This month we chat with Katie H. Willcox, the founder and author of Healthy is the New Skinny, a social movement and book inspiring millions ofpeople to choose health and wellness over beauty stereotypes.
What inspired you to start Healthy is the New Skinny?
Working in the modeling industry since I was seventeen gave be an interesting perspective that I had not been aware of previously. I had no idea that the models we were seeing in all the magazines and campaigns were constantly being told they were too big! That just doesn't make any sense to normal people and I realized that there are many aspects of the industry that are harmful to the girls and women who are playing an active role in it as well as the ones who idolize them. After struggling with my own health and body image, I realized that I could no longer want to change my body to be skinny in hopes of being lovable. I had to love myself and choose health over the beauty ideal, and that is how Healthy Is The New Skinny was born.
Your focus on a body-positive life also inspired you to start your own agency, Natural Model Management… can you tell us a little bit about it?
When I created Natural Model Management in 2011 I was struggling to make a living as a model because I was too big to be what the industry calls a, "straight size model" (33" hips) and I was too small to get consistent work as a plus size model when the clients prefer a size 12-14 (I was a size 8-10.) So I worked here and there but found myself really frustrated by the lack of diversity within the industry. Again, asking myself "Why am I not valued when I am at my healthiest size?" I realized that I could quit and do something else with my life or I could use what I had learned and my passion for change to create something different. Natural Models is for models who don't fit the straight size category at major agencies and we are thriving. When we opened our doors there were maybe three clients locally that wanted to use curve models. Today there are hundreds as body positivity continues to spread into mainstream media and clients realize the selling power that comes with it. I have moments when I think "How the hell did I do this? Was I crazy?" LOL And the answer is yes a little. Anyone who takes big risks has to have some gravitas, but it feels amazing to see our vision for Natural Models become a reality. Not to mention that we provide opportunity and income to over fifty women, which is the best part!
We love your personal line of athletic wear and accessories… how did your shop come about? Do you design everything yourself?
When I started HNS we had several schools that wanted us to come and speak to the students. When we tried to get funding for our group to give presentations, we rarely received a response let alone any assistance from sponsors. I decided it would be better to raise our own funds and so we started with a simple tank top that said Healthy is the new skinny on it. To our surprise that tank top turned into a social media campaign with thousands of girls and women joining us in spreading the message. Because of that, we have been able to do countless events and workshops for girls and women pro-bono for the groups who were like us and struggled to receive funding.
Now that HNS has reached a different level of success we are changing things up. We will still sell our classic tank and t-shirt but we are no longer going to have an entire store. I want to give women experiences that can change their lives and that is why we are going to move into the event space. In 2018 we will be hosting our own events and retreats for girls and women to have a life changing experience and meet other like minded people who can love and support them on their journey to self love.
As a small team ourselves, we’re inspired by how you’ve managed to grow such an expansive brand with only 3 team members… how do you balance your work life, while being a mom and wife? How do you get everything done?!
Our small team got even smaller as we said goodbye to our assistant Sam last month. My husband and I live in Mexico part of the year and work remotely. We do have an amazing model booker Amanda who keeps the Natural office running smoothly. As well as a new assistant, Brittany who is assisting part time for HNS. The only answer I have is that I do my best. I work everyday at random hours. With a one year old you tend to get most of your work done at nap time and after she goes to bed at 7:00pm. I think as women we struggle with feeling like we never do enough. I know I fell that way a lot and I have to step back look at everything I do accomplish vs the things I want to accomplish. I tend to shoot for the stars and think big in all aspects of life and so I am learning that sometimes smaller and slower progress is better.
Your book Healthy Is the New Skinny: Your Guide to Self-Love in a "Picture Perfect" World is getting rave reviews online… with such an empowering message, what was the process of writing this book like?
It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It took over two years and one complete and total rewrite. Looking back I see that the process was absolutely necessary in order for me to convey the right message. Think about how much you grow and evolve in years time? I had outgrown my original draft and had to rewrite it with a more evolved understanding of what it means to love yourself and what role your body plays in that process. Oh and there is that minor detail about being dyslexic. LOL. But I did it and I am so proud of how it turned out. My only wish for this book was that it would find it's way into the hands of the girls and women who need it most. I think that is happening everyday and it is magic.
As most of us know, leading a healthy lifestyle is not just about eating healthy and working out… what do you find has the biggest impact on ones health besides the aforementioned items?
There are so many things that contribute to a healthy life that are not included on the covers of health magazines. We discuss this at my workshops and events because it is vital for people to identify who contributes to their wellbeing.
1| Being around positive and supportive people. That also includes distancing yourself from those who are not, including family and friends.
2| Sleep. I know I am a monster when I don't get enough rest. We have to allow our bodies to rest and recover.
3| Stress management. Stress and anxiety have heavy effects on our physical and mental health so having ways to relieve and manage them is a game changer for your health and wellness.
4| Nutrition. If our mind and body are not receiving the proper nutrients then we will suffer both mentally and physically as we try to run on an empty tank or empty calories.
5| Connecting to Nature. We need to disconnect from our phones and reconnect to ourselves and the healing powers of Nature.
6| Moving our bodies with joy. We don't have to kill ourselves in the gym but we need to move our bodies and find way to do that that bring joy and endorphins into our lives.
7| Me time. We have to dedicate time each day to doing something that we enjoy. It doesn't have to be productive, just something you like doing. You deserve to make that a priority.
8| Building a closer and more meaningful relationship with your true self. Like I said a year can bring a whole new understanding of who we are as people if we are willing to search for those answers. The healthiest people are the ones who know and value themselves at the core.
9| Managing fear. Fear is an illusion that controls many. You can't live the life you want if you are afraid of failure, judgment, loss, starting over, and being yourself. You have to move through fear because you deserve what is waiting on the other side.
10| More love. We need more love for ourselves, for each other, for this planet and for the life that is on it. finding ways to give more love is how we relearn how to receive it. You are worthy of love and love is the core foundation of health and wellness. Good thing for all of us there is an endless supply.
These are a few of my healthy practices that I hope you will try.
What’s your gym anthem… that one song/album you have on repeat that powers you through your workout?
Pandora's Avenged Sevenfold station.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s struggling with their body-image?
You were born and therefor you matter.
We struggle to love our bodies because we have been made to believe that it is our value. And if our bodies aren't sexy or look how we are told they should look then we as women are not worthy of love or a happy life. I will say it again, you were born and therefor you matter.
It is time to begin to question why you have been made to believe otherwise. Listen to your soul and follow your spirit. Be brave enough to go on an adventure to discover why you are here. I promise you, your purpose is not having a hot body.
There is no need to worry about where you will end up. Just know you are lovable as you are now. Being healthy will assist you in feeling better in your physical body, but it doesn't make you more lovable that you are right now. Beauty is nice, but it is momentary and being more beautiful doesn't make you more lovable than you are right now. Attention feels good but attention from the wrong source for the wrong reasons doesn't make you more lovable than you are right now. Being petite and small is natural for some people but if it is not natural to your DNA, being small doesn't make you more lovable than you are right now.
If you believe me even for one second then you are being called to do something beautiful for this world. You are a woman after all. Now it is up to you to answer.
What’s next for Healthy is the New Skinny?
We have some exciting partnerships coming up in 2018 for a new line of activewear! We are hosting our own events starting in Los Angeles as well as our first HNS retreat in Mexico. We are launching a new website with all different kinds of women who will contribute their stories, lifestyle, and life lessons with us as we continue to grow and evolve our understand of what it means to be a woman. So excited for what is to come.