to exercise in order to lose weight/look a certain way. Everywhere we look, we see posters of people with six packs wearing crop-tops with slogans declaring “I lost half my body weight in 5 minutes, thanks to this gym regime!”. Celebrity fitness DVDs, abrasive gym advertising, glossies advocating an impossible-to-stick-to training formula as part of their equally-impossible-to-stick-to ‘miracle diet plan’. You’re sick of it and you’re bored by it.
It isn’t that we’re a nation of sloths at all. You told us how much you enjoy competitive sports, running, swimming and dancing but, and here is the crucial distinction, because exercising in this way makes you FEEL like a superhero. It turns out you care not what effect your time and energy is having on the circumference of your thighs. Exercise is about what your body can do and how it makes you feel, not how your body looks.
So, BodyGossipRuth and Tash concluded, what better year than the year London hosts the 2012 Olympics than to help Britain reclaim its love of sport by taking the Body Gossip ethos and allowing real people, with real stories, the opportunity to explain what exercise means to them?
And that’s exactly what happened at the Arc. Performed and written by local people, the stories told of all the benefits of exercise, without the words ‘abs’, ‘toned’ or ‘weight loss’ being mentioned once. It was glorious.
The event began with a fun run. Performers ran for 50 minutes accompanied by BodyGossipRuth who, owing to pesky ongoing back trouble, had to walk behind. BodyGossipTash stayed at the venue to help the stand-up comedians rehearse their routines (by which she means she watched them and laughed. A lot). Tash hasn’t run since the emergence of her 34Gs circa 1998. She does exercise regularly, but it’s not really the sort of activity we could describe in a public blog. (Or maybe we should – Fifty Shades of Body Gossip, anyone?)
When the runners arrived back at the Arc they immediately performed their stories – red in the face, sweating and out-of-breath – but feeling like superheroes. Each and every one was incredible – The stories were moving, inspiring and occasionally very funny. And the best news? Ruth and Tash filmed the lot. Highlights of the day coming to a PC near you (via Youtube) very soon.