The woman shaping us up
Fitness mogul Kayla Itsines, behind the Bikini Body Guidecult,isthekindofwomaneverywomanwants to be. Aside from her chiseled form and accessible exercise and eating plans, she’s incredibly down to earth. She gives us a plan to thwart every unrealistic reg
K ayla Itsines is very much the modernday fitness star. Five years ago, a supermodel client was the ultimate symbol of a trainer’s success, but today – in the social-media age – it’s all about your followers. And 26-year old Australian-born Kayla is leading the pack with an impressive 8.3 million followers on Instagram alone. To put that into context, Deliciously Ella – the clean-eating star known for her impressive following – has a mere 1.2 million.NowonderKaylawasrecentlynamedtheworld’s top social-media fitness influencer by Forbes magazine.
So,whatsetsherapart?Shecertainlylooksamazing, with a feed full of photos of her looking super-toned, alongside easy-to-follow workouts, recipe ideas and inspirational quotes. She is a one-woman fitness empire: shehasanappandwebsite,whereyoucansignupforher virtual exercise programme, or buy her books or choose from her range of branded products. But she also shares the not-so-glowy parts of her life: when followers began complimenting her hair, she told them she wears a clipin ponytail because her hair is short and thin due to the female-pattern baldness that runs in her family. And she also often talks openly about suffering from anxiety.
In the flesh she looks perfect, but she’s down to earth and open as we chat about her new book, which focuses on how our habits are the key to good health. So, how can we make better ones?
Put yourself first (for a change)
“I train a lot of mums and what I find is women often put themselves right at the bottom of their priority list,” says Kayla. “Above them comes their kids, jobs, husbands, running their home, their parents and so on. Taking time out to focus on your health and fitness may feel indulgent, but while it’s great to care for others you should value yourself – and your wellbeing – above everything else. If you regularly run out the door in the morning on an empty stomach bar a coffee, skip the gym and don’t eat right, you’re going to become exhausted and not able to care for others as well.”
Start small (and be realistic)
“Every January, most of us make this big, vague resolution without any real idea of how we’re going to get there,” says Kayla. “We say we’re going to get fit, or save money. But how? And what does ‘get fit’ mean? Do you want to lose a little weight, run a marathon, or train for a 5km? Once that’s clear, how are you going to do it? Are you going to join a gym? If so, when are you planning on going? Are you going to start walking more? When? Don’t put it off – women tell me they’ll get fit when their kids are older, or when their job is less busy. But there will never be enough time or a good time, so just work with the time you have. Even 10 minutes on the treadmill, or doing one of my workouts, or going for a walk everyday helps.
“Be realistic and think small tweaks rather than big goals: take a walk when you usually drive, try a new workout, eat a healthier cereal or go to bed earlier – these are more likely to become second-nature habits. And remember – if you make the same mistake you’ll get the same results. But if you make new habits, you’ll get new results.”
“I used to bite my nails when I felt stressed and eat a block of chocolate when I had my period,” says Kayla. “So I started writing that down and then I’d also write downagoodalternative.Dothesamewithyourtriggers, which may be eating something sugary when you’re stressed or having wine after a bad day. My own trigger came from my mum – when she had her period she’d eat chocolate and unwittingly taught me to do the same. But chocolate doesn’t help period pain and the sugar spikes actually make it worse. Recognise your trigger and stop yourself when you’re searching the cupboards for a snack or pouring yourself wine. Realise it’s just a plaster for the real problem, like stress, boredom or tiredness, and solve it another way. It doesn’t have to be a walk either: it can be reading a book, phoning a friend or getting an early night.”
“If you go to bed late and wake up tired, you’ll be chasing your tail all day, skipping exercise and craving all the wrong foods. Forming a better bedtime routine is one of the best things you can do to help your daytime habits stick. Firstly, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Put your phone on the other side of the room so you have to get up and go to it in the morning. Have breakfast at the same time, and if you can, go for a short walk. You may be exhausted and not want to do it for the first week, but by the second it will become a new habit. Before long, you’ll be bouncing out of bed in the morning.”