A dietitian’s advice on flexible dieting

While flexible dieting has become a buzz word du jour, but what does flexible dieting mean when it comes to macros and calories? We asked accredited practising dietitian and founder of Bites for Health for her expert insight. 

Macros v calories

Counting macronutrients rather than calories can ensure a more balanced overall diet; however, counting anything around food can be exhausting. The value of attending to macronutrients is to ensure that each meal contains a balance of protein, carbs and fats, which contributes to satiety – and pleasure of eating.

What are the basic rules for setting a goal-appropriate macro ratio?

This needs to be assessed by a sports dietitian or other specialist as the commonly professed means to calculate energy output with the aim of balancing energy in and out is unreliable. The total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) – based on basal metabolic rate multipled by a factor related to activity level – is almost always an estimate. Unless you have paid to get your actual energy expenditure measured, it’s not reliable.

What’s a general guide for balancing macros?

The human body is such a diverse thing – we are all different. Because of that there is no ‘perfect diet’ that fits everyone. The 40/40/20 espoused by many nutrition professionals ignores this. Certain people will feel tired having only 40 per cent of their diet from carbs, for example, and others will feel tired if they have more than 25 per cent of their diet from carbs. It’s about finding what feels good for your individual body.

Is ‘flexible dieting’ such as ‘If it fits your macros’ (IIFYM) as liberated as it sounds?

I think the theory that counting macros is flexible eating is a bit ridiculous. Flexible eating implies not having to follow rules around food, and not having to calculate or fiddle around with specific numbers. Focusing on having foods that nourish you, satisfy you and give you pleasure, without the numbers and the rules, is a real example of flexible eating.

However, there are some people who count their macros and have a very balanced, enjoyable lifestyle – and this works well for them. In my view, for its amount of effort, it’s probably not worth it.

Doesn’t counting macros circumvent the tyranny of food protocols?

This is a tough one. I agree with the concept of moral neutrality – no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. However, the message that you can eat what you want if it fits your macros doesn’t emphasise eating nourishing foods for good health. There is a big difference between eating whatever you like and eating well.

What are the drawbacks of selecting foods by macro count?

You could have a day’s eating that fits your macros but comprises energy-dense, high-GI foods that would likely not keep you full for very long, making you starving later in the day. Ironically, it can lead to a nutrient-poor diet. Counting macros can be very counterproductive for people who are chronic dieters or who have an unhealthy relationship with food. Many people have been on numerous diets, and macro counting is just the next one. These people are generally advised to see a dietitian or therapist specialising in the non-diet approach.

If not macros, what approach do you advocate for weight loss?

Focusing on having balanced meals is not only easier, but often more enjoyable. We have no evidence that calorie-, energy- or macronutrient-controlled diets work long term for weight loss and know that it is much better to focus on having a nourishing diet that fuels your body with good food. A diet high in fibre is recommended to assist with overall health and is known to help stabilise blood sugars, assist in lowering cholesterol and help prevent certain types of cancers.



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A day in the life of Laura Henshaw

We caught up with model, law student and entrepreneur and January 2018 cover model Laura Henshaw to talk about a typical day in her shoes. 


6:30am: wake up and have an espresso. I can’t stomach food before training.

8am (breakfast): protein-packed smoothie bowl or two whole eggs with ½ an avocado, spinach and smoked salmon. I always ensure I refuel my body with a high-protein-packed meal after training.

12pm (lunch): tuna or chicken salad with loads of greens, crunchy seeds and avo. I dress my salad with olive oil, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.

3pm (snack): I always crave something sweet at this time, so I will have a homemade KIC smoothie ball or a handful of nuts with a piece of fruit or some berries.

6:30pm (dinner): this is different every night, but usually I have heaps of vegies with either salmon, chicken or beef. I am loving baked salmon at the moment with a roasted Brussel sprout salad and some roasted sweet potato. The dinner recipes on KIC are a combination of my favourite dishes plus a whole heap of crowd pleasers.

8pm (after dinner): I always crave something sweet after dinner. I will have Greek yoghurt and berries, homemade banana ice-cream (just blend frozen bananas), or dark choc and a peppermint tea to aid with my digestion.


I am loving the training combination I have at the moment; I always change it up so I don’t get bored or plateau. My training every week is a combination of HIIT, boxing, strength and running. I do boxing one or two times per week, HIIT twice a week and run about three or four times per week. I always make sure I have one rest day to let my body recover.


I don’t have many days that are the same, but I always get up between 6 and 7am and get my workout done early. I get back from the gym and have breakfast, and then if it is a quiet day I’ll head to my office to catch up on emails. If I’m busy, I’m usually between shoots and meetings. Or sometimes I do all three! It really depends on the day. I also always ensure I switch off (or try as hard as I can to by 8pm) so I can spend quality time with my partner, Dalton.


I relax byrunning and switching off from social media for a few hours, or even a full day if I need it.

Model: Laura Henshaw // kicgirls.com // @laura.henshaw // @keepitcleaner
Photographer: Ren Pidgeon // @renpidgeon
HMU: Monica Gingold // @monicagingold_beauty


Grab the January 2018 edition of Women’s Health and Fitness for her full cover model story!


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Your Christmas Day feasting game plan

Prep yourself this Christmas with our extensive game plan that will see you enjoying the festivities without the guilt. Stephanie Osfield writes.

Christmas dinner is one of the biggest culinary deals of the year. If you only had to navigate that one day, things would be sweet – but it’s the drinks and parties and picnics and BBQs throughout the festive season that can bite. This means you’re out of your usual routine and not always cooking. You don’t want to look like you’re being all bah-humbug and not getting into the Christmas spirit, so you’ll be eating festive food. But you also don’t want to spend each event battling recriminations because you had too many chocolates.

Overthinking it? Absolutely not. Recent research published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that in Germany, Japan and the US, holiday celebrations such as Thanksgiving and Golden Week do lead to weight gain. But the biggest kilos spike across the board occurred in the 10 days after Christmas. During this time, Germans gained an average 0.8 kilograms, Americans 0.6 kg and Japanese participants an average of 0.5 kg. And although most of those study participants shed roughly half of that weight, some of it remained. Consider the cumulative impact over time (the term ‘kilo creep’ persists for a reason).

If you’re torn between sanctioned excess and an ascetic festive season with BYO almonds, follow our experts’ plan to have your Christmas cake and eat it.

1. All Or Nothing Thinking

You Think: ‘I just broke my eating rules – I might as well eat whatever I want for the rest of the night.’

The Fallout:

“All or nothing thinking is a worrying cognitive distortion that contributes to overeating,” says Sarah McMahon, psychologist and body image expert at Sydney’s BodyMatters Australasia. “It can lead you to eat far more than you would have done if you had just given yourself permission to have a little of what you like.”

Your Christmas Comeback:

» Be compassionate towards yourself: “The fact is that most of us will eat more ‘sometimes’ and ‘occasional’ food at Christmas time,” says McMahon. “The best thing to do is to allow yourself this pleasure, enjoy the food and trust that you and your body can handle it.”

» Eat mindfully: “When you slow down to savour each mouthful of food, you not only enjoy it more, your body and mind connect, so you start to notice when you are full,” says McMahon.

» View treats as a temporary detour: Yes, last night you had garlic bread and canapés. And today? You’re back on your usual track, eating three healthy meals and healthy snacks.

» Plate up your snacks: Even at parties where you can bring a food contribution like sushi and paper plates to serve it on. “This helps you to see how much you are eating so it is easier to realise when you’ve had enough,” says dietitian and nutritionist Rebecca Gawthorne.

» Serve your leftovers to go: If you’ve had friends over for dinner and know you won’t be able to resist the rest of the cheesecake or lasagna, serve it into take-away containers and send your guests home with the leftovers.


2. Nostalgia

You Think: ‘I love fruit pudding, mince pies, White Christmas and the turkey stuffing – they all remind me of when I was a child and how easy and uncomplicated life was.’

The Fallout:

“Christmas foods typically have many layers of emotion attached to them,” says McMahon. “Firstly, some of the foods on offer, such as crackling or Christmas pudding, are things you only eat once a year. This in itself can make the food more desirable.

“Often we feel comfort and nostalgia in relation to Christmas food. Unfortunately this can lead us to keep eating more and more to fill an emotional void with food, when in reality, eating that is driven by emotions and not hunger is rarely satiating.”

Your Christmas Comeback:

» Reality check: “Ask yourself  ‘Am I hungry?’ and, in particular, ‘What am I hungry for?’”  suggests McMahon. “If you know that what you really crave is closeness or connection, honour those feelings and respond to them. Talk to your partner or a trusted sibling about your feelings or write them down. Satisfy those emotions but don’t feed them. Ask someone for a hug or do something nostalgic – look through old photos, or maybe write a journal about your feelings.”

» Give old favourite foods a health spin: For example, if you associate Christmas with fizzy drinks, buy some mineral water and add a dash of a colourful juice like grape juice. Or if Christmas chocolate was your favourite thing, still have a little, but make it a handmade dark chocolate so that it looks amazing (and has health benefits for your heart), and only eat two.

» Channel your inner child: Engage in some games you used to play as a child rather than hoeing into the food. Try board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly, or charades, or picnic games like tag and stuck in the mud.



3. Using Food To Self-Pamper

You Think: ‘I’ve had a really difficult year and I deserve to give myself this reward of lashings of yummy food and wine.’

The Fallout:

“Using food as the ultimate holiday treat puts food on a pedestal, as though it can magically fix everything that’s not working in your life and make you feel better,” says McMahon. Fast-forward a few hours after the chocolates and chips or second serving of dessert and you will still be carrying the same emotional baggage. But now you’ll have some food guilt to add to it.

Your Christmas Comeback:

» Take just a few bites: Serve yourself a little of the foods you wouldn’t normally indulge in but just take a few bites to satisfy you and don’t eat the rest. Or enjoy just a small sliver of dessert. Research from Cornell University shows that people who eat small serves of treat foods feel just as satisfied 15 minutes later as those who ate far bigger portions. Another study at Stanford University has found that people who ate only three salty crackers were more satisfied than those who ate 15 crackers.

» Seek non-food rewards: Treat yourself to a few great books for Christmas and daily indulgences over the holidays such as enjoying breakfast al fresco or going for a sunset walk with all the family. “Remind yourself that the major perks of Christmas are not the meals but spending time with family and friends and enjoying a break from work,” says McMahon.

» Avoid second serves: Instead, have a tall glass of water or a nice hot cup of tea. If that doesn’t work and you still feel hungry, go back to have a second serve of salad and vegetables.



4. Suffering Clean Eating Fatigue

You Think: ‘I’m tired of being good. I’m going to feast all through the holidays and work it off at the gym later.’

The Fallout:

“Gorging yourself during the holidays and thrashing yourself at the gym later is a dangerous trap that perpetuates an unhealthy and disconnected relationship between food and your body,” says McMahon. “A feast and famine kind of approach is not helpful to maintaining a healthy weight.” Losing weight is also a trickier prospect than many people realise so you may find that your holiday weight does not all come off, even if you’re working out hard and eating clean.

Christmas Comeback:

» Stick to your usual eating pattern: “If you’re eating out, choose the grilled fish and vegies instead of the creamy pasta,“ says Gawthorne. Meanwhile, skip foods you would never normally have, such as soft drinks, bread rolls at dinner, gravy and sour cream on your potatoes.”

Eating at a friend’s house? Offer to bring a huge salad so that you can serve a big plate of that and eat less of the more kilojoule-laden healthy fare.

» Work out as usual: Abandoning your exercise routine at the very time of year that you normally eat more doesn’t make any sense. “Exercise makes every cell more sensitive to insulin, so glucose enters your cells more easily,” says Christine Armarego, exercise physiologist from Sydney’s Glucose Club. “This means your pancreas doesn’t need to send out as much insulin to manage your blood glucose levels.” In turn this helps to reduce weight gain over the festive season.

» Remember – this effect is dose-dependent. “Twenty-four hours after you work out, your insulin sensitivity peaks,” Armarego explains. “Within 48 hours it has returned to what it was. That’s why daily exercise is best to keep insulin sensitivity at its highest. If you can’t manage that, try not to let more than 48 hours pass between exercise sessions.”

By contrast, if you’re a couch potato all holidays, “Higher glucose levels and insulin can lead to increased fatigue and make it harder for your body to access fats stores to burn for energy,” Armarego says.

So keep up some kind of exercise all through Christmas. And if at all possible, exercise on Christmas day – either by engaging in a workout after the present opening, or by enjoying a long family walk over lunch.



5. Starving to Save Up Kilojoules

You Think: ‘I purposely haven’t eaten a thing all day so that I can let my hair down at Christmas lunch.’

The Fallout:

“This is a classic Christmas mistake,” says Gawthorne. “You are likely to be so ravenous that you serve a huge portion and then go back for seconds, which could cause a huge kilojoule blowout.”

Christmas Comeback:

» Eat three meals: Have a simple breakfast of eggs and rye toast and eat a salad for lunch. This will ensure you’re not starving with hunger and supersize your helpings at Christmas functions and then regret it the next day.

» Go for vegies first: “Serve a stack of salad and vegetables (at least half your plate) first then serve the other foods,” Gawthorne suggests. “The more vegies you eat, the more nutrients and fibre you enjoy and the less likely you will be to overindulge in other foods. It will also help portion control the other high-kilojoule foods because you will only have a little room for them on your plate.”

» Choose a smaller plate: Put a larger plate underneath it so it has the illusion of looking even bigger. When you serve your meal, you will feel that you are eating a huge feast even though you are not overdoing your intake of kilojoules.

» Pick three favourites: Rather than go for everything from the roast potatoes and gravy to the crackling, pick three favourite high-kilojoule foods to really savour in small portions. Then fill the rest of your plate with super-healthy salads and vegetables.



6. Using Alcohol to Unwind

You Think: ‘That champagne is really giving me a nice buzz after weeks of stress. I’m going to help myself relax by having a few more.’

The Fallout:

Because it’s a drink, we often completely ignore that alcohol can pack a powerful kilojoule punch. “Beer, wine, spirits and cocktails are all high in calories and devoid of any good nutrition, so there is no nutritional benefit gained from consuming them,” says Gawthorne.

“While I don’t think there is too much of an issue with consuming small, safe amounts of one to two standard drinks of alcohol on social occasions, it’s important not to look at Christmas and New Year’s as an excuse to drink to excess. This will lead to weight gain and could cause potential health issues (such as hangovers and stomach irritation).”

Remember, alcohol often comes alongside foods like salty nuts and chips that may be harder to resist once we’ve had a few. “And if you’re feeling worse for wear the next day, you may also indulge in a big fatty breakfast,” Gawthorne adds.

Christmas Comeback:

» Make a trade-off: Decide how you are going to spend your kilojoules before each function. “If you want to indulge, for example, in a slice of your favourite Christmas cake after dinner, then you won’t want to be drinking lots of alcohol,” Gawthorne says. “Or if you want to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks, then you might need to forgo the dessert or avoid the high-kilojoule cheeses after dinner.”

» De-stress without alcohol: Not only is the lead-up to Christmas rushed and stressed for many people, but being with family is often super stressful too. So take time to stop and recharge your batteries. That may mean you engage in daily meditation, a morning swim or time out to read a book from cover to cover. The less stressed you are and the more enjoyable your Christmas holiday, the less likely you are to use food as a Christmas feelgood crutch.

NEXT: Beat the Christmas snacking blowout with these top tips. 


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5 health benefits of macadamias

Macadamias are a rich source of monounsaturated (omega-3) fatty acids and come with a host of health benefits in just one handful. Whether you eat them as a snack or use them in a recipe for added crunch, here are five reasons why you need this healthy tree nut in your diet and two delicious recipes to get you started. 


1. Gives you a dose of antioxidants which boost the body’s natural defenses

2. Naturally gluten-free, low in sugar and very low in sodium

3. Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, keeping your heart healthy

4. Contributes to strong and shiny hair and nails

5. Contains vitamin B1, magnesium and potassium for increased energy and muscular function

Wondering how to incorporate this healthy tree nut in a recipe? Try these tasty picnic recipes courtesy of Australian Macadamias.

Macadamia, pumpkin and blue cheese tartlets (picutured above)

Makes 6

These tasty tartlets use store-bought pastry, so they’re quick and easy to make. The pumpkin, blue cheese and coriander combination makes them a classy work lunch option, or the ideal addition to a long and leisurely picnic. But don’t be fooled by their simplicity – the golden macadamias on top ensure they’re anything but ordinary.


300g pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm pieces

2 tsp oil

450g pack store-bought short-crust pastry

2 eggs

¼ cup thickened cream

50g blue cheese, crumbled

¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped, or chives if you prefer

¼ cup macadamia halves


1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Place the pumpkin pieces on a small tray and drizzle with oil. Roast for 15 minutes, or until just soft.

3. Place pastry on a lightly floured work surface and cut out 6 x 14cm rounds, to fit tartlet tins. You may have slightly smaller or larger tins, so cut according to your size. Press the pastry circles into the tins.

4. Cut 6 rounds of baking paper to line the pastry. Line the pastry and weight with pastry weights or an appropriate weight – rice or dried chickpeas work well. Bake for 5–7 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Remove the baking paper and weights.

5. Whisk together the eggs and cream. Pour the egg mixture into the empty tart shell so that it comes halfway up the sides. Divide the pumpkin and blue cheese between the tarts and sprinkle with coriander. Dot with macadamia halves and return to the oven for a further 5–7 minutes, until puffed and golden.

6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Macadamia and three seed crackers recipe


Makes 24

These deliciously moreish crackers are perfect with cheese and add a little macadamia magic to any picnic platter. Best of all, the super-easy, blend-and-bake recipe means you can whip up a batch in no time and hit the picnic rug sooner!


¼ cup wholemeal flour

¼ cup oats

½ cup macadamias

2 tbsp poppy seeds

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp sesame seeds

3 tbsp water


1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Place all the ingredients except the water in a blender. Blend until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Note that many of the sesame seeds and all the poppy seeds will still be whole.

3. With the motor running, add the water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Place the ball on a sheet of baking paper that will line a baking tray.

4. Flatten the ball to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Place a large piece of plastic wrap over the flattened mixture and roll out to a 2mm thick rectangle with a rolling pin. Remove the plastic wrap and use a ruler and knife, or a pasta cutter, to score the flattened dough to create small, cracker sized rectangles.

5. Transfer the dough and baking paper to a tray and bake for 8–10 minutes, until the edges have started to go golden and the inner areas are cooked. Remove and cool for 5 minutes on the tray before gently breaking into pieces along the score lines and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

This piece was produced in partnership with the Australian Macadamias.

NEXT: Packed with nourishing good fats, here are 11 other healthy nuts to add to your healthy eating regime.


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Fitness and training talk with M-Active ambassador Montana Farrah-Seaton

We caught up with trainer, former pro basketball and M-Active ambassador Montana Farrah-Seaton to chat about all things fitness, training and activewear. 

Can you tell us a bit about your career background and how you came about becoming an ambassador for M-Active?

I was scouted by Chadwick Models management when I was 15 after doing the Dolly Model Search. Modelling was on the back foot due to my basketball and school commitments but it’s now something I would love to do full time. I did M-Active’s second campaign in the middle of this year and the concept and styles they have created was something I loved. Being someone who lives and breathes fitness, they thought I fit their brand image perfectly.

What’s it like to represent Australia in basketball in an international championship?

Representing your country in any aspect is an absolute honour and I was lucky enough to do it several times. It’s demanding and a big commitment that requires a lot of work. I spent every day in the gym getting fitter and stronger and on the basketball court improving my shot and ball handling and training with my team. Physically, you have to push through so many barriers and look to the end goal knowing it’ll all be worth it.

I discovered the benefits of boxing a few years ago, which allows me to zone out and to push to another level, and I believe this has given me a mental edge in not only sport but in everything in life. Playing sport at such a high level was hard for me because I didn’t really have a lot of time to spend with friends and family, but everyone understood that these were some of the sacrifices I had to make in order to be competitive.

What is it like to compete at that level as a female and at such a young age?
I can’t even describe it – it was something I worked hard for, for so long. So many times I wanted to quit because it didn’t happen. Being away from home for weeks at a time gets tough (especially because I’m such a homebody), but my teammates and coaches became my second family. We achieved incredible wins together, taking home two gold medals at the Pacific Youth Championships and bronze at the World Championships in Russia.

How do you keep fit and healthy?

A lot of people think my training schedule is crazy but it’s always been like this for me. I train in the morning at around 5–5:30am, doing high intensity cardio and strength work at either F45 or Tribute Boxing & Fitness. When I’m not working, I practise Pilates or shoot a ball during my study break, and in the afternoon I train again or shoot ball.

What does your day on a plate look like?

I start every morning with a pre-workout and make sure I stay hydrated with plenty of water. But nothing happens until I’ve had my morning coffee!

I love smoothies or juices for breakfast as they allow me to consume extra nutrients and it’s an easy way to get more vegetables in for the day. Lunch and dinner are usually a source of protein such as chicken, steak or salmon with a salad or vegetables.

Throughout the day I love to snack on nuts or a protein ball.

On weekends I usually go out for brunch with the girls after a workout and have scrambled eggs on sourdough bread with all the sides!

M-Active is a good example of a brand offering on-trend activewear that can be worn in the gym or down the street. What are the key features of the M-Active range that make it a pleasure to train in? 

M-Active has done an amazing job at capturing all aspects of the market. I’m someone who loves to wear black or dark colours to the gym, and I love that their range offers these muted shades with just a touch of colour for those who like to keep it more subtle. All the M-Active tights and crops are so flattering for a woman’s body – they hold you in and make you feel secure while complementing your natural curves.

What are the key design elements of the M-Active range that you think contribute to its aesthetic appeal and sets it apart from others in the market?

The ‘seamless free’ range is a winner for me because I travel a lot and want to feel comfortable – they’re super comfy and easy to move in. I also love their ‘everyday wear’ range – everything from mid-length dresses to jackets – which you can wear to brunch, out shopping or to work, but are made out of the same fabrics as their active range. Again, comfort is my number one priority when it comes to clothing.

What’s your biggest tip for staying healthy during the holiday period?

Be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking but don’t stress about it too much. During the holidays I train every morning, whether it’s a HIIT session, weight training, Pilates or a long run or power walk with my mum, because it allows us to set good intentions for the day. Enjoy the little time you get to relax and know that once the new year arrives, it’s time to whip back into gear!

Step out in style and shop M-Active gear here.


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Full story: talking body confidence with cover models Georgia Gibbs and Kate Wasley

Thunder thighs. Mum tum. Tuckshop lady arms. Far from a biological predisposition, our modern tendency to criticise parts of our own body is instead an ugly by-product of a media-saturated world. Something that the October 2018 cover models and founders of body-love movement, AnyBODY, are on a mission to change.

West-Aussie models and body confidence activists Georgia Gibbs and Kate Wasley sat down with us to talk the impact of social media, health at any size and beauty with no boundaries. Because – in the words of WH&F – it’s not a look, it’s a lifestyle. Katelyn Swallow and David Goding tell their story.

On the 23rd of January 2017, 22-year-old Aussie model Georgia Gibbs posted an innocent Instagram photo of herself and fellow model and friend Kate Wasley, 23, posed in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A few minutes later, the image was bombarded with negative comments about their differing body sizes, along with accusations of image tampering.

“People were calling me anorexic and Kate fat, and assuming I had Photoshopped my friend bigger to make me look ‘better’. It was really upsetting for us both and so against everything we believe in,” says Gibbs, who started modelling at the age of 16 in her home city of Perth.

“And so our brand, AnyBODY, was born shortly after.”

Launched on the 8th of March 2017 – appropriately, International Women’s Day – the @any.body_co Instagram account had over 5000 followers by close of business day one, and clocked over 20,000 followers after the first 10 days. Today, more than 206,000 follow Gibbs and Wasley, who post professional images of themselves, selfies of women with varied body shapes, inspirational quotes about self-love, and healthy living and beauty tips. AnyBODY has also provided the girls with a host of dual modelling contracts for big brands such as Cotton On Body and Cooper Street.

Wasley attributes the brand’s rapid success to a public and industry that craved body diversity – and a marketable icon to represent it.

“I can’t believe how fast AnyBODY blew up! Although [Georgia] and I are really only two people of different sizes, I truly believe that incorporating a range of sizes, races and genders in advertising and across social media will help thousands of women worldwide when it comes to feeling comfortable in their own skin,” says Wasley, who began her modeling career in 2015 after being discovered by a local model search.

“We decided to preach to people that healthy can come in a range of sizes. Because of the way social media is these days, I think a lot of women lose perspective on what body diversity is. I think a lot of people get sucked into believing that you should look a certain way, be a certain size, and have no cellulite or stretch marks. It’s unrealistic and we want that to change.”

The media’s negative influence on people’s – particularly women’s – body image isn’t a recent concern. According to psychotherapist Natajsa Wagner, media influence can be traced back to illustrations from the 1930s that depicted women with curves, while the ’40s and ’50s saw the female bust and glutes become the focus.

“Mattel created the Barbie doll with unachievable and disproportionate body parts, and in 1966, in the environment of an emerging super-media, we had the world’s first supermodel in Twiggy. She was a sharp contrast to Marilyn Monroe, and over time we learnt that thin was the new ‘ideal’ body image. So, although women come in all shapes and sizes, the overarching truth is that only one type of body is [portrayed as] ‘ideal’,” says Wagner.

By the age of 17, women have experienced a quarter of a million beauty- and body-oriented advertisements, and continue to be exposed to an average of 400 to 600 depictions of ‘beauty’ every day. The emergence of the smartphone and social media platforms puts these images in our pockets, and the way we engage with social media makes these often digitally altered and filtered depictions seem all the more ‘real’. According to research by Trilogy, six out of 10 women believe that people expect online photos to have been retouched or have a filter applied, yet 61 per cent of Australian women do not see the use of a filter as a form of retouching. Additionally, one 2014 study published in Body Image found a direct correlation between poor self-image and the number of hours spent trawling Facebook, due to body comparisons with peers and celebrities alike.

Dr John Demartini, author of The Gratitude Effect, believes our tendency to compare and judge our own body based on individuals who we deem more ‘attractive’ is the primary cause of negative self-perception. “In today’s social media-obsessed world, many people feel pressured to pursue a physical, one-sided, false perfection that is simply unattainable,” he says.

In other words, it’s not a biologically determined position to think of our body negatively; rather, our body image is influenced by a range of outside factors, fuelled by a visually obsessed (and self-obsessed) society. For Wasley, this tendency to compare herself to others led to a host of mental and physical issues in her younger – and leaner – years. While now sitting happily at a comfortable size 16, at her thinnest (size 10/12) she was mentally exhausted.

“For me, my biggest barriers [to a positive body image] were comparing myself to others, whether that be my friends or ‘fitspo’ girls I followed on social media. I had such an unrealistic idea of what I should look like and that resulted in not feeling good enough or worthy of love,” she says.

“I stopped going out with friends because I had such bad anxiety about food and alcohol. I didn’t want to be seen as the ‘fat’ friend – although, looking back now, I was very fit and toned. It’s amazing how you see yourself when you feel insecure; my view of my own body was totally warped. If I can help even one person work their way out of that mindset, I’ll feel accomplished.”

Gibbs expresses a similar memory of juvenile body dysmorphia.

“I remember being 16 and being unsure of who I was, being unhappy with how I looked and spending so much time comparing myself to other people. It really ruined my ability to love myself for all my other talents outside of physical appearance. Barriers to my own self-love definitely came from setting unachievable goals – such as wanting to look like a celebrity who was the complete opposite to me, therefore setting myself up to fail – and comparing myself to others on social media,” she says.

An extension of the same debate is the complex interplay of health, genetics and lifestyle on how the body appears – especially considering Australia’s worsening obesity epidemic, not to mention the ever-increasing occurrence of eating disorders. Gibbs’ mother was a personal trainer and her father a CrossFit instructor, so healthy food and exercise were integrated into her life from an early age – but both were seen as tools for optimal performance rather than to create a particular body shape. Early in her modelling career, however, Gibbs’ naturally curvaceous silhouette and muscular lower body were often criticised by an industry set on slim.

“I’m predisposed to having a small waist, bigger quads and broad shoulders. But through training, these features are definitely exaggerated and other areas built on and changed too,” says Gibbs.

“I’ve always had to overcome hurdles about my appearance. But over the last few years – as I’ve built a brand around myself of wellness and self-acceptance – it’s been amazing to see clients accept me for who I am and now embrace the ‘love AnyBODY’ message.”

Wasley, on the other hand, comes from a paternal line of tall and built physiques, and first became conscious of her health at age 17.

“I was never self-conscious [growing up]. I knew I was on the bigger side, but I honestly didn’t have a problem with it until I started to compare myself to other girls. Maybe it was about the same time I became interested in boys…who knows. But I remember not having a clue where to start,” she says.

“I feel like I’ve finally reached a place of contentment and balance, which I’m truly grateful for! I eat healthy and exercise, and I’m a size 16, and I feel if I were to stop [exercising and eating well] completely, I’d maybe sit at a size 16/18 naturally – but my body would look different, if that makes sense.”

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” – a sentiment the AnyBODY team echo. Gibbs and Wasley encourage women to see good health as encompassing the physical, the mental and the spiritual. It’s about balance, the ability to move freely and think clearly, and it’s highly individual.

“Health is so much more than your physical fitness,” says Wasley. “To an extent, I don’t believe you can judge how healthy a person is based on their weight and physical being. For example, when I was at my thinnest, people were asking me left right and centre for fitness advice; I suddenly became the ‘fit friend’, running 10km multiple times a week and avoiding alcohol. If you looked at me, I was the picture of health. But what no one knew was that I was dealing with disordered eating, I was isolating myself from social events and my friends, and I was so miserable and hated how I looked. I wasn’t healthy at all.”

WH&F head trainer and Creating Curves founder, Alexa Towersey, agrees.

“As a society, we need to redefine what we think ‘healthy’ looks like. The reality of the situation is that body dysmorphia exists at both ends of the spectrum. We naively live under the assumption that a size 10 is making healthier choices than a size 16 based solely on their appearance, and without even taking into consideration age, ethnicity, genetic makeup or hormonal profile.  It’s the underlying relationship with food and exercise – whether it’s positive or negative – that we should be paying attention to,” she says.

Toeing the line between adopting a positive body image and striving to reach your health and fitness goals is not always easy. But for the AnyBODY brand and for a fair chunk of body image experts, striving for physical change isn’t necessarily a negative thing; wanting to create a healthier, fitter body that exudes confidence can be a noble goal and set you on a journey that invigorates, rather than sabotages, your self-esteem. The important thing is to understand why you are wanting to change, says Wagner.

“We’ve all experienced feeling uncomfortable in our bodies: we know when we feel physically fit, healthy and comfortable in our clothes and we know when we don’t. Wanting to make changes to positively impact our health isn’t wrong,” she says.

“However, when you start to define your level of self-worth and value by how you believe your body should look, the desire to improve your body or work towards a better level of health has gone too far. Do it for the endorphins; do it because you’re looking after your body and challenging yourself. There is a huge amount of research now that shows exercise to be one of the most uplifting tools we have and makes us feel good about our current body shape.

“A positive body image means a person is able to accept their body as it is with respect and admiration. Living with a positive body image means you have the ability to utilise your own self-esteem, maintain a positive attitude and are emotionally stable. Because of this, you’re able to filter through the messages from the media, your peers and family, and remain steadfast in how you feel about your body.”

While Wasley and Gibbs admit they’ve had to work hard to become body-positive, the duo hope the AnyBODY brand can help more women accept their appearance and feel empowered in their journey to good health; and, for them, this starts with a greater diversity of body shapes and sizes being represented on the catwalk, in advertising, in clothing sizes and in the media. Already, key brands have taken their cue, with Cooper Street releasing their ‘curve range’ inspired by the movement. Future plans for AnyBODY centre on launching their Skype for Schools program, tackling teenagers’ self-esteem, body confidence and personal development issues, while Wasley is looking to one day complete her Health Promotion degree to further advance the cause. But, in the interim, both Gibbs and Wasley offer one piece of solid advice: quit the comparisons and learn to love you – for you.

“Today I feel fantastic about my body the majority of the time. I still have my bad days because, well, I’m human – but they’re now few and far between. I think it’s the way I deal with it now that has been my biggest achievement. I focus on things I love about myself instead of dwelling on what I dislike. I have health and fitness goals now rather than weight or size goals,” says Wasley.

“Loving your body is an individual journey that’s completely different for everyone. But my top tip is not to compare yourself to anyone – especially on social media – because often you’ll be comparing yourself at your worst to someone at their best. Just remember you are worthy of love, no matter what you look like. There are people out there that love you for you, and don’t give a crap about what you look like. Those are the people worth keeping around.”

ALL FEATURE photography: Cotton ON Body



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Keep it real with fitness blogger Lauren Patterson

We caught up with solo mummy, personal trainer, gym manager and blogger Lauren Patterson to talk about how she keeps fit and healthy and feeling comfortable in your own skin. 


I partied hard as a teenager and battled severe mental illness until the age of 22 when I fell pregnant with my first child. I began my Instagram account when Madi was a baby to post photos, but had no idea how to use it. I shared my journey of my first fitness modelling competition and straight after I fell pregnant with Max, which is when my following started to grow – perhaps people wanted to see how much weight I’d put on after doing a comp?

I began blogging shortly after falling pregnant, being honest about my struggles with mental illness. After going through hell in my first pregnancy, I wanted a way to vent my emotions, not thinking anyone would read it, but they did. I soon began writing for parenting websites and fitness magazines – my relatable and honest content gelled with audiences, which I loved!


There’s no point in painting a perfect picture when it’s unrealistic. There’s a way to be positive while still remaining relatable and honest about your struggles, which is what I do. I have body hang-ups just like anyone, yet I am often slammed because of the way I look. I’ve always been honest on my social media because it’s okay to feel and look the way you do, and be who you are!


Social media can be both good and bad, it all depends on the person on the receiving end’s mindset. I don’t post photos of myself with just a sports bra and tights often, but when I do it can go two ways: women either congratulate me for embracing the way I look or I’ll be slammed for looking this way after having two kids. But captions allow me to share the story behind each photo.


Comparison is the thief of joy. You can have ‘body goals’, but remember your body is your own, so treat it with respect and be good to it from the inside out and it will reward you by feeling amazing. Embrace who you are – often, by looking after your mind, your body follows suit.


My day revolves around keeping fit and healthy – it’s a lifestyle. The kids keep me on my toes and so does being at the gym and outdoors, plus I make sure our asses aren’t parked on the couch! We eat well but live a balanced lifestyle – if I feel like a burger or a drink with friends, I do it!

I meditate daily, read and practise mindfulness. And doing yoga and Pilates daily has changed my body and mind incredibly.


Starter: tummy tea to ease bloating and get my digestive system kicking.

Brekky: oats (often my first of two because I get up so early!)

Lunch: normally some sort of protein and vegies, rice or quinoa with homemade sauce.

Dinner: something the kids will enjoy, which I sneakily make healthy, such as broth and noodles with loads of vegies. If we feel like takeaway I’ll make a healthy homemade version!

Snack time: I’m not a snack person, so I eat bigger meals to keep me fuelled throughout the day.

Check out her Instagram page for more inspiration here.



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