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  • Motherhood, Mental Health and Staying Optimistic with Neev Spencer

    30th April 2021

    30th April 2021

    By Caitlin Bell

    Innermost Insider, Neev Spencer, is probably best known for her positions as a television and radio broadcaster, having found success in her multiple broadcast roles, including her notable award-winning shows on popular UK radio station KISS FM. Having spent years of her career supporting industry-giants on tour, hosting for some of the world’s biggest brands and being the face of some of the UK’s favourite TV programmes, Spencer is also known for making waves with her advocacy for mental health, particularly following her own experiences with postpartum depression since becoming a first-time mum.

    The subject of mental health is one that Spencer is hugely passionate about, combining her wealth of industry experience with the topic to interview A-List celebrities such as Ed Sheeran on the topic live on air. Having been inspired by her incredible work and dedication to raising awareness surrounding mental health, we sat down with Neev to discuss the reasons behind her passions, her incredible fitness and mental health journey, and all things optimism.

    Hi Neev! Can you tell us a bit about how you got into your fitness journey?

    I would describe myself as a yo-yo dieter. My whole life I was never very happy with my weight but never quite took it seriously enough – I would go through phases of trying this and trying that. I would say that it became a very important thing to me when I was pregnant, this is when it became a priority in my life. I wanted to do a lot of pregnancy yoga and wanted to be the fittest I could ever be or have ever been ahead of the birth.

    A couple of months after my first baby was born, I found out I had an undiagnosed slipped disk in my back – not the kind of surprise that you want when you’ve got a tiny baby to look after. It was horrific. It was an injury that they think happened years before, from DJing – maybe carrying my record bag around, but it was a terrible, terrible surprise.

    It meant that I was separated from my baby a lot which really impacted my mental health. It was a dark and difficult time, but a time for me to learn so much about myself. I had to have physiotherapy to get walking again and take care of my little one – this is when I learnt about my body in a much deeper way and had a much deeper appreciation for my physical health.

    After this happened, I was hell-bent on helping people with their mental health, especially pregnant women. I had gone to deep depths and had to rise and swim to the top, and thankfully, I made it. But – not everyone does. This is what motivates me with my charity and mental health. Following his journey, fitness is now something I prioritise and enjoy.

    Why is fitness so important to you as a woman?

    As a woman, a lot of us want to be mothers. As a result of this desire, it’s very important that you keep your physical health up there. It’s also really important for our hormones, and our mental health. It’s good to feel proud of yourself! As women we have high pressured jobs – many of us whilst juggling being a mother, being able to create that time for yourself and your preferred exercise method is you and that thing – and that is important. It is for you.

    What is the one piece of advice you would give to our readers regarding their fitness journey?

    Listen to your body, and what it is telling you. Don’t just think of fitness in an aesthetic way. I’d love to be able to fit into my jeans before I had children, but you need to take your time. You’ve got to nourish the changes you are making and cultivate it – that’s where Innermost comes in. Those supplements supporting your goal, keeping you maintained and on the right track.

    What is your greatest life accomplishment?

    First and foremost, my children. But, I am also immensely proud of the fact that I was the first British-Asian woman to ever get a commercial mainstream radio show.

    How did you know that you were ready to become a Mother?

    I had always wanted to be a Mum. I’ve always loved children and after I met my partner I knew that was a priority. We are so grateful that being a parent was able to happen for us – there were many years when this dream seemed very distant, and this struggle really opened up my wellness journey. Being a parent and having gone on that natural journey is a blessing.

    Can you tell us a bit more about your mental health campaign work?

    I use my own lived experiences to help relate to other people and help them through what they’re going through. These range hugely – from domestic abuse, to personal struggles: I lost my best friend to drugs and alcohol when I was in my 20s, I suffered depression in my teenage years, and again, as a first-time Mother, when I was separated from my little one, this took a huge toll on my mental health.

    I’ve found that being honest and sharing how I got through those moments is what drives me to help other people, and that’s why I make it my mission to do as much mental health work as possible.

    Do you think ‘optimism’ is something that we can learn?

    Absolutely. It’s something that we have within us naturally – children are very optimistic, they are innocent and joyful. Life really wears us down – experiences, loss, trauma and grief, all of that plays a part in where we begin to lose that optimism. For me, optimism really is faith. I am Sikh, but this faith doesn’t necessarily have to be in God, if you’re not religious.

    It’s a faith in the greater good. Faith in humanity – that something good is out there. It is the most important thing you can have as a human.

    What are your top three life tips for staying optimistic?

    • I think the place we are in as a society with the pressures of social media can lead us to forgetting how lucky and fortunate we really are. When you focus on where you are in comparison to someone else, this can be really powerful. It’s important to ground yourself.
    • Get a blessing box. This comes from Tibetan culture and is a way of looking ahead towards your dreams and never give up on your fantasies. This allows you to really focus on what is important.
    • Allow yourself to see the positive sides of life, don’t focus on the negatives.

    Do you think that optimism affects our physical health, as well as our mental health?

    Absolutely – without being optimistic you can begin to feel lost. Optimism gives us direction, and we need this grounding to feel at peace. This allows us to feel less anxious and in control. Being able to look ahead to our dreams is a way of us constantly motivating ourselves.

    Small practices like setting an intention everyday and using this as motivation to keep this together is a great way of keeping your mental health in check. Optimism is the line that lies beneath all of this – regardless of what your intention is.  This is hugely important for our psyche. You can’t have good mental health without good physical health – they work in synergy.

    Finally, who are your role models?

    I’d have to say my parents. They are just wonderful. They’ve been through so much, they care for my little brother who has special needs, and even though they have been dealt with unbelievably difficult cards in life, they have always taught me to persevere. They taught me that you must remain kind and compassionate and have really instilled those morals on me. I’m very proud to be their child.

    Other than that, I would have to say Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Muhammed Ali – anyone that uses their platform and voice to help motivate and change the whole world we live in. That’s what a role model is to me.

    To keep up with Neev, follow her on Twitter and Instagram

    Other Insights

    Discussing Truth & Transparency with Anj Magecha
    Innermost Insider and mindful wellness advocate, Anjali Magecha sat down with us to discuss truth and transparency in the wellness industry, as well as her own journey to unlearn industry myths and reconcile her relationship with food and exercise. Honest, transparent and vulnerable, she sheds light on what it means to be true to yourself even in the most challenging of circumstances. Tell us a bit about yourself and how began your health and wellness journey? Hi, I'm Anj, I’m 23 and I'm passionate about helping people have a healthy relationship with exercise and body image. Before my journey into mindful wellness began, I had poor mental health and would use food to cope, resulting in a vicious cycle. I was chronically under eating, and I had never taken protein powder or any kind of supplement, so I wasn’t hitting my protein goals at all. It took quite a while for me to recognise this but eventually I found myself in a place where I was tired of being constantly unhappy and knew something needed to change. It was at this point I decided to forget all the expectations I had previously put on myself and just do the things that made me happy, with the knowledge that everything else would fall into place. I began getting more into training and lifting and begun fuelling by body with protein powder and supplements such as the Power Booster. Now I feel happier and healthier than ever and want to help other people to achieve the same. View this post on Instagram A post shared by anj |mental health+fitness| (@grow.with.anj) Our campaign for January is truth and transparency. What do you think the importance of this is, particularly in relation to the health and wellness industry? There are so many health and wellness influencers who are not truthful and transparent in their journey, and it makes people feel like a failure when they aren't getting the results that are falsely promised to them. For example, there are people who've become millionaires, have massive brand deals and are living a life that most people could only dream of, all off the back of their fitness transformations. Everything about them just screams success and obviously people want to emulate this. But if those same people don’t disclose the full story people are never going to achieve this and they’ll feel like they’re the problem, because if someone else can do it, why can't you? Humans are quintessentially social creatures; we're always going to be comparing ourselves to one another even when we try to be mindful. So, it's so important to understand that you can save someone a lot of pain by just being honest. This is something that I used to get angry about, but now I know that anger will never be the solution and that you just need to be that other voice and hope that you can help as many people as possible. So, how do you try to be this voice of truth and transparency, particularly within the health and wellness space? I think it’s important to remember that to be entirely truthful and transparent about your journey you also need to be vulnerable enough to share the moments when it isn’t easy. Sharing these moments is infinitely more valuable than just showing the highlights because it makes us realise that we all go through them. However, in the health and wellness industry this isn’t the norm; people use photoshop and promote ‘fat burners’, and avoid any vulnerability, creating this pressure to conform. I think to break this cycle, we all need to be a little more vulnerable. Because whilst waking up at 5am and walking everywhere might make you feel happy and fulfilled, some people need 10 hours of sleep and sometimes you’ll want to sit in front of the TV and watch something mindless. This doesn’t make you a failure and by being honest with yourself about what truly makes you happy and portraying this in a vulnerable way you can help other people realise this too. As you mentioned, the space does currently have a lack of transparency, so how do you discern the truth from the myths? When it comes to fitness and nutrition, I always try to think about who the information is coming from. I hate being a cynic and I love to think that everyone has everyone else's best intentions at heart, but I think it’s important to consider what would this person have to gain if they weren't really telling me the entire story? Then you also need to consider what their credentials are. Are they a doctor or dietitian or are they just someone who looks good? It’s so important that you can know and trust your source of information. I also think, that there’s no one size fits all approach, and the most important source of information should be yourself. For example, I love chaos and I thrive under pressure, so taking five minutes to write affirmations down just doesn’t fit with me. It’s important to trust your own intuition and timing. If you can do both these things then when influencers promote low calorie diets in partnership with these big brands you can ask yourself, what are their credentials, what do they stand to gain and is this something that I think from my own experiences would work for me and make me happy? What is a truth that you've learned during your journey that you're passionate about and think that everyone should know? To get something you've never had you must do something you've never done. What I mean by this is that it's not your fault if something hasn't worked for you. A lot of people blame themselves for not sticking to diets and fitness regimes but if you didn’t stick to it, it’s not you that failed, it’s the diet/ fitness regime that failed. There's a reason why it was so difficult for you to stick to it; perhaps it was too restrictive and resulted in binge eating. Perhaps it was stopping you from enjoying meals out and living your life fully. The answer should never be to blame yourself. You just have to try something new. Create a meal plan which allows you to feel good without restricting yourself and cutting out whole food groups, try a sport you actually enjoy and keep trying new things until you find something that works. You’ll never get to a different destination by taking the same route over and over again. View this post on Instagram A post shared by anj (@anjmagecha) Finally, it feels very relevant to discuss this during January. There’s always this huge influx of mixed advice, myths, and fads at this time of year so what’s your opinions on this and particularly the idea of New Year New Me? I think it's utter rubbish (laughs). You don't need to change people. It's just January. The only changes you should ever make are the ones that genuinely make you happier and you can make these year-round. We all experienced this during lock-down too, there was this huge hustle culture and pressure to use lockdown to learn a new skill or achieve your dream body, and if you weren’t doing this, you were lazy. It made me feel rubbish and I know lots of other people felt the same. It’s so important to try to drown out the pressure and just focus of being in touch with what makes you come alive and what makes you happy. Shifting my focus from external validation to internal happiness is the most important change I made when transitioned from the miserable person I was, to the person I am today. Of course, in the spirit of transparency, not every day is a good day for me and some days I have identity crises and some days I break down. But that's all just part of the job. We’re all a work in progress and the sooner you can embrace all of this and focus on do what makes you happy on a daily basis instead of doing what you think should make you happy, it will open so many doors. To keep up with Anj, check out her Instagram and TikTok for more content on truths vs myths. Read more
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