E0: Introduction To No Restrictions Podcast

Hello and welcome to episode zero of the No Restrictions Podcast! My name is Karen, your host and the owner of No Restrictions Apparel. In this episode, I’m going to tell you what this show is about, what you can expect from it and why it’s important and needed. But first, I’m going to tell you about No Restrictions as a brand.

No Restrictions’ mission is to make mental health an equal priority to physical health in powerlifting. When I started the brand in 2020, I was at the tail-end of my recovery from my eating disorder and about one year into powerlifting. I didn’t have disordered eating thoughts anymore by then so my training was 95% dedicated to healing my relationship with my body and getting stronger. And because I was new to powerlifting and just coming from a mental illness, I noticed that the fitness/strength sport industry was largely focused on physical health. There were no brands that talked about mental health, which I honestly thought was a bit sad since I know many people who lift for their mental health. And so I started No Restrictions, which is named after my eating disorder (very lovingly) and represents a mindset of not setting any limits on self-improvement - but more in the mental sense.

When I was starting NR, my thought process started with thinking about the community of people I wanted to build. So in my NR melting pot, I thought of the people who lift to escape from their reality, people who lift to fight their mental illness, people who lift to improve their self-esteem and self-confidence, and people who lift to feel good in general. In my melting pot, I focused on the inner person. The version of ourselves we don’t show very often to the world. There are a lot of brands out there that are geared towards the version of ourselves we do show, but what they forget is that the outside depends on the inside. For example, how you perform in the gym or on the platform is highly dependent on how you feel.

I also have three issues when it comes to how mental health is portrayed in social media. One, it’s superficial and not effective at creating emotional connection. Two, it focuses on the symptoms way too much. And three, a lot of the existing content appeals only to a specific demographic.

So number one, it’s superficial and not effective at creating emotional connection. The challenge with raising awareness of mental health issues on social media is that you have very short attention spans to work with. Even with huge brands you care about deeply, you probably spend at most a few seconds on a post and it’s off to the next one. So what do content creators do? They make attention-grabbing posts and inject the teensiest digestible dose of mental health. And unfortunately, these posts are not very impactful when it comes to actually raising awareness of mental health issues. 

Number two, it focuses on symptoms way too much. Ok, even if you have an audience that’s interested in mental health on your, say Instagram page, there’s a good chance that they have very different experiences and backgrounds. An easy way of making some connection with all these people is raising awareness of the various symptoms of mental illnesses. For example, there might be a post that talks about what it’s like having depression or anxiety. This is definitely miles better than my first issue, but the thing is, when we focus on symptoms too much, the person experiencing them is forgotten. For example, it’s like saying all people with depression are the same because they’re always sad, they don’t have interest in their hobbies and they can’t get out of bed. Even if it’s not intended, it’s basically reducing a person to their mental illness. Of course, there are some benefits of content like this such as being helpful in making sense of what you’re experiencing, but when interpreted the other way, it’s no bueno.

And lastly my third issue with how mental health is portrayed in social media: a lot of the content only appeals to a specific demographic. Do me a favor and search mental health on Instagram - maybe after listening to this episode. Well, what do you see? I don’t know about you, but when I search "mental health,"  I see pastel colors, hand-drawn doodles, cute little cartoons and quotes. Then search "powerlifting", or "weightlifting" or "strongman" and tell me, does it look like these people would be interested in the type of posts you saw under "mental health"? Probably not. And that’s exactly my point. For me, I’m not interested in the feminine energy of the mental health posts on Instagram, and there’s a good chance that a lot of you listening - and not listening aren’t either. So what I’m saying is that the posts out there that are about mental health, aren’t geared towards our demographic, people who are perhaps a bit more hardcore and rough around the edges.

Ok, so before, it was just No Restrictions Apparel. Now, there’s also No Restrictions Podcast. Before when it was just the apparel brand, since the beginning, I felt that something was missing. Like yeah, the idea is good and the apparel have meanings behind them, but it’s hard to build that emotional connection with people through clothes. But with a podcast, that’s a medium dedicated to long-form content meant for story-telling AND has the intrinsic capability of creating personal connections with listeners. So here we are.

In each episode of the No Restrictions Podcast, I’ll be sitting down and talking with people who recovered or are recovering from their mental illness or made improvements to their mental health through powerlifting. We’ll talk about what exactly about powerlifting helped them overcome their struggles and provide you with experience-based advice.

This show is founded on three pillars. One, story-telling of people’s mental health and powerlifting journeys, two, encouraging listeners to start powerlifting, and three, raising awareness of mental health.

You’ve probably heard that humans are social creatures and need to feel like they belong and need to feel connected to others to thrive. I believe that the best way to create that emotional connection is to have a deeper understanding of each other through sharing some of the more vulnerable sides of ourselves in a safe environment - such as in this podcast, which is being recorded at my home, on my couch. 

I hope that through story-telling, you will feel less alone in your own struggle, especially if you are going through something similar and that you will find some of the pieces of advice a guest shares helpful for your own mental health journey. Also, if you happen to not powerlift, perhaps we can convince you to give it a try!

I wanted to make pillar three, raising awareness of mental health, a part of the podcast because of the third issue I explained earlier about target demographics. What I hope to do is to create an inviting and comfortable environment for people of all kinds of backgrounds to come and talk openly about their experiences.

This show is going to go deep. None of that superficiality in those mental health Instagram posts and none of those lists of symptoms that make people feel like they are their illness. Each episode will be entirely focused on one person and the experiences they choose to share about their mental health and lifting journey. This show might scream "trigger warnings" to some people, but I’m not going to say that. I believe that we need to have those raw and unfiltered conversations about mental health in order to truly get to know what these people went through and to properly highlight the personal victories made by each person.

Also, to be honest, this podcast is something I wish I had when I was struggling with my mental illnesses. For nearly my entire teenage years from 13 to about 20 years old, I suffered in silence with depression, social anxiety, anorexia and orthorexia. I isolated myself from people including my family and for years believed that people hated me for some reason I didn’t know. In an effort to retake control over my life, I ended up controlling my food intake and reached my rock bottom where I felt like a complete failure because I couldn’t fix my depression and anxiety. The only reason why I’m here today, talking into this mic and looking into the lens of a camera is because of lifting. So I know exactly what it feels like to feel alone, unheard and invisible while it seems that everyone else is making progress in their lives.

Before I continue, I do want to make a quick disclaimer. I am not a mental health professional and can’t give clinical advice on mental health. All the advice provided in this show is based on personal experiences and might not work for you. And also, everything that is said on this show by the guest is what they wanted to share. Nothing is ever forced.

So as of now at this recording, I’m thinking of posting new episodes every month. It might end up being shorter, but it depends on how often I can find people who want to tell their stories. If this is something you might be interested in, send me a DM on our Instagram page at @norestrictionspod and I’ll send you a form for you to fill out. You can also watch these podcast episodes on our YouTube channel, which I will link in the show notes so you can see our faces as we talk. 

So this concludes episode zero of the No Restrictions Podcast! Thank you for listening, and I hope to see you in our next episode, featuring Veronique Cormier, an international level Canadian IPF powerlifter and business owner from New Brunswick. She’ll be talking about how she overcame her struggles with orthorexia and binge-eating disorder with powerlifting and how her mental approach to competing has changed over time. Also, fun fact, Veronique was the person who suggested I start a podcast, so huge shoutout to her!

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @norestrictions.pod and @norestrictionsapparel. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to support the show, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and a review. If you want another way to support us, you can purchase some No Restrictions apparel! Just visit norestrictionsapparel.com. Thanks again for listening and talk to you next time!


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