Do athletes have a different relationship with their body?
Definitely. Athletes still have to watch what they eat. The plus side is you get muscles. In New Zealand, all my male mates always say, “I love a girl who is fit and toned, and not too skinny and not obsessed about what they eat!”
What bugged you about your body when you were growing up?
The usual stuff. When I’d go out in a bikini I’d worry if my butt looked fat. I would have tried a few diet fads when I was younger, no doubt about that. I tried an all-juice diet when I was 14 – I was skinny as a rake. How stupid. My friend and I would compare what we were eating; a competition to see who was dieting the best. When I was modelling as a teenager, the boss of the agency was always talking to you to make sure your body was the right shape. Luckily for me, I had no breasts, so I never got the lingerie jobs!
Has your attitude to dieting changed?
These days I totally scoff at any diet. I eat a bit of everything. If I overindulge one time, I’ll bring it back for the next couple of days. But I won’t feel guilty about it. Life is to be enjoyed – food and wine is a big part of it.
When did you feel happy with your body?
In my mid-twenties. Sport helped a lot. As soon as I started playing rugby and volleyball, I began feeling good about myself. If you’re active, it keeps you strong and toned, and it doesn’t matter if you’re not the “right” shape.
It must be great to reach an age where you’re comfortable with who you are?
Yeah. Being a mum does add a bit of doubt. Obviously, I had some work to do to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I did a bit of walking, a bit of running. My youngest son Freddie is three, and I’ve only just got back to the weight I was. I know my husband loves me, I know my kids love me. I don’t need to care about the excess love handles. It’s not a big deal if your butt is slightly bigger.
When you stopped playing rugby, did your body change?
Massively. I finished in 2002, and that year I worked on breakfast radio, had a full-time job, did some part-time work for Sky, and coached a rugby team. Because I was doing so much, I hardly exercised for a year. I remember my then-boyfriend saying, “Your guts are fat.” I looked in the mirror and thought, “Hmm, I am slightly pudgy!” I adjusted things, got into some gentle running, and eventually got back to normal.
How did you feel when you realised you’d put on weight?
I think I was in denial. I didn’t notice. It happened over a year. It was so gradual. Now my philosophy is habits – habitual exercise and habitual food.
What do you love about yourself?
I like my legs. If I have a big gut, I hide it by wearing a slightly shorter skirt so people look at the legs! My tummy’s definitely my weaker area. If I let myself go, I’d look like a potato on sticks. So you just emphasise the sticks instead!
How would you describe the real Kiwi woman?
Equal. We were the first country to have the vote, we’ve had two female prime ministers, all Kiwi girls have male friends and most guys do 50% of the parenting. We live in such a great country and culture. But New Zealand women need to learn how to take a compliment. We are shocking at that!