Katie Willcox, founder of the Healthy Is The New Skinny movement, knows what it’s like to be influenced by the media’s idea of beauty. Enough was enough for this mom, author, model, and CEO. Katie gives us the scoop about being a model in a thin-obsessed industry along with her fight to change the focus from being perfect and skinny to being healthy and happy. Young girls and women will find a role model in Katie with her empowering advice, relatable experience, and outlook on life. Check out my Q&A with Katie below! Follow her on Instagram and find out more about Katie and the movement here.
What’s the story behind Healthy Is The New Skinny movement?
I was inspired to begin this movement through my years of experience as a model in the fashion industry and as someone who has struggled with this issue as a child and teenager. The messages we all receive is that “Skinny” is better. So it leaves the majority of women feeling that in order to be valued or lovable we must look how the media says we should look. That thought process leads so many of us down an unhealthy road where we don’t value ourselves or our health, we only seek to perfect our bodies and be validated by others.
I experienced this myself being every size from a 14 to a size 6 and everything in-between. It wasn’t until I started to value myself and most importantly my health did I realize just how damaging the media’s focus on female beauty and the skinny beauty ideal really is to our society. As a model I would constantly hear other models say “I have to get my measurements down.” I would look at these extremely thin models and think “What? Where are you supposed to do that?” I was thinking out loud and said, “That is ridiculous they shouldn’t force models to be skinny, they should be focusing on their health…. Healthy should be the new skinny! And Healthy Is The New Skinny was born.
How long have you been in the modeling industry and have you always known you wanted to be a model?
I have been a model for 15 years and I grew up in Casper, WY so it never occurred to me that modeling was a real job or possibility. I moved to Washington my sophomore year of high school and was playing volleyball at a tournament in Seattle when I went to an open call at an agency. Like all girls from my generation, it was America’s Next top Model that first gave me the idea that I should try modeling.
I often wonder about that influence and if there was content that showed young women starting businesses, traveling, and accomplishing unthinkable things if I would have ever wanted to model? I can’t say confidently that I would have, because I believe that I am better suited for business. I hope to help models in the industry and girls who follow me to realize they are capable of doing and being more than just beautiful.
How can others join the movement?
The HNS movement is all about community. This is not a one person task this is a group effort and the best way to get involved is to be a living expression of the message.
What advice do you have on tackling body image issues and becoming the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves?
As women we have been raised to believe our value comes from the size and shape of our bodies. There has been a class system created for women based on size and the smaller you are the more desirable and valuable you are. Because of that messaging when we are feeling unlovable the first thing we do is start a new diet or make a plan to “fix” our bodies in attempt to be good enough and to be deserving of love.
That is not health. That is self-loathing disguised as “healthy practices.” You can’t hate yourself healthy and even if you get to a desired size if you have not fixed the internal pain and conflict you will never be well. For me, the best thing I did was make the choice to replace the goal of being skinny with the goal of being healthy. When I did that, my actions had to follow and I had to make choices from a place of self-love and acceptance vs a place of self-loathing. I think that is a great place to start an authentic health journey.
Any tips on balancing health/wellness with being a mom, CEO, and model?
I am still working on that one and I think I always will be. Life is not stationery. So to think of balance as this thing you can attain is really misleading. I think for me balance is a constant wave of up and down, back and forth, and knowing when to lean one way or the other. I have recently had to make some changes to clear some things off my plate of responsibilities to help manage the things I love most. I think that is balance.
What’s a day in the life for Katie Willcox like?
Depends on which day! Today I was interviewed for a documentary series by Darling Magazine in Hollywood. I then came back to the agency to meet and coach a model on movement for her upcoming castings, followed by a sit down talk with a model about life and creating a business outside of modeling. In between I went to lunch with my husband and daughter, played with her for 2 hours, put her to bed, am typing this e-mail, and then eat dinner!
Tomorrow I have a photoshoot in Malibu. This weekend we hit the road on a road trip to Tahoe where I am speaking at Wanderlust Fest!
What healthy habits do you live by?
I try to eat a plant-based diet as much as possible. Get enough sleep, and try to be active even if I don’t get in a workout. As long as I am moving throughout the day I feel good about it.
Tell us about your book, “Healthy Is The New Skinny: Your guide to Self-Love In A ‘Picture Perfect’ World”
Over the course of my 32 short years, I have both worked as a professional model and been the exact opposite of our culture’s beauty ideal. I have struggled with my weight and felt like I didn’t and never would fit in. Then I had a powerful realization: my misery and self-loathing didn’t change with my weight or how ‘pretty’ society thought I was, so my looks weren’t the source of happiness and worth that I had believed them to be. But then, what was? And how had I come to invest so much of myself in beliefs that were so untrue?
In my book, I share the lessons I learned in my journey to find the answers to these questions. I discuss who gains from our feeling small and why we need to examine the messages we receive from our culture and our families. I explain how we can redefine beauty, make healthy the new “skinny,” and harness the power of our thoughts to choose self-love. (See more on the website, here!)
What’s the best advice you have been given?
I read this on a friend’s Instagram: “People who expect the most help are usually the ones who give you the most problems and never appreciate anything.”
I have started to identify certain markers of these individuals and steer clear. When I read that I was like WOW, this nailed it. I also have learned to identify those markers and choose to help those who give in return.
Favorite quote or words you live by?
The happiest people I know are always evaluating and improving themselves. The unhappy people are usually evaluating and judging others.
I want to be a happy person.
What’s next for you?
OMG so many things! We are about travel with our daughter for the next 6-9 months! Starting in Mexico then Cost Arica and over to Peru. I have really felt a shift happen lately and I want to explore more ways to give my life meaning and I think traveling has an awesome way of clearing your mind and bringing those things into plain sight. Stay tuned, we plan to take our followers along for the ride!
Join Katie and the rest of the Healthy Is The New Skinny community to change the messages put out by the media and to turn self-loath into self-love!