The Health Diaries

Plus-Size Model Liris Crosse Wants You to Rethink What Healthy Looks Like

‘Somebody who is plus-size isn’t necessarily unhealthy or out of shape.’

There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.

LLiris Crosse has already been called “the Naomi Campbell of plus,” but the actress and model feels as if her career is just getting started. After winning the model portion of season 16 of Project Runway in 2018, Crosse released her first book, Make the World Your Runway, which includes a foreword by show host Tim Gunn and focuses on how people can improve their lives.

“Being on Project Runway showed me that my voice is needed to create change,” she says. “I want to change the status quo of how plus-size bodies are seen throughout the world. I want all women, no matter their size, to focus on themselves. I want them to live their best lives physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

Crosse travels across the United States to speak about body positivity and being a woman of color. This month she was a featured speaker at the 25th annual ESSENCE Festival. She chatted with Elemental about her passion for bringing diversity to television, her obsession with huge salads, and her hacks for banishing boredom at the gym.

My life is crazy right now, but it’s a good kind of crazy. There’s nothing like seeing your hard work pay off and your dreams coming true. I’m traveling a lot, so my schedule is a little bit all over the place. But I still usually wake up between 7 and 8 every morning. The first thing I do is brush my teeth and have a glass of water. Water helps me cleanse my palate; I believe water is like gas for the body. It gives you that jump start.

I love coffee, but I also know that it’s not always best to drink coffee constantly. So some days I’ll have coffee with my breakfast, and some days I don’t. I don’t keep juice or soda in my house either, so my only options for drinks are water, wine, and coffee. Also, I’m a big breakfast person. Breakfast helps me be a nicer person, and I like to be a nice person. Usually my breakfast is egg whites with spinach and cheese, and I’ll have a little bit of sausage on the side. I focus on a low-carb diet in the mornings.

I eat salad almost every day, too. I make the best salads. My salads are delicious because I fill them up with great stuff, like diced plum tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes, black beans and corn, sliced jalapeno, and crispy red onion. I also love goat cheese and gorgonzola cheese, so one of those usually makes it into the salad. If I’m cooking at home, I make my own dressings with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

My day usually starts with returning emails to my agent and publishers and my managers. After that, I jump on the subway to the city, which is great because I have to take a brisk walk and hit the subway stairs. One of the things I like most about living in New York is that it gives you a workout without you thinking about it. Most of us have to walk everywhere. When I’m heading to a casting in the city, I’ll pack my dress shoes and put on cute sneakers, then fill up my water bottle with ice water. I hit one or two castings and walk between them.

In the afternoons, I’ll sometimes go to my hair guys, Yancey and Alejandro, to get my hair done. I get a wash or condition, or get my hair straightened, or get a wig done for whatever modeling or acting gig is coming up.

I know the gym is a necessary evil. If you want to look good, feel good, and stay around for a long time, it’s something you have to do. I try to go three days per week, but I’m not a person who likes to be in the gym for two or three hours. Instead, I’ll usually look at the schedule and find two classes that are offered back-to-back, like TRX and cardio kickboxing. If they’re 30 minutes each, I’ll get my hour workout in.

Sometimes I’ll go to the gym at night, but I prefer in the morning. Black women, we have to think about our hair, and most people feel like they don’t wanna go through the whole process of hair, which is why I like to do my workout in the morning when I can.

In the evenings, I try to cook a meal that can last for two to three days. Then I can just come home and heat something up. I find that when I’m able to do this, I save money and I eat healthier. I try to have some type of green vegetables with dinner every night, too. So if I’m having grilled salmon, or if I boil some potatoes, I’ll still have spinach or Brussels sprouts or string beans. I don’t eat much red meat or fried food.

I have been trying to make sure that I get at least get seven or eight hours of sleep per night. Sometimes I listen to my favorite spiritual readers on Periscope before bed, and I also just started using the Calm app. It has different things you can listen to, like rainforest sounds or soothing music for anxiety or sleep. I also love music, so sometimes I’ll put on some nice chill tunes before bed, like jazz or classical or R&B love songs.

I want to show plus-size women that we are strong, beautiful, powerful, and healthy. Somebody who is plus-size isn’t necessarily unhealthy or out of shape. People who are a size 4 drop dead, too, you know? We need to break down the stereotypes of what’s considered “beautiful” and “healthy.”

One of my main goals for this year is to have my voice become a staple in the TV world. I want to eventually have my own talk show, where I wouldn’t just talk about plus-size issues but where the fact that I show up every day as a plus-size woman would speak volumes. How many times do you see the plus-size woman as the desired or sexy one? She’s usually the sarcastic friend who can’t keep a man. I want to create change in those lanes of TV.

For me, healthy is going to the doctor and having a good physical. It’s not waking up with aches and pains. It’s running to catch the subway and not feeling like my heart is gonna jump out of my chest. It’s finishing a whole hour-long workout and feeling like I did it, and I’m not even mad at the aerobics instructor. Healthy to me is colorful dishes on my table, with fruits and vegetables and salads on them.

I write essays, test products & produce content marketing for brands. I’m also a career coach for freelancers and the co-host of The Writers’ Co-op podcast.

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