For international fashion model Ashiko Westguard, learning the extreme importance of self-love and how to balance food intake with a regular workout routine has been key in maintaining a healthy body and a happy mind. After signing to Next Models at the age of 18, Ashiko earned worldwide success traveling to exotic places like Japan, Spain, Paris, Hong Kong and Denmark to model for an impressive list of designers.
Having modeled in massive ad campaigns for Garnier, Revlon, Coca Cola, Skechers, Air Canada, and Huggies, as well as being on the covers of a long list of magazines including Woman, Women’s Fitness, Essentials, Fatima, Sweat Equity and more, Ashiko’s face, not to mention her perfect body, have become easily recognizable to onlookers around the globe.
As a sought after model Ashiko’s career literally depends on her being in shape at all times. Over the years she has developed a system for staying fit; and it doesn’t include starving herself, not anymore at least.
“I have experienced a lot of different diets, weight gain and loss throughout my career. I’m very big on staying healthy, eating healthy and not letting a diet or food control you. I suffered from anorexia in the beginning of my career and struggled with loving myself, and all of my imperfections. Today I have out grown unrealistic expectations and can honestly say I’m healthy and live a balanced lifestyle,” admits Ashiko.
Some of Ashiko’s go to healthy foods include hummus with vegetables like celery, carrots and cucumber, dried fruits without preservatives and rice cracker chips. She also regularly incorporates roasted root vegetables and grilled fish, with mahi-mahi being among her top choices. As a salad lover and someone who enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, Ashiko is always coming up with unique mixes to spice up her greens intake and make the dish a little more fun.
“I love salads, and I always try and create new ones. I think eating raw can be one of the best things for you,” says Ashiko.
As for the breakfast she chooses to get her day off to the right start it’s all about Kashi Go Lean cereal, which she mixes with fresh berries and either almond or soy milk.
Of course, part of creating a balanced life both nutritionally and mentally is giving yourself the freedom to occasionally enjy the foods you love without feeling guilty, and for Ashiko it’s all about Italian and Brazilian food.
“I grew up with my Dad always cooking. He was very passionate about food so I was a bit spoiled. I love trying new things.”
Eating simple and clean foods, making sure to get enough protein, and also paying attention to portion size have all been vital for Ashiko maintaining her slender figure, but having a regular workout routine and recognizing how the food she is eating will sustain her workouts has been equally as important.
“I believe in protein throughout the day, both before working out and after… avoiding sugar and eating clean and simple. Because I workout I want to keep toned therefore it’s important to never starve yourself or you will eat through muscle,” Ashiko explains.
“I love to workout to stay fit and strong. I don’t work out to be skinny but rather toned and strong. I work out at least 3 to 4 times a week.”
Ashiko’s workout routine usually begins with weights, abs and kickboxing. “It’s best to start with the really hard stuff when you have most of your energy.”
She starts out with 150 leg lifts aimed at working the abs and lateral muscles, then moves onto 15 minutes of kickboxing, explaining, “I like to get my heart rate going and work up a good sweat. That’s how I know I’m working hard.”
She then uses free weights to tone her arms, the thigh abductor machine to target her inner and outer thigh muscles, and some good old-fashioned pull-ups. After all that, it’s time for the treadmill.
“I go on the treadmill for 30 minutes, putting it on a high incline for a 5 minute speed walk, and once my heart rate is up I run on the high incline for another 5 minutes. Then I change up the speed and incline for the next 20 minutes, incorporating lunges and a little boxing always helps engage my whole body. If I’m feeling really good and not too tired I do 10 more minutes on the elliptical going forward for 5 minutes and then backwards for 5, again using my whole body twisting side to side.”
Today, Ashiko maintains a healthy lifestyle, and it shows in her photos. In her recent ad campaign for Dita Von Teese it’s easy to see that she takes care of her body. She emanates that special kind of glow that doesn’t come from make-up and can’t be photo-shopped; it’s something that comes from loving herself and the life she lives. She’s not ashamed to admit however, that when she started out in the industry the pressure to lose weight was overwhelming, especially considering that she was only 18 years-old.
“When I first joined Next I was told that in order to achieve what I wanted I would have to get my hips down a couple inches. I was new to the industry and to the fashion world. I took it too far obsessing with my weight. I wish agencies would go about this in a different manner. I know agents are busy and don’t have too much time to monitor models and their progress, but I feel like when you are young and new to the industry and starting to grow as a women you don’t have a strong sense of who you are and what you are supposed to be,” says Ashiko.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry imposes abnormal body standards on models, ones that are almost impossible to meet in a health conscious way. From fad diets and juice cleanses to reports of models eating cotton balls in order to feel full and avoid calories, the pressure to stay stick thin in order to work in the highly competitive field is enough to drive anyone to develop a full blown eating disorder. Shocking horror stories of models going days without eating with some literally dying due to anorexia-related causes are the opposite of rare. Besides the health risks, these standards make it virtually impossible to love one’s own body.
“I dealt with anorexia full on for 3 years, but then I had what I call an eating disorder probably until a couple years ago. It’s hard to not obsess or over think food… I was seriously underweight. I weighed around 90 pounds, my family and friends were concerned,” explains Ashiko about her experience with the disorder.
“When I was told by Next I was too thin, I knew there was a problem. I lost weight to be a model and now they were telling me it couldn’t happen so I tried to put some weight on and really tried to see what others were seeing. Today I have a balanced lifestyle, love working out and really enjoy eating healthy.”
Ashiko’s success as a model depends on her ability to use her body to show-off clothing and her facial expressions to draw us in and make us want what she wears, something that wouldn’t be possible if she wasn’t totally in love with her body.
While the road to recovery was far from easy, Ashiko worked hard to switch her attention from judging her physical body to focusing on self-love and acceptance, and she ultimately overcame the disorder with support from her family and friends.
When asked what advice she would give to others struggling with an eating disorder, Ashiko says, “I would tell them to really set healthy goals and to truly develop a healthy understanding of body image. To understand what they see in the media is not always true, because that can really play with one’s mind, thinking you should look like something that is not real. To love yourself and be your own best friend; and to know that being curvy is beautiful, having a body that is strong and healthy is beautiful.”