Sports Illustrated model Georgia Gibbs on body dysmorphia struggles

Tall, blonde and beautiful. One look at Georgia Gibbs and the only word that would pop into your mind would be ‘perfect’. However, the Aussie model struggled with her body image for years and thought she was anything but perfect.

“I went through a phase where I worked for months and didn’t see one photo of myself I liked because my mental view of myself was so low,” Georgia exclusively tells myBody+Soul.

The 23-year-old from Perth explains she developed body dysmorphia – a mental disorder characterised by the obsessive idea that some aspect of your own body or appearance is severely flawed – as a result of stress from working in the modelling industry.

“It actually didn’t have much to do with food; it came down to stress and self-doubt, which really began a spiral of seeing myself in a negative light,” the model adds. “No matter whether I put on or lost weight, my mindset and view of myself didn’t change because it had nothing to with what I looked like and everything to do with how I saw myself.”

She was constantly told by the modelling industry that she was “too big and too curvy”, which severely knocked her confidence.

“I always found the industry hard because from an outsider’s point of view, they often saw me as ‘perfect’ and therefore unrelatable. I was as insecure as anyone else.”

But instead of letting the industry mould her into another stereotypical model, Georgia decided to use her voice to break the status quo and prove that any body is a beautiful body.

“I grew up in a family of four women that all looked different, and all had their own self confidence and body issues. When I was dealing with mine, I think I just hit a point where I realised it wasn’t just me; every woman I knew was dealing with some sort of negative body image. That’s what inspired me to fight mine because I was honestly so sick of seeing so many people I loved not loving themselves.”

Gibbs then co-founded body positivity movement Any.Body.Co, with her former business partner Kate Wasley. The platform drew an overwhelming global response, helping empower young women to love their bodies and embrace their imperfections.

Now, she has just launched her new online health program JOY, designed to change the way young women think, feel and move – sans any rules, restrictions, or before and after photos.

“Joy provides you with an easy to follow guide that you are completely in control of. Whether you workout at home or the gym, there is something for every body. At Joy we won’t tell you what to eat, or get you counting calories. Joy is not about rules and restrictions, my program will encourage you to eat the things that bring you JOY,” the entrepreneur explained in an Instagram post.

But even though the #bodypositivity movement has come a long way in recent years, Georgia admits there is still progress to be made, and convincing people that she isn’t the “perfect” model you think she is continues to be “one of [her] biggest upsets to this day.”

“It’s hard feeling like I have to ‘convince’ people that I’m human and have hard times just like them,” she explains. “To be honest, I’ve stopped trying to ‘convince’ and accepted that the more I encourage women to support each other, the less we will judge each other and more people will stop making assumptions about people based on their perspective of their appearance.”

And those “hard times” don’t just refer to her body dysmorphia; the model has also suffered from a variety of autoimmune problems caused by long term stress, anxiety and over prescribed antibiotics, which led to further health problems.

“Fatigue, a severe skin reaction, Rosacea I was told I would have for the rest of my life, I got to the point my face couldn’t stand any heat, my hair was falling, eyes were permanently swollen, I lost weight, had crazy hormonal imbalance causing me to have undetectable Estrogen levels. I’ve never felt worse,” she explained in a post to her 619k Instagram followers.

Although still on the road to full recovery, she was able to heal her health issues after a few short months by making self-care her top priority.

“Fast forward two months of the strictest way of eating I have ever encountered, no exceptions for holiday season, a long list of natural medicines, tonics and erbs, sleeping lots, and nourishing myself in love at home I can now say, I’ve cleared my “incurable” Rosacea, I spent the whole day at the beach in no pain today, clear eyes and a clear mind, hormones coming back and the hair too,” she continued.

Everything JOY stands for is exactly what Georgia practices and preaches, and admits that she now sees food as the solution to keeping her body happy and healthy.

From whipping herself up a smoothie and eggs for brekkie, fuelling up on lots of healthy protein and veg, to continuously finding herself snacking on berries, nuts and lots of caffeine, the model’s diet is anything but restrictive.

“I’m eating extra as my body is healing and I’m extra hungry… I believe restrictive eating is what causes our negative relationships with food.”

The same rules (i.e “flexible”) are also applied to her workout regime: “Around travel, I’m always doing hotel room workouts as they’re quick and easy and effective. I love long walks and a Pilates class if I can make it here and there, too. I move my body every day and try and workout 4-5 times a week.”

As for her advice for others who might be dealing with body image insecurities, she says her number one tip is “taking time out for yourself.”

“Doing something every day, whether it’s just five minutes for you.”

Georgia also notes that the simple art of talking to others can make all the difference, too. “Positive affirmations to tell yourself every day before bed, finding something you love about yourself and repeating that whenever you feel insecurity creeping in, holding a friend close and sharing how you’re feeling really does help.”

And when it comes to social media, Georgia explains a social media cleanse can improve your mental wellbeing immensely.

“Social media is what you make it. If you choose to follow, search and stalk people who, when you get off your phone, cause you to feel low, lacking confidence and a bit ‘blah’ then you can’t expect to feel any different,” she adds.

“I try to encourage everyone to follow accounts that lift them up, bring out a little sparkle in their ay and unfollow any that don’t. As for the rest, take social media with a pinch of salt. It’s not real life anyway.”