Here’s the truth about body weight for me when I was a runway model.
It was a daily struggle to maintain my weight. I put myself at the top of the list when I tell you, most of us – myself included, are not naturally this lean or thin as we get into our 20’s and 30’s.
What you see here on this Victoria’s Secret runway in 1992 : I’m 27 years old, 5’11, and 120 pounds and I was underfed and anxious.
I never had an eating disorder, thank God, but I have a tendency to gain weight in my hips and thighs. Once the weight gets there it stays there. I lived in fear of being cancelled from photoshoots and runway shows which happened more than I care to admit.
I was constantly warned by designers and my agency, if I “blew-up to 130 pounds no one would be able to use me”.
Weight and my self-esteem became intertwined in an obsessive and unhealthy way. Gain two pounds and I would feel less effective. Gain 5 and I’d go into a tailspin. Standing on the scale was the measure of how effective I felt in the world where, as the old saying goes, “you could never be too rich or too thin.”
Outside of the fashion business, I thought people judged me primarily on my weight. It was a belief that made so self-conscious that sometimes I would panic about getting off of the couch and walking across the room at social gatherings because I didn’t want to be judged as “too heavy to be model material.”
Why would I put myself through this? I wanted the work. Between my passion for communicating through fashion and holding onto some healthy financial goals, modeling was my chance to buy a home and gain real financial independence.
My nutritionist Oz Garcia gave me a healthy daily diet regimen of :
60% lean protein dark green vegetable fresh fruit per meal
1/2 -1 gallon of water a day
Intermittent fasting was also a huge part of what kept me at my fighting weight for fashion. I’d also be in the gym 20 hours a week – training to full capacity.
With all this, to meet the size requirements for fashion week where I would travel from New York, Milan, London, Paris, Tokyo and back again doing some 60 shows in 30 days. I still had to go on a liquid protein diet 10 days before departure to insure I could keep the needle from going North on the scale.
Designers like Azzedine Alaia, Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld knew my struggles and gave me a ton of support (they would also cancel me if I gained weight and couldn’t fit the clothes).
Designer Isaac Mizrahi, very early on, before it was “cool to be curvy” would say to me: “You’ve got great proportions that don’t change no matter how much you weigh. I can always book you.”
Karl Lagerfeld, however, who was a great friend and support, told me frankly when I showed up in Paris one season 10 pounds too heavy for couture, “If you ever gain that much weight again, I can’t book you.”
Smoking cigarettes, everyone did back then, for weight management became part of my tool kit. It would take me years to kick cigarettes and change my attitude for better and for good.
Altering my fitness focus to building strength instead of suppressing my weight as a way to prove my worth to myself and the world, cleared another major hurdle on the path to healthy living.
Choosing exercise that has a culture to it like yoga, tennis, dance, running, boxing or martial arts where body and brain are educated as one, has been a major transformation not only physically, but emotionally for my fitness. Brain health and body image go hand in hand.
Today, at 55 years old, I weigh 155 pounds. I work out because my heart health and my brain health deserve it. Yes, it’s nice that I can fit in jeans and a bikini – but that’s not my number one goal. Keeping strength and longevity at top of the list keeps me more motivated and disciplined than ever.