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Eat, love, live with ... Alanah Reilly

Posted By Michaela Skilney  

Sharing her life with her husband Sean and rescue dog Lola in sunny Meanjin/Brisbane, Queensland, we're thrilled to chat with Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist and clinical supervisor Alanah Reilly about what it means to eat, love and live!

Founder and director of Autonomy In Movement (AIM), cofounder and board member of Safe Exercise at Every Stage (SEES), cofounder and co-director of the Therapeutic Exercise Alliance for Movement in Eating Disorders (TEAMed), Alanah's approach to integrating safe movement into eating disorder recovery is music to our ears as Credentialed Eating Disorder Clinicians. Her actual choice of music? You be the judge! 

Let's dive right in - what's your favourite meal?

Brunch! All of the things! With a mango or banana smoothie, or vanilla or chocolate thickshake. Yum - and a double shot espresso thank you.

What is your favourite cuisine?


What's your favourite memory involving food?

Dinners with my family at the table as a child. Dad was the cook in our house and made the most yummy, hearty, warm food! Especially on winter nights after school - it was so cold and dark and we had the fire place on, and I had my purple fluffy dressing gown on, and I was so tired and we had casserole with red wine cooked into it.

If you could share a meal with three guests, dead or alive, who would they be?

My husband Sean, the Eat Love Live team (more than one person, but oh well!) and an activist from any social justice movement from last century or earlier. AFAB preferably.

How do you quieten or remove the sting of toxic diet culture messages? 

Gah, it is EVERYWHERE. I try to:

  • Follow loads of bodies and identities on social media (see my Instagram 'Highlights' for accounts)
  • Keep learning and doing the deeper work regarding social justice, biases and understanding intersectionality
  • Remember scientific concepts living organisms require like finding homeostasis and navigating allostatic load
  • Remember we have MANY dimensions of wellbeing to navigate and nurture (not just physical but also social wellbeing, intellectual, sexual, emotional, occupational/productivity, spiritual, digital, financial, environmental, cultural, etc)
  • Remember we are amazing and complex - NOT just something to shrink or remove adipose tissue from
  • Remind myself that we are all doing the absolute best we can with what we have access to right now, and that

We are all survivors of this toxic culture, so let's extend ourselves and others compassion.

What's something in your life you're loving at the moment?

Naw, you have such great questions! Allowing myself to have a flexi-schedule. This is actually quite a radical act of self compassion for me as I developed a very perfectionist in/toxic/punitive/all or nothing relationship with productivity and schedules whereby my worth was based on how much I 'got done'.

This started as a child and hasn’t stopped basically until I just couldn’t function anymore. I have had such a horrible relationship with productivity and rest and morality and all those good things, especially before being recently diagnosed with ADHD, so much so that I had many breakdowns and low times.

Life CAN be sustainable and fulfilling and part of that is exploring and practicing what works for you and allowing yourself the time and grace to try new things outside of your perceived identity of yourself (e.g. I have always thought of myself as the 'chaotic one', 'too much' and 'not enough'). So. Much. Inner. work. And SO worth it.

What is something you're passionate about?

Social justice. Full stop. Also the incredible science of the body and mind far over shadowing diet culture’s views of their worth. Grrrr.

What part of your body do you love the most, and why?

Oh this is bringing up some thoughts - good thoughts, scienc-y thoughts?!

To preface, in the past I think I had undiagnosed Orthorexia and probably dysmorphia regarding my ears and head. Not a good time; was very caught up in diet culture and being the 'sporty one”' which added lots of morality to particular foods and bodies. After completing my final practicum/internship in a mental health space in a local hospital a number of years ago, I became interested in movement and mental health. This led me to movement and eating disorders, which led me to movement and social justice and intersectionality and biases etc.

Now I tend to see my body as a wildly cool bunch of science and art and awe and as one whole - not parts -so there isn’t one part I love the most. I have studied most body parts in detail at uni - and was a tutor as well - but it all essentially connects, and is just such a vibe, and so beyond our comprehension that I sometimes can’t deal! 

I still have some diet culture imposed thoughts due to our darn society and upbringing (compassion, compassion, compassion!), but I truly feel the complexity and science and depth of the body overshadows societal groupthink. I am learning to respect our bodies as an ecosystem within another ecosystem, and ecosystems tend to know how to ecosystem just fine and don’t love when we remove or impose a bunch of stuff on them usually.

When do you feel the most positive or in love with your body?

I'm not sure if I am in a very logical mood or what, but strangely I am actually not sure that I have thought I 'love' my body. I think I inherently respect it and appreciate it and so haven’t tended to add 'love' to it. For me personally, I have felt the word 'love' to be more of a language I hear regarding diet culture/types of bopo/toxic positivity? I feel I have a deep awe of the body, so love is maybe embedded in that naturally for me, but it is absolutely unconditional and a given maybe.

I grew up as a straight-sized person so I feel I may have also had some protective values and thoughts around my body from a young age (despite my difficult times as well). Hmm, this is a good reflection activity! Doesn’t mean I don’t or didn’t have my days, but I do feel bodies are other-worldly and go beyond an emotional love for me.

How do you practice self-care or self-love?

Haha - do as I say, not as I do! No, I think the flexi-schedule is actually helpful for that. I also try to get to bed at a helpful time, take my medication, see friends sometimes, hang with Sean (planning things is helpful), eat a variety of foods (RAVES rocks!), do a variety of movement, not go on my phone for a few minutes after I wake up, water my plants and do my washing so it’s clean. I would love to do more things, but I think I am doing the best I can at the moment.

What role does movement play in your life?

Oh gosh, what a massive question! I think about the physiology of my movement when I do it. For example, “Cool, I am going to grow new blood vessels in my muscles to be able to transport oxygen, nutrients and remove waste faster during movement. This will help reduce the stress on my heart, reduce my blood pressure and enhance the efficiency of my skeletal muscle for future movement occasions. Cool! Bodies are so smart and resourceful."

Or, “I love that my bone osteoblasts are going to be stimulated to secrete organic matrix after this session due to the warping of the bone thanks to the resistance I am lifting. I will be getting very strong bones and I am less likely to experience a fracture or break, plus receive hormonal benefits from strong bones as well. Love it!”. 

Or, “I appreciate that I am a woman in this cis male-centric gym taking up space and that is very important.”

Or, “Although I look a particular way on the outside, no one has ANY idea how I feel on the inside - my mood, my intellect, my blood tests, my projects I am working on, my worth, NOTHING. Only I can see that, so my worth is not tied to my external looks.” 

This has got my mind so happy! There are also times when I am like, “I'm going on my stupid walk for my stupid mental health,” (haha!), and sometimes it works a treat! But many other times I choose to sleep, chill, do some work, groceries or other stuff as movement has a place in my life but is not my life. 

What song can you rely on to instantly lift your mood?

Haha! Anything from the 2007-2008 Ministry Of Sound album - techno through and through!

What values do you find important to live by?

Love this! Authenticity, creativity, adventure, autonomy, compassion, justice.

What do you do in life that makes you feel the most alive?

Strangely getting good sleep. Nothing like it! Actually, I take that back! Extreme sports and roller coasters. I love bungee jumping, sky diving, extreme flying fox, high ropes, totally want to do zorbing, massive roller coasters, sling shots, etc. 

If you could offer any advice to your ten year old self, what would it be

You are worthy, deserving, equal and morally 'good' AS YOU ARE! You are amazing and unique and so kind and so caring and I love you. You CAN love yourself xxx

Anything else you'd like to share?

If it feels safe, I invite you to consider what comes up when thinking of the words 'movement', 'exercise', 'sport' and ''fitness'. Regardless of what comes up, it's important to try to hold space for ourselves, bring compassion, take our time, extend ourselves kindness and remain curious. Movement’s purpose in life is to serve YOU, not you serve it. You have every right to keep what is currently working for you regarding movement, and seek to explore or even alter what may be less helpful at present. This could be the physical type of movement, and/or the thoughts, emotions, urges and circumstances surrounding it. Also, if movement feels it cannot be changed or discussed right now, that is also fine! 

Like to learn more from Alanah Reilly? Head to her Instagram profile (@the.edep) or her website (autonomyinmovement.com.au) to book in for a 1:1 consult or clinical supervision regarding safe (brave), tailored, reflective, trauma-informed, inclusive movement and education.