Kindness: The Key to Optimum Health, According to a Fitness Expert

5 min read

Every Sunday, participants in Eddie Jones’ health programme fill in a form to let him know how they got on during the week. But they’re not tracking workout duration, weight loss or calories. Instead, they’re totting up acts of kindness.

“It’s completely anonymous, so I can’t tell who’s writing. I’ll never know,” Jones says. “I just dip into it every week or two. There have been some really, really wonderful things in there.”

He points to a participant who bought a supermarket voucher for someone who was struggling to feed their children. Another cared for a bee with an injured wing. Someone else simply wrote a kind note to an acquaintance and slipped it into a flower pot for them to find.

Participants of Jones’ programme showing a little kindness for their community through litter-picking. Image: Eddie Jones

Jones is a qualified personal trainer and nutritionist who has been helping people transform their health for almost a decade. Inspiration for his course, The Kindness Revolution, came after he’d helped to set up a local litter-picking group. “A lot of good came from that, and I started to understand the benefits of giving more to those around me.”

The result is a 12-week online programme. Participants are guided through a series of easy-to-follow habits that help them lose weight safely and sustainably, Jones explains, improve their relationship with food, and “come off the dieting treadmill”.

At the same time, people are encouraged to carry out one small act of kindness every day. For every deed they submit, they earn 50p back from the course cost. This is either refunded at the end of the programme or can be used towards further support.

Almost 800 acts of kindness have been logged so far – more than 10 for every person who completed the pilot, which launched in April 2023. The new programme will launch in January, with spaces limited to just 30 people to allow for one-to-one email support. The waitlist is already open for those who want to secure a spot early.

“I’ve learned to be a lot kinder to myself and just take little steps to get there,” says Sarah Yates, who participated in the pilot. Yates, who joined after health problems stopped her from running and led to weight gain, says the programme changed her mindset.

It’s a problem most people who’ve tried to lose weight will relate to. Multiple studies have shown that it’s hard to keep weight off after a diet. One recent analysis of 29 separate studies found that 50% of lost weight is regained within two years, rising to 80% within five years.

According to Eryn Barber, a coach from Manchester with a postgraduate degree in strength and conditioning, the key is sustainability and long-term thinking.

“Losing weight is going to take time and you’re going to have to stay consistent and sustain that – so it’s all about going slow,” she says. “You still need to be able to enjoy your life. I really don’t believe in doing quick fixes, because it never works.” 

People shouldn’t feel like they’re being pushed to exercise, says coach Eryn Barber. Image Bermix Studios

Barber recommends that anyone seeking support should look for coaches who offer a personalised plan, as well as a healthy approach to fitness and food.

“When people don’t feel like they’re punishing themselves to exercise,” she explains, “they train better because they’re less focused on being as small as possible, and more focused on performance. It means they’re feeling better about themselves.”

It’s an approach Jones echoes in The Kindness Revolution: “It’s not realistic to ask people to follow a specific meal plan or calorie-counting diet. You can only follow a meal plan as long as you have a life that allows that to happen and, in my experience, no one really has that.

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“What happens when the Christmas holidays come, work gets busy, or you want to enjoy a meal out? Life knocks people off their plan and before they know it, they’ve gained all the weight back. Worse yet, they blame themselves and turn into their own worst critic, fueling self-sabotage and other unhelpful behaviours.”

Instead, Jones’ programme encourages you to use self-kindness as fuel as it guides you through a series of simple yet powerful habits. Each habit builds on the last and is doable 365 days a year. That means that even through busy times and holidays, you can still achieve results that last, he explains.

“I don’t expect anyone in the programme to be perfect. In fact, one of the mindsets we practise is ‘progress, not perfection’. Perhaps you can’t do everything, but you can still do something. Those little ‘somethings’ soon add up to huge results”.

For Yates at least, who’s reached her initial goals, it’s been transformative: “It does stay with you. It’s up to me to apply it – but I have all the tools I need to go do it.”

Main image: Eddie Jones out litter-picking with participants of his programme. 

Credit: Eddie Jones 

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