"When no one would choose me for my size, I chose myself."
Katie Willcox, a model, a businesswoman, and a blogger, has had a roller-coaster relationship with her body. (Here's some of her advice for appreciating your body exactly how it is.)
"My mom is a single mom. I grew up on fast food. It was quick and cheap," she says. In college, she continued the same diet, but without playing volleyball as she had in high school, she gained 25 pounds. By graduation, she was a size 14. While Katie found work as a plus-size model, she was far from body confident. "I did everything that all women have tried without actually understanding what it means to care for YOUR body," she says.
Then she met Bradford, now her husband, at a Christmas party. A former fitness model and an avid skier, Bradford loved exercise and eating well. "So we started doing fun things, like camping and hiking," Katie says, "and I lost about 30 pounds without even trying."
But then her plus-size clients complained that she no longer looked "full enough" in pictures. "It made no sense that when I was healthy, there was no place for me," Katie says. "I melted down and wanted to quit. I told Bradford, and he said, 'You can quit, or you can do something to make a positive change."
So she took matters into her own hands and created the blog Healthy Is the New Skinny: "I thought: what if we choose to be healthy instead of skinny?" she says. "Healthy has an endpoint, skinny does not. It's inclusive." It turned into a huge online campaign (@healthyisthenewskinny now has 118K followers on Instagram).
Willcox also saw where the modeling industry was going, and founded Natural Model Management, now the top modeling agency on the West Coast for curvy women. "There were only three plus-size clients in LA, but no models," she says. "Now, the junior plus-size market is booming."
A lot of people doubted her, but it's paid off—not just for her business, but also for her body image. "We often sit and wait to be chosen by others," she says. "When no one would choose me for my size, I chose myself."
Get inspired by her down-to-earth ideas and #realtalk advice:
Living beats worrying.
"My husband and I have been going to Mexico for years. While many of us spend our lives stressing about our size, the older people here are partying under the full moon at the beach—that's how we want to live."
"I plan to tell True, my daughter, that everything she sees on social media has been manipulated. I think it's an important way to help girls feel better about themselves." (Including the fact that you don't need to lose weight to be loved.)
Go ahead and indulge.
"Now, we're basically vegan, but you still gotta live... so I'll have pizza or peanut M&Ms (they're our favorite Netflix snack)."
Live your mantra.
"My mantra is still "healthy is the new skinny." It helps me get back on track if I start focusing on things that aren't healthy for me."
Add health to body-positivity.
"We often hear, 'just love yourself.' But we need to get to, 'I accept myself for where I am right now,' and then, 'how do I care for this body?' It's the only vessel we have. It's the only home we have. It's not just about getting to a positive mental state, it's about seeing your body as something that allows you to do things all the things you want in life." (That's exactly why this blogger says mental health should come before weight loss.)