September signals the start of a new fashion season, and models across the world begin their biannual migration first to New York City then to Europe, spending weeks strutting and gliding down countless catwalks in the latest designer styles.
The eyes of the world are on them. There are the editors and buyers at the shows, of course, but now there are blogs, vlogs, Instagram feeds, live streams and backstage cams for continual coverage. Even on the street, the cameras click continuously, hungry for “model-off-duty” candids — no filter or Photoshop required.
How is a model expected to prepare for this 360-degree, 24-7 exposure? For many in the industry in North Texas, the answer is surprisingly basic: by eating well and exercising.
Models today are eating nutritiously, and they’re working out.
Nancy Campbell, president of The Campbell Agency
“For so many years, the standard model figure was just tall and thin,” says Nancy Campbell, president of The Campbell Agency, a Dallas-based modeling agency that regularly sends its models down the most important runways in the world. Over her nearly 30 years in the business, however, she says she’s seen that standard evolve, and she says the emphasis now is on models who are tall and thin, yes, but also who are toned and fit. “Models today are eating nutritiously, and they’re working out,” she says, not just to look good in the moment, but to sustain the energy it takes to work extended hours and to ensure career longevity. “We help set them up with good habits for life.”
For proof of the public’s embrace of model health, look no further than major media outlets like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Self and Teen Vogue, which every month run stories on topics like how supermodel Gigi Hadid achieves her chiseled abs (with corresponding video of her boxing routines) and what playlists Kendall Jenner loves to listen to while she works out. The public even follows plus-size models to the gym. For example, Ashley Graham, who’s starred in major fashion campaigns and has appeared in Sports Illustrated’s legendary swimsuit issue, regularly posts Instagram pictures of her punishing workouts, to the delight of her 2.3 million followers.
We visited with two North Texas experts who know exactly what it takes to stay runway-ready: a model who gave up sugar to look and feel better, and a trainer whose A-list clients go from sweat sessions to swimsuit shoots.
Model of Good Health
Maintaining her health is a priority for Dallas model Kiersten Dolbec, who’s signed with the Kim Dawson Agency in Dallas, Wilhelmina Models in Miami and Factor Models in Chicago. She recently launched a blog to inform and encourage others interested in restricting refined sugar. The blog is called SuddenlySugarFree.com, a play on Dolbec’s Instagram handle of SuddenlyPuppies, which has more than 26,000 followers.
Dolbec began her sugar-free lifestyle last November in part as a way to feel better. “I was getting every job in the world and everything was perfect, but I would wake up feeling depressed,” she says.
She also had problems keeping her energy level up all day. “I am a model who’s known as being fun to have on set, and when I couldn’t maintain the ‘fun-loving, quirky Kiersten,’ I’d fake it, so I’d come home exhausted, and it was starting to really wear me down.” She also found herself craving sugar and food in general, stuck in a cycle of yo-yo eating, overdoing it one week, pulling back the next.
Around that time, Dolbec watched an Australian documentary called That Sugar Film about the effects of too much refined sugar on the body, and she began to wonder whether refined sugar could be behind the highs, lows and cravings she was experiencing. She decided to try cutting it out. Dolbec’s not a nutritionist, a wellness expert or even a chef, but she began consuming every resource she could find about going sugar-free, and she crafted a system she hoped would lead to a new lifestyle rather than a quick fix.
It wasn’t easy, she recalls. “The first seven days, I felt like I was in withdrawal,” she recalls, noting that she felt so bad at one point she was convinced she had the flu. She was bone tired and her skin broke out.
Then, it all changed, and she says the results have been so amazing, she can’t see ever going back. “Without sugar in my diet, I have a constant level of energy and it’s easier to maintain my focus,” she says. “My workouts are better, I sleep better, my skin looks better, and I don’t have cravings for sweets or to overeat anything.”
The key to her success, she says, has been meal preparation — having fresh, natural ingredients prepped in advance, whether that meant cooked, chopped or portioned-out, so that meals were easy to make in a snap, and she always had something healthy to grab when her body needed quick
Dolbec devotes Sunday evenings to meal-prep for the week. She cooks and slices two chickens, makes beans, prepares spaghetti squash and cuts up countless vegetables. She separates vegetables so she can make omelets and other fast, easy breakfasts in minutes every morning, and she assembles salads for the week in clear plastic containers as grab-and-go healthy lunches for long days on set.
Without sugar in my diet, I have a constant level of energy and it’s easier to maintain my focus.
Dinners usually include everything she ate before, like grilled steak, rotisserie chicken or sushi. “I think that’s the coolest thing about this diet — it’s not focused on caffeine or gluten, and you can have butter, potatoes, steak, fruit — just not refined sugar,” she says. “I am by no means starving or at a loss for food to eat; it’s just about breaking the addiction to sugar.”
The SuddenlySugarFree blog arose from an Instagram feed of the same name that Dolbec started as a diet diary of sorts. “Instagram is the way that people document their life now, and so I just started taking pictures as a way to document what I was eating, to hold myself accountable,” Dolbec says. “I’m not a chef; I just have fresh ingredients, and I create my own little concoctions.”
In no time, Instagrammers took notice of her concoctions and suddenly, she had followers — nearly 5,000 of them, in fact. She launched the blog as a platform to offer more in-depth information than was possible on the Instagram platform, including meal inspirations and downloadable shopping lists. Now, companies are reaching out to her about new products, and she hopes that the market will continue to expand for sugar-free food, as it has for vegan and gluten-free fare. When and if that happens, Dolbec says, she’ll be there with helpful, free information for anyone who wants it.
“I want SuddenlySugarFree.com to be something that makes going sugar free easy, because it is easy,” she says. “I am not a chef, I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, but this is what works for me, and that’s why I am so passionate about it.”
Going to the Mats
Of course no diet would succeed without exercise, and John Benton is the personal trainer many in the modeling community have on speed dial. Benton has been a Dallas-based personal trainer for 13 years, and for the past five, he’s worked almost exclusively with female models and fashion industry insiders.
Benton’s client list includes many of DFW’s most recognized faces, including models, actresses, fashion bloggers and a Miss USA contestant (he’s even led an intensive sweat session with this writer). He also works with aspiring models, helping them achieve the physical tweaks necessary to get signed with an agency.
Benton has built his business on a proprietary approach that targets one of the most difficult measurements to change: the hips.
Getting this number down, even incrementally, can make all the difference when it comes to what models are paid to do: fit in clothes. He’s been so successful in this area that he’s known at one local agency as “The Hip Whisperer,” he says.
Every girl wants toned muscles and Victoria’s Secret abs.
“It’s all about the athletic look now,” he says. “Every girl wants toned muscles and Victoria’s Secret abs.” After the abs, he says, the most common model fitness goals involve tightening the inner thigh and glutes (an approach Benton likes to call “booty toning”).
How does he do it? “It’s always a mixture of diet and exercise,” Benton says, adding “none of my clients are starving.” Besides, he says, dieting alone won’t create the type of shape a model needs to succeed.
A commitment to health is key. That means no smoking, and no untreated eating disorders. And, of course, his clients must be willing to change up their usual workout routine.
For example, trainers often target below-the-waist areas with squats and lunges — an approach Benton says is no bueno for models because it can actually add to the hips and build out the glutes. An occasional barre class or spin session is fine, but too much of one type of exercise also runs the risk of muscle buildup, especially below the waist, he says.
Instead, Benton relies on nonstop, hourlong workouts based on interval training. His action-packed (and exhausting) hour toggles between cardio and mat exercises (always in sets of three), with a little boxing thrown in for fun. It’s an approach that reduces body fat while toning (rather than building) muscle, and the result is an overall tautness, with a strong, gently defined core and long, lean limbs.
Another key to Benton’s success is that he gives his clients workouts they can keep up with even outside his gym. “So many of my clients travel all over the world, and they can’t always get to a gym,” he says. “I give them workouts they can do if they’re in an apartment, a hotel room or a park.”
Typically, Benton’s models run through his workout — in his gym or off-site — at least two to three times a week. If there’s an upcoming swimsuit shoot or a runway show, however, Benton says he’ll sometimes work out with a client twice a day. He has also traveled with his clients when they need extra motivation, and he’ll soon begin regular trips to New York City in partnership with Bandier, a Big Apple-based fitness retailer with a location in Dallas’ Highland Park Village.
“It’s about doing everything I can to support my clients to achieve results in a healthy, sustainable way,” he says.
Kiersten Dolbec’s five tips for living sugar-free:
1. Read labels. You’d be surprised how much sugar can be lurking in savory food, especially anything labeled “low fat” or “nonfat.” Ditto supposedly healthy food like low-fat yogurt, granola, Craisins, energy bars and salad dressing.
2. Snacking is fine. Going sugar free doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a treat; just make sure it’s low in sugar, like a Justin’s Peanut Butter packet, an Epic venison bar or salted popcorn.
4. When you’re chopping vegetables for the week, only prep one or two days’ worth of onion and avocado to ensure freshness.
3. If you’re enjoying a libation, watch out for mixers and juices. Stick to a glass of wine or something simple like vodka soda with lime.
4. Give it time. Don’t be discouraged if you feel terrible the first two weeks. Don’t give up — it will be worth it!
Watch her at work: To view videos of Kiersten Dolbec whipping up a breakfast soft taco, compiling a healthy lunchtime salad-to-go and talking about her grocery store must-buys, go to www.indulgedfw.com.
John Benton Model Fitness
John Benton’s top five tips for working out:
1. Make sure you have exercises you can do anywhere, even at home in front of the TV.
2. When running, go slowly and take smaller strides so you burn fat without building up major muscle groups.
3. Avoid squats and lunges because they will build up hips and thighs.
4. Boxing, either with equipment or just throwing air punches, is a great way to tone the arms without building up leg muscles.
5. If you’re looking to shrink body measurements, exercise alone won’t work — you also have to make healthy diet decisions.
Watch him at work: To view videos of John Benton and The Campbell Agency model Zandria Theis working through his favorite moves, go to www.indulgedfw.com.
With egg on one side and avocado on the other, this delicious meal is the “best of both toasts.”
1 large slice of sugar-free bread (sourdough is a good option) with a crust
Olive oil, to taste
1/2 avocado, mashed
Handful of sliced mini sweet peppers
Crushed red pepper, to taste
1. Lightly toast bread slice and then cut the inside out on one side of the toast, being careful not to cut the crust, and set pieces aside.
2. Brush both sides of the toast with olive oil.
3. Add a glug of olive oil to a pan on medium-low heat.
4. Place the toast in the pan and crack the egg into the hole, being careful not to break the yolk.
3. Cook 1-2 minutes on this side, depending on how runny you like your egg yolk.
4. While the toast and egg are cooking, add the extra bread “insides” to the pan.
5. Flip the egg toast and cook 1 more minute.
6. Put egg toast onto a plate and smear the smashed avocado on the side without the egg and put any extra on the little toast pieces from the side of the pan. Arrange sliced mini peppers on the avocado. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper to taste.
— Kiersten Dolbec, SuddenlySugarFree.com