Behind the gram: Ashy Bines talks health, motherhood and confidence in a digital age
When it comes to fitness influencers and game changers, the name Ashy Bines needs little introduction. As one of the leading figures of Australia’s digital fitness space, she has amassed an empire few could dream of. From revered fitness plans to hugely popular fitness apparel, Bines has managed to leverage her social media position to build an admirable business and lifestyle empire. But as with all success stories, Ashy has weathered many a storms and roller coaster rides on her way to the top. And unlike traditional forms of business or the good old days when mistakes were made behind closed doors, the digital age has meant that every high and low has been played out in the public forum. This has meant developing a rather thick skin and fast. But what sets Ashy apart from many is her ability to weather each step of the process with humility and an open and honest relationship with her followers. To continue learning, working harder and being a figure of inspiration for women all around the world, the very traits that have kept her loyal followers coming back for more at every step of the process.
Naturally, we begin our confidence series with the woman herself Ashy Bines. We talk all things health, wellness, motherhood and life lessons to highlight that no matter the number of followers amassed and success gained, we’re all on the same journey –together.
What do you love about sharing your life on Instagram?I love building a connection with other women. Growing up, I always felt like I didn’t belong in High School or in workplaces. I just never found a place where I felt I belonged. Being lonely is a horrible feeling so I thought it was something positive that I could do – to share my life - the ups and the downs and have women relate or connect with me and have them not feel so alone. So I could do this just by sharing my journey – it was a natural thing for me to do and I do enjoy it, and hopefully, it’s contributing in some small way to helping others.
What is the most challenging part of being so open on a public platform and how do you navigate around this?I don’t think it’s too hard to navigate around as I genuinely enjoy it. You’re always going to get people who don’t like what you do, who will say nasty things. But I feel like I’ve grown a really thick skin to navigate through that and I know that a lot of the time it’s not about me. It’s not worth investing negative energy into a fight people might be trying to start. It’s all about the mindset and learning tools to help you navigate through those challenging times. There is a dark side to social media for sure. The tools I’ve learned are; to take a step back, try to be understanding of why they are saying certain things, there is a time and place for constructive criticism but also know that hurt people, hurt people. So sometimes when they are lashing out at you, it could be merely that they are having a bad day, or you’ve said something that has triggered them. So I try to come from a place of understanding what they may be going through and the last thing they need is me reacting to them.
How has becoming a mum changed your approach to social media?Just being a mum makes me want to be an all-around better person in every single area; a better example, a better leader, more responsible, more caring, more empathetic, more compassionate. I want to teach more and use social media to do that. I want to lead as an example that you can be happy, you can be healthy, you can have fun, and you can have everything you want and be who you want to be life. I want to be that not only for Taj but for everyone that is following me. I want them also to know that it is SO OK to have hard times as well, more than OK, we have to – it’s where we grow, it’s where we learn, it’s where we step out of our comfort zone, it’s how we become wiser and more compassionate.
How did your approach to fitness change after becoming a mum?
Before being a mum, it was all about how I looked. I wanted to look fit, I wanted to be lean, and I wanted to fit into a certain image that I thought was perfect. Becoming a mum, you really have a new appreciation for your body and the way it moves the way it makes you feel, your health in general. Because it’s all about energy, vitality and being able to play around with your kids all day because they are exhausting! So, I just have a new appreciation for my body, and honestly, physical looks are at the bottom of my list now. I train for mental clarity, and I train for stress relief, I train because it makes me feel strong internally and externally, and that’s a really good feeling.
Did you feel pressure to get back into your normal routine straight away?
A little bit, but actually, I think most of the pressure comes from yourself, and I really took things slow, I listened to my body, and I just focused on health because whatever I was consuming Taj was consuming, whatever I was feeling he was going to feel. It was all about how I could be the best mum for him. When I look after myself, he is obviously going to be able to feel that and see that and be a happier kid.
Is there a level of criticism that comes with showing off your hard-earned work at the gym?
There definitely is. I remember getting quite a few comments that I had just bounced back and there were rumours about taking pills to lose the weight. You know there will always be certain things said about me, but I know the truth, I know what I did, I know what I focused on and like I said I focused on health. Everyone is always going to have an opinion and make things up, but a lot of the time it’s just not the truth.
How has becoming a mum changed your outlook on body image and confidence?I am definitely more proud of my body for what it’s done, not for what it looks like. There is quite a big difference now, and I’m still proud of how it gets me up each day and how it fed Taj, and it nourished him, and it gives me the energy to be with him rather than worrying about looking good in a bikini. I am way more confident now of my body because I am so proud, and I’m not just focused on the physical. I’m focused on the whole body, mind thing – it’s about total wellbeing.
What advice do you have for new mums who feel that they may not be on the same path as other influencers they may look up to?We’re all flawed in some way. None of us feel like ‘OMG we’re so fantastic’, there is always something. I think on social media, some people are putting out their perfect lives and not wanting to be vulnerable and share the hard times. I’m conscious of this, so I try to be raw and real, and that means being vulnerable and also showing the hard or difficult times.
What is your approach to nutrition?It’s a very balanced way of eating. I don’t like restricting a lot of food groups, so my approach is about 80/20. For the most part, 80 per cent of the time I am focused on healthy nutritious, nutrient-rich foods such as a plate of food that is really colourful and that I’m getting all my macro and micronutrients from. But on the weekends, I love sitting with my little boy and having an ice cream or having a date night and relishing in other types of food. Food is meant to be enjoyed, it’s not meant to be a punishment or a chore, and when I travel, I love trying new cafes or restaurants - that excites me! So I definitely am enjoying food – I am just choosing the healthiest option most of the time.
Nutrition plays a big role in self-confidence. What advice can you give to women about their relationship with food?When it comes to nutrition - it’s about that long-term vision for a lifestyle, not just the quick fixes. So for me, it does definitely play a role in confidence because it’s about not having lot’s of short term fixes and going up and down and having certain food and feeling guilty about it, restricting yourself, bingeing, and being in that vicious cycle. It’s about finding something that works for you and that you enjoy so that you are not going up and down and yoyo eating. You’re finding something that is sustainable long term, and that feels good for you.
What is the one thing you wish women would stop doing with their nutrition?
Restricting anything and everything that they think they need to eat to be perfect. It’s more about focusing on the nutrients, the health aspects and enjoyment. It should be about finding things that you enjoy eating rather than restricting and cutting things out that you love. This will make you feel resentful, and you will end up bingeing later on because you’re feeling deprived. The key is to listen to your body and create a healthy balance.
We all have an area of our lives we wish to improve on. What is an area you are working on to build your confidence in?
I am a very nervous public speaker, but there is a fire in my belly that wants to get out and do more of it, so this is something that I am working towards. I am stepping out of my comfort zone, and there are 100% moments where I think, ‘Ohhh I can’t do that, I’m not ready for that!” But I’m just taking it slow and saying yes to what feels right and no to what doesn’t.
I’m just taking the plunge. I’m still shaking, and my heart is beating so fast before I walk on stage, but once I’m out there talking about my passion and purpose and I can feel the women listening, it feels good, and I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
What is the one habit you abide by to practice self-love?Me time. I am filling my own cup up because I always say; ‘if you don’t fill your own cup up, you will give everyone the rest of you not the best of you’.
I don’t want Taj, my husband, my friends or my followers to get the rest of me; the tired, the anxious, the grumpy and if I’m not looking after myself that’s what happens. But if I look after myself, I’m vibrant, energetic, I’m motivated, I’m positive, and that’s what I want people to feel when they’re around me, and that’s what I want to put out to everyone following and listening.
What is the one piece of advice you would give your 20-year-old self?
Be kind to yourself, take a step back, take some deep breaths, know that everything is going to work out the way it’s meant to be. You will go through ups and downs but just be kind to yourself along the way. You don’t have to try and be perfect, because that’s non-existent.
What does confidence mean to you?
Confidence means loving yourself, from the inside out. I think it’s so important to appreciate your body and everything it does and also feel good in your own skin, and if that means being in nice workout gear and enjoying a walk in nature and that makes you feel good and confident, that’s awesome. Or if it means going and doing a CrossFit class and that makes you feel good and confident, then do more of that. Everyone will be different, but for me personally, body confidence is looking in the mirror and being proud of who I am, it’s not about the physical for me anymore it’s honestly about me looking in the mirror and being proud of who I am and it’s all about what we’re giving out to the world.
Can you share with us the best piece of advice you have ever received about self-acceptance and love?Love yourself through every step because it’s very easy to nitpick and hate and talk to yourself negatively. But instead, you should try to love yourself and give yourself that grace and flexibility to learn and grow and slip up and not look at yourself as a failure. Just love yourself through the journey.
Who is an inspirational woman you look up to and why?
The women I look up to are the Ashy Bines Squad girls; it’s those real girls. I’m a part of their experience. I’m a part of their journey, and I see the ups and downs they go through. I see the pain, I see the times they want to give up, and they are not motivated, and yet they keep on pushing through. That motivates me. It’s my community that really motivates me.
What is the biggest misconception about social media and living in the digital age?
People following you often think they know everything about you, everything you’re doing day to day, they know how you eat, how you parent and all the little bits about you. Whereas in reality they really do only see 20 or maybe 30 minutes of your entire day and there are 24 hours in a day. So, they don’t know everything that is going on behind closed doors, and of course, I am going to keep some things private.