Did you know? A recent Teacher Wellbeing Index revealed that 78% of all education professionals experienced either behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms due to their work*1.
The teaching profession has long been associated with burnout due to workload stress with teaching unions describing stress as an epidemic*2. What’s even more cause for concern is that the number of teachers affected continues to increase with each consecutive year*3.
Whilst a little stress can actually be good for us, frequent and prolonged exposure is linked to various mental and physical health issues and poor quality of life. As a result, more teachers than ever before are leaving formal education, with many more suffering in silence, trying to provide the best possible education and care for the nation's children and young people. But they’re running on empty. However, not only is this a problem for teachers, it also impacts the children and young people in their care.
Hi, I’m Susan. I taught high school full time for 6 years and like many teachers, I too suffered the consequences of burnout on many occasions, putting it down to the nature of the job. I knew I could improve my physical wellbeing through diet and exercise but I didn’t realise the profound impact that diet and the right type of exercise had on my mental wellbeing. For a time, I was okay with not prioritising my own health. I was even okay with carrying the weight of excess body fat until I realised finally that not being the best version of me had impacted my relationships with my husband and young children.
I loved teaching but I was carrying more than just excess weight and the risk of associated diseases. I was carrying stress to the point I just had no energy left and so both my mental AND physical wellbeing started to suffer. My students and my family deserved the very best of me and I’d reached a point where all my family got was the worst. There had to be a better way.
Policy makers continue to acknowledge that teacher stress is a problem and generally recommend that it should be a priority to tackle the level of chronic stress reported in schools. It is also acknowledged that with improved levels of health, teachers will be more physically and emotionally present to learners. Yet despite the recommendations outlined for action at a policy, organisational and individual level, it appears that there is no clear, proven blueprint as to how a teacher can go about tackling stress and further improving their mental and physical health. So I created one!
"Because you can't pour from an empty cup!"
Teacher Strong Academy is the world’s first of its kind, teacher health and wellness program. It is my mission to help other teachers to find their physical and mental strength through optimum nutrition, self care and strength training and to teach them whilst they are still busy doing what it is that they are passionate about at a pace that suits them.
It is possible to teach full time, and have time for self care in order to achieve better health. It's even possible to do it, if like me, you have a young family to look after. Teachers have more power over their own mental and physical health than they realise.
It can be argued that the physical and mental demands of a teacher rival that of any corporate professional or athlete yet there is still a lack of clear guidance as to how to support teachers to look after their body and mind. In order to sustain their executive function and performance, teachers need a certain amount of energy which must be followed by adequate periods of rest and recovery. Having enough fuel will improve their mental and physical wellbeing and can also significantly improve their performance and relationship with others. It follows then that the children and young people in their care are likely to benefit by extension. Considering workload demands and associated stressors, it is surprising that self care practices are not built into teacher induction and professional development schemes.
When you consider that it takes a significant amount of energy to fuel the human body just in keeping it alive AT REST, it follows then that the body requires even more energy when active. For teachers, this includes the energy required for walking, planning their curriculums as well as the energy (and patience) needed to think and respond to the learning, social, emotional and physical needs of up to 30 (or more) children and/or young people simultaneously. And that’s just during classroom hours. Sounds exhausting doesn’t it? Now imagine you’re that teacher. Perhaps you already are.
When a person’s energy needs are neglected, not only can this result in a reduction in focus but it can lead to obesity and the subsequent risk of a range of mental and physical health issues including but not limited to chronic stress, depression, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Teacher Strong Academy is a 4 phase, 12 month program that shows teachers’ step by step, how to:
- use nutrition to repair and build their metabolism leading to increased energy
- build muscle for strength to reduce stress and improve sleep
- eat and train for energy balance and better general physical and mental health
- burn excess body fat
- engage in more self care practices without the associated guilt
- reduce the risk of many diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases
Many teachers don’t rest until their body forces them to but it doesn't have to be this way. We choose our 'hard' in this life: that is, we choose the effort that comes from staying the same or the effort that comes from making change. Teacher Strong Academy seeks to help teachers make that change so they can lead the healthier and happier life that they deserve. The entire program is built around three founding principles for optimum health. These are nutrition, strength training and self care.
Current TSA member
Studies show that a plant-based diet improves digestion and sleep, increases energy as well as significantly improves physical functioning, general health, vitality and mental health. It also shows measurable improvements in work productivity. The program leans towards plant based nutrition for optimum health however Teacher Strong Academy is an inclusive community and supports teacher's of all dietary preferences. You don't have to be Vegan or plant based to join.
We’ve known for decades that even a single workout can elevate mood*6 and that physical activity is associated with decreased symptoms of depression. By learning strength training on a predominantly plant-based diet, teachers at any age are able not only to manage their mood and stress levels, but they can help repair and build their metabolism and therefore energy levels through this very specific type of training.
Regular self care and self nurturing rituals send a strong message to both our mind and body that we are deeply loved and cared for*7. In Teacher Strong Academy, the very concept of self care is the essence of the program. Sleep in particular influences our ability to process thoughts and emotions and gives us the capacity to react in a much more measured way to stressful situations. We’re also less likely to feel overwhelmed, display patience and are capable of far better decision making.
After 16 months of designing and creating the Teacher Strong Academy program and further testing it with beta members, we’re at the stage of pre-launching the program. But to get to the next stage, we now need your help to market the product more quickly and launch it to get Teacher Strong Academy out into the world.
Now I need your help! I’m aiming to raise £5,000 which will go towards funding our very first public launch. The more money you pledge, the more teachers we can help. I'd love you to discover just how strength training and nutrition can impact your own health for yourself so we’ve got some fantastic rewards available (that are only available for our early backers).
After checkout, as a very special thank you for your support, please choose from the following list of rewards by leaving a comment with your choice of reward (rewards available for our early backers only).
Thank you from Susan xxx
All Rights Reserved Copyright 2020 The Sculpting Susan
“I believe that food is the foundation for health, longevity and disease reversal and prevention. I was thirty one before I finally realised the detrimental effects of not listening to my body and of spending years trying to fill from an empty cup. Waking up, dazed and confused on my sofa, I heard the distant sounds of my house phone ringing, my mobile pinging and the screams of my 6 month old son who was lying in his basket in the next room. My GP and my mum had been trying to reach me. I was instructed to call the GP asap who would later tell me that he couldn’t fathom how I’d been able to drive to the practice because my recent blood test revealed that I had little to no thyroxine level in my blood. I had an underactive thyroid and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But having little to no energy, excess weight, bloating, depression, tingling in my hands and feet and constantly feeling cold wasn’t new to me, which is why I’d learned to ‘put up with it’ for so long. Since I was 9 years old, I suffered from an undiagnosed lactose intolerance and milk protein allergy meaning I’d suffered with - amongst other things - gut inflammation for most of my life. But I wasn’t to learn of my allergy until after I started my teaching career, by which point, I was too busy to find the time to listen to my body. That is, until the afternoon I woke up on my sofa, unable to remember where I was: unable to tend to my son who needed me. That was indeed the day I woke up.
I’m on a mission to empower others to take control of their own physical and mental health so they don’t have to wait for a medical diagnosis before taking steps to beat inflammation, fatigue, depression or anxiety. Learning how the body gets, stores and uses energy was the final piece of the puzzle for me: I reduced my gut inflammation, controlled my insulin resistance, significantly improved my focus and concentration and dropped 8 inches from my waist in the process. I looked younger than I did as little as two years previous and I felt stronger than ever before. Best of all, I felt energetic and strong in body and mind and with less stress and fatigue, I was more capable and patient with others, which positively impacted my relationships in the classroom and with my family. I finally had energy to give the best of me to those who needed me the most.”
Susan Rennie aka The Sculpting Susan is a sole trader based in Lincolnshire, UK and is the Founder of Teacher Strong Academy: www.theteacherstrongacademy.com Originally from Scotland, after teaching full time in a secondary school for 6 years, she became a coach to hundreds of women online, supporting them with their strength training before creating an online course specifically aimed at helping teachers. Through her extensive research and experience on diet and nutrition and strength training experience, she realised her passion for helping other teachers to become physically and mentally stronger so they could carry the weight of a dumbbell instead of workload stress. This meant teachers could become happier and healthier without having to give up a job they love and continue to make a positive impact on children and young people in their care.
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4. Tsai AC, Chang T-L, Chi S-H. Frequent consumption of vegetables predicts lower risk of depression in older Taiwanese-results of a prospective population-based study. Public Health Nutr. 2012;15(6):1087-92
5. Katcher HI, Ferdowsian HR, Hoover VJ, Cohen JK, Barnard ND. A worksite vegan nutrition program is well-accepted and improves health-related quality of life and work productivity. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56940:245-52
6. Yeung RR. The acute effects of exercise on mood state. J Psychosom Res. 1996;40(2):123-41
7. Goddard J. "Rewind Your Body Clock: The Complete Natural Guide to a Happier, Healthier, Younger You", Watkins UK, Penguin Random House USA/Worldwide. ISBN 9781-78678-216-8. 2019:190