The only logical next-step for Kayla Itsines at this point, it seems, is total world domination—although you wouldn’t know it after meeting her.
With an app, a new healthy cookbook, and over six million Instagram followers—about the same as Victoria’s Secret-contracted It-girl Taylor Hill and more than VS supermodel Josephine Skriver—to 20-something-year-old women, Kayla’s more recognisable than many A-list celebrities. Still, she’s disarmingly normal. Kayla’s chilled, no-worries attitude is quintessentially Australian, which is exactly what makes interviewing her so fun.
Today I caught up with Kayla in her New York-based hotel ahead of a book signing. She’s in town promoting her healthy eating cookbook, something she says has been a work in progress for well over a year. We chatted about sober socializing, healthy eating, the unique way she sets goals (no 2017 resolutions for this fitness star) as well as her bizarre beauty tricks.
Amodrn: What can fans expect to find in your new book? Kayla Itsines: Over 200 recipes. It’s also a lot about the mindset, talking about bikini body confidence, really defining what bikini body means to me and hopefully to the community as well. There’s a workout at the start as well that the girls can do, so someone [new] who wants to see what BBG is about, it’s in here. There are meal plans and it really goes through everything you need in terms of starting off the new year. It’s a big book. What do you mean by mindset?
[I mean] being comfortable with foods and all five food groups. Things like not cutting out fats, not cutting out carbs, I think that’s the first thing that women do, they say, “I want to go on a diet, I’m going to cut out carbs.” And I just think, “Why are you doing that, have you heard about carbs and what they can do for your body?” I’ve got all of that in there. I really want to make them feel comfortable about food and know what they’re eating. What are your health goals for 2017?
Um, I try to stay super healthy all year round. I’m pretty proud of where I am so far. It’s more about helping others because I’m pretty OK with my own health goals. I’m obviously trying to get stronger every year and try new things, but it’s more about helping others. I just go slowly-slowy and I want to get stronger as a whole, that’s probably the only health goal of my own. Instead of saying—which is really unhealthy—”I want to be at this weight by this time or I’m going to lift this amount by this date,” it’s good to take small steps and see if you get there or not. Otherwise, it could be unrealistic and you could feel unmotivated [if you fail].
Do you set business/professional goals for yourself at the beginning of the year?
Rather than year-to-year, it’s more like planning five years out. With the app, we had that idea for so long and the book as well. They’ve been absolutely incredible, I’m so proud. So we have ideas for several years’ time and work towards long-term goals.
This year though I really want to see my family in Greece, I want to travel to more places around the world and help more women. Do you have a process for coming up with your goals/resolutions? Do you meditate or brainstorm or anything like that?
I actually started [meditating] just using Headspace. I think that’s what everyone [who meditates] does because the app is super popular. Other than that, to set business goals I sit down the team and we discuss—it’s so hard to explain without telling you exactly what we’re working on [laughs]. I’m guessing you can’t tell me what’s launching next?
Not yet! You’ll know soon. But yeah [when coming up with goals] we sit down and talk about what’s working, what’s not, brainstorm, and it really helps me being in the community a lot and running my own Instagram account. I’m more aware of what people want and what they’re actually saying. I check the direct messages and every morning I get up and look at “photos of you” [on Instagram] to see what people have tagged and see what I’ve missed during the night. The day after Christmas or a big holiday where you eat and overindulge, what do you do to get yourself back on track in in a healthy mindset?
If they go off track? Join the 12-week challenge—having this goal that you’re going to do with friends. Also, mindset [is important]. You had bad food for one of two days…so what!
Umm, weeks in my case!
It’s still not going to throw your whole life out, it’s about mindset. I was actually just with my friend before and she was like, “I ate all these Krispy Kremes yesterday, but it’s OK, I’m back on track today.” That’s a good mindset to have, you ate it, whatever and now you’re back on track. Haveyou ever followed a detox or a cleanse?
Nope! There’s a big move towards clean beauty at the moment, do you have any natural skin care products that you love to use?
I use that Drunk Elephant thing that’s natural. I use the hydrating gel, but I’m not really big on skin care. I wash my face with a basic cleanser and then I moisturise with sunscreen. Sunscreen!? At night do you use anything?
I just use sunscreen! Everyone else that tries it says they get breakouts but it works for me. I have a night oil that I bought at Sephora, but it’s blue and people told me it stains your sheets. It’s beautiful but I don’t use it. Sober partying and socialising is set to be a huge trend in 2017 and I know you don’t drink. What do you sip on when you’re out with friends at parties?
I hope so, it would make my life a lot easier [if it’s a trend.] I have water with ice and lime or I have a mocktail like a mojito with no alcohol in it. I don’t pretend I’m drinking, if people ask what I’m drinking I will tell them I’m not. And they say, “Oh, have a drink,” and I just stay hydrated [with water], that’s it.
Do you find that when everyone else is drinking alcohol around you, you drink more water and feel you just need something in your hand to not feel awkward?
Um, yeah maybe. I feel like if we’re like this [sitting in a group together] and you all have a drink in your hand I need a drink in my hand but don’t care that it’s not alcohol. I just fiddle with it sometimes—when people drink and start saying things, I think, at least I have my drink. Because I don’t want to play with my phone because that’s rude, so I’ve got something in my hands. Any other tips for sober party-goers trying not to feel awkward?
These are all new things I’ve heard of—sober socialising and Dry January, this is all new to me. I’ve always just been that sober person! You just have to be confident, I think people—especially women—think that they’re the downer but people don’t notice. Just keep up convo, people are actually pretty funny. There’s not much you can do, just stand there with your water or whatever and be you. It’s pretty entertaining. Do you have any favourite healthy mocktails?
I don’t have anything healthy in particular, it’s just if someone says, “Do you want a mojito?” I just ask for it without alcohol and get given the drink. I suppose you could do it with soda water, but I do normally just drink water. I’m so boring, I just have water and coffee.
What surprised you about the book-creating process?
It’s all about planning and organisation, like, what do you really want to have in the book. Take your time, put your passion into the book, and see what other people have done. It’s so important to let other people look at the book and get their feedback, don’t just think, “Oh, yeah, that’s good.” Really ask other people what they would change. What’s your favourite published recipe in the book?
Everything! My favourite foods in here are the Greek foods that I make with my family. Yemista, which is like stuffed roasted vegetables. That’s my favourite. There are heaps of my family’s meal time foods in here. How did you come up with the ideas for the recipes?
[We looked for] foods that are realistic and that people like eating. I sat down with people and just said, “What do you like eating and what are the foods that bring your family together?” Especially for mums, these are foods they can eat with their kids instead of making a separate meal for themselves. Super easy. A lot of the dips in there are things that you can quickly make. It’s really family-orientated.