This Space talks to Alice Liveing about her debut book The Body Bible and why women should not be scared of weight training
Social media has propelled Alice Liveing – AKA Clean Eating Alice – into the limelight. And yet there’s a lot more to her than her glossy Instagram profile. On the surface she is the archetypal gym-bunny: tiny, cute, blonde and with an impressive body transformation story to tell. Dig a little deeper and what emerges is someone with true grit. Perhaps that’s why she has amassed so many devotees – 301,000 followers on Instagram and counting.
Her journey to fame began in 2012, when she was a first-year dance student at Bird College of Dance, Music and Theatre Performance. She was living away from home for the first time and could eat what she wanted. For Alice, that meant gorging on sweets, chocolate and takeaways.
“No-one was telling me what to eat. I didn’t have the usual home-cooked, healthy meals prepared by my mum, and I basically developed a very bad relationship with food. I started binge-eating in secret. It was not good,” explains Alice.
In her mind, she thought she could get away with eating unhealthily because of all the exercise she was doing as part of her dance course. The reality was she was consuming far too many calories. Plus the high-sugar content of her diet meant she was constantly fatigued.
A lack-lustre report at the end of her first year was her wake-up call: “They said I was lacking in strength and fitness. I suddenly realised I had to buck my ideas up if I wanted a career in dance. I had worked so hard to get into college. It wasn’t about losing weight or what I looked like in the mirror. I just wanted to be stronger.”
What followed is the impressive part of Alice’s story. She joined a gym. But instead of spending hours on the treadmill – as many of us do – she decided the weights section was where she was going to get results. She taught herself how to lift weights by downloading a training plan on her phone and watching You Tube videos. It gave her an immediate confidence boost.
“I really enjoyed the fact that I was empowered. I was holding my own in a very male-dominated environment and I felt so confident. I found it much more interesting than doing the same cardio exercises day after day. With weights you are learning about the different muscles and it’s much more relaxed. You don’t even need to break a sweat to achieve amazing results,” says Alice.
She hopes to inspire other women to lift weights. “It’s good for both mental and physical health,” explains Alice. “You can track your sessions and see immediate improvement. Weight training can also help prevent osteoporosis-related fractures.”
An over-haul of her diet was the next important step. She started to track what she ate by posting pictures of her breakfast, lunch and dinner on Instagram. That simple act encouraged her to create healthy, pretty plates of food. She taught herself the basics of good nutrition and started to enjoy cooking. For Alice, eating “clean” is not about denial but about enjoying food that is good for you.
Her refreshing take on faddy diets, which she claims have never worked for her, combined with her inspirational messages about gaining physical strength, clearly struck a chord with thousands of Instagrammers. Her favourite hashtag is #strongnotskinny. She is a powerful voice against the alarming, and exasperating, trend among girls and women to look gaunt and malnourished.
It wasn’t long before Harper Collins, the publishing house, took notice and approached her about a cookery and fitness book. The Body Bible is a collection of exercises that can be done at home combined with Alice’s favourite recipes (all her own, she hastens to add). The idea behind the book is that it can be used “every day”, says Alice. “These are accessible, easy recipes that anyone can put together using ingredients that we all have in our kitchens,” she adds.
“I love good food and I want others to realise that eating well doesn’t have to be a chore,” says Alice. She doesn’t believe in counting calories.
When she is not writing cookery books, posting on Instagram or working out at the gym, Alice has toured with Annie the Musical. She has also recently qualified as a personal trainer. It seems nothing phases this determined young woman. Aged just 23 she has accomplished more than most of us will do in a lifetime, without being smug or patronising. Perhaps that is her biggest achievement.