Fitness model Anna Hanks on staying healthy in an image-obsessed industry

The model and health coach explains why fitness modeling can be a serious workout, how she deals with Celiac disease, and why she'd rather look strong than skinny.
(Photo: Coty Tarr)
(Photo: Coty Tarr)

Anna Hanks is a 22-year-old model, actress, dancer, and holistic health coach who splits her time between New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles. After being diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2011, she changed her diet, which gave her new energy and inspired a new passion for healthy living. She shares her story, here:

“I’m huge into working out. I have a handful of instructors in each city that inspire me and push me. It’s funny, because fitness modeling can be my workout. When the crew is setting up lighting for whatever you’re shooting, I’m warming up and stretching. Fitness shoots aren’t easy. There’s stuff that you do in a class, but 50 times over to get the perfect shot like jumping, dancing, kicks, and turns?! That’s modeling. You have to make sure that you’re not favoring one side, too, since it can become an actual workout.

(Photo: Jay Sullivan)
(Photo: James Farrell)

I love commercial modeling work. But recently, I’ve learned that I relate to fitness modeling a bit more. I love being healthy and looking healthy. I don’t want to look like I don’t have muscles or I’m too skinny. I have a small bone structure. If I’m not working out, my muscles go away really quickly. When you look at women’s health magazines versus Vogue, nine times out of 10 it’s going to be so much more appealing to look like the healthy girls with boobs and with butts.

In the modeling world, there is such pressure to be skinny and thin—and when you have the awareness of an athlete, it keeps me so grounded. I don’t think of stepping on a scale. I know that I look I can look in the mirror and tell if I’m too skinny or I’m building too much muscle. I know how I feel my best. I’ve been a 21-year-old that did the party scene. I know that’s going to be me at my worst.

Feeling my best, for me, is 100 percent my diet. No gluten, dairy, soy, or refined sugar. That’s why I basically live at Hu Kitchen. I can eat anything there and I feel good after. The number one question I get from other models is “what are you eating?” They’re so quick to grab a slice of pizza, or get a soup or salad from a deli, but they end up feeling like crap. I tell them it’s all about my feel-good food. I always have healthy food with me, even if that means I’m staying up cooking the night before to pack food that’s going to get me through my next workday.

If they ask me for tips, I’ll tell them to replace coffee with a green juice, and don’t skip breakfast. Have a big breakfast with a good smoothie with protein. Swap chips to an apple with almond butter. Or pack bags of nuts—pumpkin seeds, almonds, something with protein. Ultimately the protein is the foundation. I do not start my day without hot water and lemon. My entire day will be off. It’s so alkalizing. It’s the little changes.

(Photo: Coty Tarr)
(Photo: Coty Tarr)

As a model, you have to understand what market you’re playing to. You have to focus on your strengths, to look at your body and realize you can’t change physically how you look, or your bone structure, or height. At 5’9” I’m short in New York City. I’m not an immediate runway model. You get the rejection, but you start to narrow in on what is going to work. The basis of my Meisner acting training is to ask, “What’s going on, and how do I feel about it?” I can tell when a job isn’t me. With fitness modeling, I have life in my eyes, a big smile, a healthy body. That is me.”

As told to Jamie McKillop in New York City on June 18, 2014.

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