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06/04/2014 07:19 pm ET | Updated Aug 04, 2014

Real Beauty: Why We Think Healthy Should Be The New Skinny

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By Mary Alice Stephenson and Lindsey Coco for GLAM4GOOD

Why can't having a healthy body be enough?

Katie Willcox asked that question after being both fat shamed and skinny shamed. The lowest point in the former plus size model's career in the fashion industry was when she decided to get healthy. Willcox went from a being a very successful full figure, size-14 model to an out-of-work model at size 8. "It was really hard to go from being a successful plus size model to only having a few clients, and I couldn't understand it because I looked better and I felt so much better -- but I was not valued at a healthy size," said Willcox. Although Willcox was regularly working, she felt overweight and did not feel healthy. "I decided to get my body to a place where I did feel comfortable and healthy," she explains. "It was a really difficult time because I have modeled professionally since I was 17 years old, and I worked hard to become a really good model -- and all of a sudden I was now dismissed, which made me feel sad, useless and not good enough."

katie willcox

GLAM4GOOD wonders why being a healthy size isn't enough? In an industry that seems to be obsessed with either the very skinny or very curvy, where is the middle ground? Willcox talked to GLAM4GOOD about the challenges of being healthy in an industry obsessed with opposite extremes.

katie willcox

katie willcox

Willcox created Healthy Is The New Skinny to show girls and women how to have a more realistic and balanced approach to fashion and beauty. She is on a mission to break the industry's reliance on the unnatural, and often unhealthy, requirements for being a fashion model. In addition, Willcox hopes to empower people to see the beauty in all shapes and sizes. She strongly believes "the most valuable thing we have in life is our health, and that should be our focus. Health and happiness are the key to beauty and keeping the mind, body and soul in balance." Healthy Is The New Skinny was born from Willcox's negatives experiences in the modeling business and her belief that the media defines women and beauty in a very narrow way, which contributes to women being dissatisfied with their bodies and themselves.

katie willcox

Willcox says the worst part about working in the fashion industry is the competitive nature of models and agents. "I think when you take young girls and pay them for the way they look, and they are competing against other girls, it breeds ugliness. I also don't like the message the fashion industry sends to young girls about beauty," she says. "It is all fake, and that's why I now try to show girls what real beauty is versus manufactured perfection." Willcox also created Natural Model Management and says it's "for models like me! We represent models of all sizes and most importantly the models must be kind, like-minded, positive people aside from being beautiful. We hope to see the industry move toward that mentality as well."

GLAM4GOOD asked Willcox how she would like to see the fashion and beauty industry change: "I would love to see all types of models being used -- all colors, sizes and ages. In life there is beauty all around us, but we teach people to only think that beauty is thin, tall and young. Sure that is beautiful as well, but so limiting." Willcox thinks people in fashion are afraid to seem ordinary, and that is why they don't like more realistic female bodies. "What they don't understand is that healthy body shapes are not ordinary, they are inspiring," she says. "When they figure that out, I think the public response will speak for itself."

katie willcox

How can you learn to love your body? Katie Willcox gives GLAM4GOOD her top 3 tips!

1. LAUGH: When it comes to loving your body, I would say start by having a sense of humor. When you laugh [in life], things just seem a little less severe. You will have good days and bad days, and it is ok to look back at some of those bad days and think "OMG, I WAS CRAZY." Like the one time I cried because I licked frosting off of a baking sheet. True story. Not my fondest memory, but you have to have a good laugh at moments like this in retrospect. Then after you are done, take a few moments to be kind and grateful for how far you have come. That is what life is all about, learning as you go so you can't beat yourself up; you just have to learn and make adjustments.

2. KICK A LOT OF ASS: Find something physical to do that is fun. I just started boxing with a boxing coach and I love it. When I have a really frustrating day, it is so fun to go punch stuff! I also lift weights with my husband, and that has done amazing things for me mentally. Girls are often taught to be weak, small and helpless, and we carry that with us subconsciously. There is something that happens when I get in the gym and start lifting weights -- I no longer want to be skinny or small, I want to be strong and kick ass!

3. SOUL SISTERS: Connect to the female spirit. When I started to look past my personal "problems," being that I wasn't the size I needed to be to model, I started to educate myself on what other women around the world were going through. I started to think about these women and how I am not any different from them. I was born in the USA and happen to be pretty, so I am given more opportunities in life. As I read about the horrible crimes that are being committed against these women [around the world], I could feel the sadness. After doing our Healthy Is The New Skinny body image workshops called Beautiful Warriors, I realized girls in our country are experiencing the same pain, abuse and repression. The world view of women as a whole is that we are "lesser than." Teaching us to hate our bodies is a direct reflection of that world view. It was through my connection to other girls and women who are fighting to love themselves that I was then able to heal myself. When you connect to the loving energy of the female spirit you can heal your pain and replace it with love. We are taught that we need men to love us, but maybe the love we have needed all along is that of our soul sisters. Now that is the kind of army this world needs.

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