Plus-Size Model Catie Li On How She Changed Her Relationship To Food And Fitness - Exclusive

When she was younger, plus-size model, influencer, and fashion designer Catie Li had a pretty complicated relationship with food and fitness. Li was always bigger and curvier than everyone else in her family, and they weren't shy about reminding her that her body was different. To complicate things, the model also got some pretty mixed messages about food, and she didn't really get any messages about how to have a healthy relationship with fitness.

So, she fell right into diet culture, like so many young people do. Li was constantly on a new diet, trying to lose weight or at least maintain a steady weight. She admits her one and only reason for going to the gym or working out was weight loss — at that time in her life, Li's entire relationship to food and fitness was about changing her body.

After years of dieting and exercising for this sole purpose, Li began to realize that her relationship with food and fitness really wasn't working for her. She wanted to eat what she wanted without worrying about her weight and to exercise to take care of her body, not change it. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Li revealed how she flipped the switch and how she cares for her body now.

Paying attention to her body and her mind take priority now

Li revealed that her heritage really influenced how she felt about food. Her father's family is from China, and food is extremely important in their culture. She said that Chinese folks take a lot of pride in their food and don't like to waste food. So, even though Li's Chinese relatives always innocently commented on her body size, they would also encourage her to clean her plate at every meal.

"It's like you cannot win with them. Like, be skinny, but eat everything," Li joked. She added this made it really difficult for her to tune into her body's hunger and fullness cues. As she got older, Li tarted to pay attention to how she actually felt while she was eating instead of paying attention to how much was left on her plate.

"I'm learning that it's okay if I don't finish something if I don't want to finish it," she said. She's also paying more attention to how exercise makes her feel. Li learned that exercise helped with her anxiety, which has encouraged her to get out of the mindset that the only purpose of exercise is to lose weight.

Dieting doesn't work all the time

Li's relationship to food and exercise also changed a lot when she found out that dieting doesn't really work.

"I went to Khloe Kardashian's nutritionist in L.A., and he takes your blood and he tells you what metabolic type you have and what foods work well," she revealed. "He told me I need to eat more ... That changed my mindset about food, honestly. He said that diets — the keto diet and stuff — you cannot make a diet for everybody. Everybody's body is different. You can't really trust diets."

This same nutritionist also told Li that not eating enough was the reason that she was tired all the time and didn't have enough energy to make it through the day. So, Li gave up dieting for good. But it's not always easy in a world focused on thinness. Li said that she still struggles with her body image sometimes, but she's learning to accept her body exactly as it is.

For more updates on Catie Li's work, you can follow her on Instagram.