9 tips on staying in shape and looking your best, according to a plus-size model

Back in 2011, Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima made headlines when she revealed that before the big annual runway show, she lives off water and protein shakes as well as putting herself through gruelling workouts twice a day. Doesn’t sound like an awful lot of fun, does it?

Luckily not everybody in the modelling industry lives like that. Size 12-14 model Jess Greaves, who belongs to plus-sized agency 12+ UK Model Management, maintains amazing abs while enjoying pasta, halloumi and the odd dessert (because life is too short).

Here are Jess’s top tips on how she maintains a super hot bod (no protein shakes involved).

1. Carbs are your friend

(Tom Joy/12+ Models)

Jess isn’t one to pass up on pasta or bypass bread, she likes to load up on carbohydrates every meal time, but she’ll usually opt for wholemeal over white carbs. “I always prefer to go for whole grain options because they tend to contain less sugar,” Jess explains, “your body breaks down white carbs like bread into sugars, so I tend to avoid them when possible.”

That said, Jess wouldn’t turn down a good cheese toastie if it fell into her lap. “If someone serves up white carbohydrates on my plate, I’m not going to say no! I just avoid them in my day-to-day choices.”

2. You don’t have to ditch cake for good

Just because you’re on a health kick doesn’t mean you necessarily have to ditch the desserts.

“I do occasionally indulge, I’ve never really cut down on desserts because life is too short for that. I just try and include as many fruit and veg as I can in as many parts of my meals.”

3. The treadmill isn’t the only way to go

Slogging it out on the treadmill for an hour isn’t the only way to burn fat, and if it doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other fun ways to up your fitness. “I don’t really focus on cardio because I don’t find that it affects my body as much as I’d like it to, I’m much more into weights and floor work,” Jess explains.

“I start off with about 15 minutes of cardio on the cross-trainer to get my heart rate up,” she says, “then I’ll focus on other things. My gym sessions usually last around an hour, so cardio isn’t a huge focus.”

4. Load up on fruits and veggies

To keep the junk food cravings at bay, Jess makes sure her cupboards are loaded with naturally yummy stuff.

“My food shop consists of a ridiculous amount of fruits and vegetables,” says Jess. “I try and pack as many into my meals as possible, because they’re great for filling me up, and they are fantastic for my skin too.”

5. Being too skint for a gym membership is no excuse

jess greaves model

Too skint to join your local gym? That’s not an excuse to lounge around on the sofa. Like Jess, you can start your fitness journey by following videos on YouTube.

Working out with your body weight doesn’t cost a thing, which is why Jess is a big fan of the core-strengthening plank. “I hold it for as long as possible, then rest, then hold it for 10 seconds less, then rest, and finish up by knocking another 10 seconds off that time.”

She’s also a big fan of squats, with and without hand weights. “To tone my butt, I’ll usually do a set of about 15 to 20 squats, three times with a rest of a minute in between.”

6. Being ‘skinny’ isn’t the goal

When Jess started taking exercise seriously, she lost fat but gained muscle in its place, thus “bulking” up. While she looked slimmer, her measurements actually increased due to new muscle mass.

“When people hear of plus-sized girls working out they assume we’re trying to lose weight,” she continues, “but it’s not like that. We are just taking care of our bodies.”

7. Use social media to switch things up

model Jess Greaves

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Spice up your workout routine by looking online for inspiration.

Jess says: “I follow a lot of fitness fanatics on Instagram to get ideas for cool new moves I haven’t tried yet. The other I day I saw someone doing a cross-lunge, where you lunge backwards with your leg at an angle behind you, so you’re crossing your legs.

“It sounds strange, but it really gets your glutes! I saw it and I had to try it out.”

8. Delete that calorie counting app right now

“I eat according to hunger and I don’t really have a calorie limit,” says Jess, “I eat what I want, as long as I know that what I am eating is healthy and not high in the wrong kind of sugars.”

Rather than capping her calories and spending hours totalling up her daily intake, Jess focuses on fuelling up for exercise. “I don’t actually have a calorie count at all,” she explains, “I work out, so I have to make sure I’ve got loads of energy.”

9. Recruit a gym buddy

You’re 1,000 times more motivated to actually show up at the gym when you’ve arranged to meet someone there. In Jess’s case, she’s lucky enough to have a best mate who also happens to be a personal trainer in the making.

“She helped me figure out what kind of exercises were best for my body, and what kind of routine I should have, and now we train together.”

This article was originally written for Snappa and published on BT.com.