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Health and healing; how diet and exercise can help survivors.

Health and healing; how diet and exercise can help survivors.

Today, we’d like to introduce Claire* a support worker in our domestic abuse service. Claire has a passion for exercise and nutrition, and she’s sharing knowledge to help empower our service users. Not only that, Claire heads up our ‘Wellbeing Walks’. These are lunchtime walks, open to all staff. A chance to get out of the office and get the endorphins going! Unfortunately, due to covid-19 restrictions these have had to be temporarily postponed until further notice.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Valley House

My role at VH is officially a Domestic Abuse Support Worker in the Young Women’s Refuge. I love my role! I support people to find safe accommodation, conduct safety planning, work through a domestic abuse package of support and many other generic areas of support. My role is a productive one and I feel lucky that I am able to see the change from people entering refuge, to them leaving into their own accommodation. The changes and difference in confidence and self-esteem are incomparable!

I have been interested in nutrition and exercise since around 2015, although I’ve always been quite sporty. I found that after every workout I felt energised and motivated, my body felt stronger and therefore my mind felt clearer. I began each day with a bit of exercise and this sets me up for the day. I am in no way perfect with my diet, however I enjoy cooking and making healthy meals. From there I trained as a Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer and did a course on Sports Nutrition to elevate my knowledge around these areas. I found that through exercise my confidence increased and I became a more proactive person.

How do you feel diet and exercise can help people, especially now during a pandemic?

Eating well can have an impact on both physical and metal health.

Nutritious eating and exercise can massively benefit people, especially during lockdown. It’s one of the few things we have control over right now. We are still able to cook, to make our own meals and we only need a small space for a quick home workout. Let this be a time to focus on ourselves, to prioritise nutritious, colourful foods and get out for a walk. Nature is nurture!


What sort of things have you been doing to help service users think more about diet and exercise and incorporate it into their lives?

I enjoy inspiring others to get fitter, get active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy supporting others as I feel if you eat nutritiously (most of the time) that this makes you feel better, mentally and physically. I encourage service users (SUs) to do a little activity whether this be a walk or a workout! I have never done a workout and regretted it! The feeling is great!

I have designed specific plans for SUs depending on what they would like. I have designed generic home workouts and specific abs/legs plans. These do not take up much time but leave you feeling productive and energised. I have been encouraging walks and fresh air where possible. I have also been encouraging healthier foods, these do wonders for mental health. I’ve also been encouraging water intake – very easy to forget! I’ve attended a few coffee mornings and had chats with SUs about their diet and how maybe this could be improved. I have even seen one SU going up and down the stairs 100 times to incorporate activity whilst at home!

You don’t need a lot of space to exercise at home!

I have created information sheets with top 10 tips for budget shopping, reasons for fussy eating in children and how to combat this. I have given information to a SU on her IBS and food swaps that can help manage this. I also have information on the recommended activity levels for different age groups and much more, I’m always happy to share this information.

What difference could sharing your knowledge of diet and exercise  have on service users?

I would like to think that me sharing this information can positively impact SUs mental and physical health. Many SUs have low self-esteem, exercise and good food can massively help with this. SUs have fed back that the workouts make them feel great, and they want more. It can also aid SUs in a way of distraction – they can get a mind break from whatever they are currently going through and spend half an hour focusing on themselves, having ‘me’ time and contributing to their healthy lifestyle. Good food and exercise can also help with improved sleep, stress relief and reduce anxiety and depression which are all affects I hope SUs experience from this.


*We have changed names to protect our staff and service users.