Olly Foster

My mental battle with the fitness industry

For those of you who know me and for those of you who don’t, you may not be aware that almost 3 years ago I decided to stop doing fitness shoots completely. This was a decision that I had to make in order to improve my mental health and bring myself back to the person who I really was: the happy me.

You see I’ve been in this game a long time, way before the boom of social media where anyone and everyone seems to be able to call themselves a ‘fitness model’. The definition of a fitness model to me, is someone who lands publications based on their physique / look.

Men’s Health

Back in 2005 I was fortunate enough to win the cover of Men’s Health and since then I have been extremely grateful for the many covers both in the UK and oversees that I have landed. However, before winning this comp I was a happy go lucky wannabe rugby player (constantly blighted with injury) who trained hard, ate what I liked, when I liked and partied just as hard as the best of them without regret or remorse or guilt. Winning that cover changed me and mostly for the wrong reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets and I believe everything that has happened since then has led me to where I am now, but this has come with consequences.

“I became extremely anal with food choices and a recluse not attending events or parties in fear of not being able to control the environment around me.”

Winning that comp lead me to placing huge amounts of pressure on myself to stay in cover model shape all year round. Something at the time I wasn’t really capable of doing as I didn’t truly know my body and how best to maintain it in a healthy sustainable way.

I became unsociable, I missed out on a lot and at one point I wasn’t even getting invited out, as people knew I would just say no. I was a recluse and I wasn’t happy.

“Being so restrictive led me to develop an eating disorder, which took many years to overcome.”

You see like most of us in this emotional roller coaster industry I have an extremely addictive personality. Back then if I drank I wouldn’t stop at just one. The flood gates would open and I kept drinking till either I ran out of money, got evicted from the club (which happened more times than I can recall) or ended up being sick. The same went with food. Being so restrictive led me to develop an eating disorder, which took many many years to overcome.

The modelling years

At one point in my career working as a full time model in London I would roughly eat 1200 cals Monday to Saturday, that’s an extremely low amount given my size. On top of the internal pressure I placed on myself I also had pressure from the modelling industry asking me to lose size so I could be more ‘versatile’. You see back then fitness modelling wasn’t as popular as it is today and if you wanted to work you had to fit the bill and I struggled to adapt to that.

“To highlight how bad things were at one point I would microwave jars of Nutella and then drink them.”

So what did I eat on a Sunday you may ask? Well at it’s highest I was roughly consuming in excess of 15,000 calories. Yup you read that right. 15,000 fucking calories every Sunday for a very long time. I would eat, eat and eat until I was sick, wait 30mins or so and then go again. To highlight how bad things were at one point I would microwave jars of Nutella and then drink them. A whole jar in less than 2-3 minutes on top of the mass of other copious amounts of crap I would have. That’s pretty fucked up and not to mention extremely dangerous. I had issues!

You can probably see now why I don’t use the phase “cheat days” – regardless of what people say they are not good for you, your relationship with food needs to be healthy and cheat days do not solve that problem.

On top of all this believe it or not I’m not a huge fan of having my photo taken. I’m sure I may have been as a child where I used to love being the centre of attention and having fun, but somewhere along the line I lost that desire and would rather just be left alone. I’m an extremely insecure person. In my relationships, with how I look, with my abilities as a PT, you name it I’m pretty insecure at it…. Well I was anyway. Today (thankfully!) is a different story.

A healthy body needs a healthy mind

Ok I’m beginning to waffle here so I’ll get to the point. When you become extremely self-obsessed, and let’s relate this with regards to how you look, you will create demons that will take over your mind unless you have already figured shit out inside your head. A healthy body needs a healthy mind; the two intertwine and feed off each other.

“…we can be fixed, if we are willing to try and stop being in denial. It’s ok to ask for help.”

Many people seek Personal Trainers to help with their physiques but are scared to seek the help of a mind coach, therapist, whatever you want to call it in fear of the stigma that surrounds it. In the USA you are frowned upon if you don’t have a therapist or life coach but yet here in the UK you are looked at like a mentalist if you mention you have one. I have had therapy. Years of it and along with self help techniques I use that stuff really does work. We aren’t built to deal with what the world throws at us without consequences and we certainly aren’t taught at school what the real world is like and yet when we can’t adjust we struggle and break. BUT, we can be fixed if we are willing to try and stop being in denial. It’s ok to ask for help!

Take action

So when I was diagnosed with “depression” back in 2014 I stared to take action. Well maybe not straight away. Initially I was in denial and I refused medication or threw it away, missed appointments on purpose and blamed shit on the people around me for making me feel that way. I knew deep down something wasn’t right but I thought (and hoped) I was strong enough to deal with it by myself. I created the problem so surely I could fix it, right?  WRONG. I needed help and lots of it. From therapists, family, friends even work colleagues who knew what I was struggling with. Ultimately until I felt strong enough to deal with the demons in my head I needed to remove myself from the toxic environment that compounded these issues. However, unfortunately it’s impossible to remove myself completely based on my work and the platform I use to reach more people and generate more business. I mean I love my job, I’ve been working as a PT for over 16 years and it’s my passion to help others. If you have worked with me you will know this.

“…if I do pluck up the courage to take a selfie I’ve deliberated for hours whether to post it or not.”

Over the last few years to work around the removal issue I’ve recycled old images or if I do pluck up the courage to take a selfie I’ve deliberated for hours sometimes whether to post it or not. This is one of the reasons why I’m not as active as others in my field when it comes to social media. I’m still not completely comfortable with that environment but I’m getting better at being so. I do however like to post a lot about good nutritious great tasting food, training tips and as you may have seen, golf. Did you really think I could write a blog without mentioning golf?

The reason why I’m so passionate about golf is because I truly believe it saved me. Golf relates to life in so many ways because it’s a game where the power of the mind actually exceeds the physical abilities you need. For me I work on both, I have a new focus which has literally been life changing. So cut me some slack next time you see a golf post on my page 😉

The future

“…my name is Olly, I’m a PT and I went to the dark side but now I’m back….”

Anyway let’s bring this to a close. Over the last year having spent a lot of time on my own (which in itself can be bad thing) I have finally learnt to be happy within myself, be happy and just be me. I don’t give a flying fuck anymore what others may think and I’m going to do what makes me happy, live life the way I want to live it and no longer be controlling, restrictive or reserved. I’m going to do more shoots this year but I’m doing them for me and my business. I don’t do them in hope of publications and I won’t be calling myself a “fitness model” anymore – my name is Olly, I’m a PT and I went to the dark side but now I’m back….

This blog post hasn’t been written to gain sympathy. I’ve done this so that if anyone reading can relate to it in anyway then I hope you know you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Shit, email me if you need to but please take action. You won’t regret it, life is too damn short to not be truly happy.

If you’ve anything you’d like to say about this topic then I’d love to hear it, please post your comments in the feed below…
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Jenna Gallagher
Jenna Gallagher
2 years ago

I can relate to many parts of this……defo not about being a fitness model though.
People are afraid to admit and talk about mental health issues and that exacerbates the problem, so this is a brave and encouraging blog to read.

Just over 12months for me on medication which helped immensely. Though I feel
It’s time to come off that.
But I’ve never been a big fan of social gatherings (emotionally draining) or of having my photo taken and that’s never going to change, but I’m fine with that 🙂