Ash­ley’s best healthy habits

Glamour (South Africa) - - Icon - By fash­ion fea­tures edi­tor at US Lauren Chan.

She part­ners up “My best friend, Rachel, and I en­cour­age each other at the gym,” says Ash­ley. “When we want to stop, but can’t yet, we just start scream­ing ‘Bey­oncé!’ at each other. We’re like, ‘Bey­oncé! Roar!’”

She stays fo­cused “If I work out my thighs and butt, I feel ac­com­plished. I do one-leg bridges and jump squats. I love my thighs – they’re so strong, I could kill you with them!”

She keeps her work­outs fresh “I have to change it up; I get ob­sessed, and then I’m done. Right now, I’m into box­ing,” she says. “Mixed mar­tial artist, Ronda Rousey, has re­ally in­spired me.”

She eats well “I can’t diet. I can only be like, ‘This food doesn’t work for me; don’t overeat it.’ I also try not to re­ward my­self with food. To treat my­self, I get a mas­sage or a hand­bag.”

‘I’m afraid you’re go­ing to be as fat as my mom.’” The re­mark, she says, “was the start of how I be­gan to look at my body and re­late it to men. Like, I’m not pretty or skinny enough for men.”

At her low­est point, she called her mom in tears, plan­ning to quit mod­el­ling and move home. “She said, ‘No. You’re there for a pur­pose. You are bold, bril­liant and beau­ti­ful. You have to work through this.’” Only af­ter hit­ting emo­tional rock bot­tom did she be­gin to build her­self back up. “I re­mem­ber look­ing in the mir­ror, cry­ing and just say­ing, ‘I love you.’”

From then on, she made a con­scious ef­fort to speak to her­self pos­i­tively. “We’ve been taught to say neg­a­tive things to our­selves, to say ‘Sorry’ if some­one bumps into us. I de­cided to break that cy­cle. It wasn’t overnight.”

While her mo­ti­va­tion to love her­self at any size was pure, it also be­came prag­matic: she started see­ing self­ap­proval as key to suc­cess. “If I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate my body as my mon­ey­maker, I wasn’t go­ing to make any money.”

At 21, de­ter­mined to change her re­la­tion­ships, she chose ab­sti­nence. “I was look­ing for love in the wrong places. I wanted to make sure I dated in a log­i­cal, not lust­ful, way.” She also saw that health was part of re­claim­ing her body: “I know work­ing out re­leases en­dor­phins and makes me feel good.”

Ash­ley has been work­ing up a sweat ever since, ex­er­cis­ing three times a week and box­ing. Her com­mit­ment, “helps to shat­ter no­tions that thin is the only way you can be ath­letic.” Still, she doesn’t tor­ture her­self if she misses a work­out. As for food, she loves sal­ads and green juice – just as much as she likes mac­a­roni and cheese.

One source of fit­spo is her hus­band, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Justin Ervin, who of­ten hits the gym with her. They met in the lift at church and de­spite in­stant chem­istry, she kept her pledge. “I said, ‘I’m not hav­ing sex un­til I’m mar­ried.’ He replied, ‘Great! Let’s not.’” Seven years later, “We have this amaz­ing mar­riage,” she says. “He’s al­lowed me to thrive. We’re in­vested in each other’s growth. Ev­ery busi­ness de­ci­sion I’ve made, he’s made with me.”

And the busi­ness of be­ing Ash­ley Gra­ham is boom­ing. She’s launched a lin­gerie col­lec­tion, done stints on Good Morn­ing Amer­ica, The Talk and E!’s Os­cars red car­pet, stars in work­out videos and plans to write a book about fit­ness and beauty.

Of course, ev­ery empire has its dis­senters. With shock­ing reg­u­lar­ity, she gets slammed on­line for be­ing too heavy – a “pro­moter of obe­sity” who should “stop mak­ing fat cool; you’re go­ing to kill some­body,” as some com­ments go. Or she gets trolled for be­ing too thin: “You want to con­form to Hol­ly­wood.” But she has had plenty of prac­tice hold­ing her head high.

“I’ve al­ways had to prove my­self more than the girl next to me be­cause I’ve al­ways been big­ger, bustier and louder. My laugh is out­ra­geous. I learnt to think, ‘Your con­fi­dence has to walk into the room be­fore you do.’”

Ash­ley’s mes­sage to the world is this: “I’m try­ing to change how women think about them­selves. Some peo­ple just don’t get it. I’ve been de­nied jobs be­cause I was too big; I’ve also been de­nied jobs be­cause I was too small. At the end of the day, I’m never go­ing to con­form to what any­body wants. This is my body; I’m happy in it,” Ash­ley smiles. “And no­body – no­body – has con­trol over my body but me.”

1For­get what you think you know – the old rules don’t ex­ist. If you’re above a size 16, you’ve most likely been ad­vised to cover your arms, avoid hor­i­zon­tal stripes, blend in by wear­ing black – the list of nau­se­at­ing com­mands goes on and on. Be­cause of those con­ven­tions, plus-size la­bels of­ten play it safe, but we’re over that. In­stead, em­brace ‘rule-break­ing’ pieces, like sleeve­less jump­suits, flo­ral rompers and se­quinned skirts. Risk tak­ing pays off!

2Pro­por­tion is ev­ery­thing. Want longer-look­ing legs? Grab a high-waisted skirt. Try­ing to ap­pear taller? Reach for an elon­gat­ing duster vest. Into defin­ing your waist? A cropped jacket works. And wide-legged trousers help bal­ance out wider hips. So now you know!

3Good fit is all in the de­tails. There are tricks that make clothes eas­ier to wear if you’re a size 16 or above, so look for th­ese de­tails wher­ever you shop: waist­bands with hid­den elas­tic to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent waist shapes, but­ton-down shirt fronts that are sewn to­gether to avoid gap­ing on larger chests, and ‘pen­cil’ skirts that ac­tu­ally have a slight A-line for ex­tra mo­bil­ity when you walk.

4Most im­por­tantly, women’s opin­ions mat­ter. Thanks to so­cial me­dia, brands are bet­ter in tune with what their cus­tomers want to see on shelves. Why not tell them what you love and hate? Use your voice; smart de­sign­ers will lis­ten.

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