With an online community of over nine million followers and her own national fitness program with Goodlife Health Clubs, it’s safe to say Emily Skye is one of our biggest fitness identities. But it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the Gold Coast girl.

We sat down with the fitness guru to chat about her struggles growing up, her motivation to succeed and her newest fitness program.

Emily Skye

Emily, you were a model when you were younger and admit to having an unhealthy lifestyle. What made you change your ways?

I modelled for about 12 years and when I got to my mid 20s, I realised I was very obsessive with things. I would either do a lot of cardio to try get lean and skinny or nothing at all, or I would under-eat. I was also extremely insecure with myself, I was negative, I had depression and anxiety, I was just a bit of wreck and I couldn’t see myself living that way for the rest of my life.

I used to think someone would come along and pick me up and give me the life I wanted and everything would be ok. The reality check is, no one’s coming along to pick you up. You’ve got to do it yourself.

How did you get yourself out of that?

Gradually, I changed my thoughts to be more positive about myself and my life and start appreciating things more. A big thing was getting perspective and realising it’s not as bad as I think and people are worse off and I should be grateful for the things I have. Having that self belief that I deserved to be happy was something I struggled with, I didn’t think I deserved it.

After I got my mind on track I started exercising and did a lot of research on healthy eating and the types of training that was most efficient. I did go through extremes with that as well, so it’s been a bit of an up-and-down process. During that time, I competed in a few competitions and they were fun, but it was something I just couldn’t maintain. So I decided to make the switch and make it about lifestyle and balance. I wanted to enjoy what I was eating and enjoy my training and not feel like it was something I had to do; not think that I had to train to have a body that looked a certain way. I wanted to feel good on the inside.

After that I started vlogging . I wanted to share my newfound lifestyle with other women. A lot of it is about your mindset, so I talk a lot about the mental side of things and dealing with negativity. It’s about balance, too — eat healthy, yes, but also have your treats and do training that you enjoy doing. You don’t have to train every day, just do something you can maintain and get moving.

You were bullied in high school. How did you deal with that?

I was so lost and shy and I barely went to school because I couldn’t deal with it, which really annoys me. I wish I would have learnt more. There were a lot of things I missed out on. I guess there’s no point in looking at it in that way, you’ve got to look at what good’s come out of it. I think it all happened for a reason and I’ve come out of it stronger.

I still get bullied online now and obviously I’m a lot older now and I learnt to deal with it. You’ve just got to remind yourself these people are bullying you because they’re hurt, they’re hurting inside and don’t know how to deal with it. They’re not happy with themselves and they’re trying to bring people down to their level.

Most of the time these people need love from you rather than stooping to their level and giving it back. They need to be supported, but you don’t need to be a door mat, either. You can stand up for yourself, but you don’t have to be horrible back to them. Everything’s got to be from a place of love.

There are always going to be negative people and there is no point pretending they’re not there. I have a place for everyone — I have a place for all the positive people and the ones I want to reach and help, and I have a place for the negative people, too. They’re in their spot and they can’t affect me. Then I have a spot for my loved ones, my family, my partner, who are all supportive of me and really love me, and then there’s a spot for me and what I think.

You have to pick and choose who you listen to. People have to earn their place to criticise you, and if they’re not coming from a place of love, then they don’t really care about you. And if they haven’t done what you’re doing, it’s not worth listening to them.

How do you stay so motivated?

I motivate myself because I know what’s it’s like to be depressed, unhealthy and insecure — being unhealthy mentally and physically. I know how horrible that feels and it’s not living. I don’t ever want to go back to that. That’s my internal motivation.

My external motivation is other people — I can motivate people I know, and in return they motivate and inspire me. I think it’s great that there are so many men and women out there who are supportive. There are negative ones, too, but there are a lot of incredible people out there. It’s really about finding your fit family that you can put yourself into.

How would you describe your style of fitness?

I don’t like to spend hours in the gym, so it’s all about being efficient — getting in, training hard and getting out — and not wasting time doing things that aren’t necessary.

I think doing high intensity interval training is the most effective for fat burning, and strength training shapes the body. It gives you that nice shape, the shape that I never used to have and I’ve built through lifting weights. So I love lifting weights and doing high intensity training like a circuit or sprints on the bike or a Tabata session, where you’re doing 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. It gets your heart going!

Emily Skye

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a healthier lifestyle?

It’s all about small steps and not overwhelming yourself. Just slowly start doing things you like, whether it’s going for a walk, surfing, swimming, bike riding, rock climbing, bushwalking… there are so many things you can do to get moving.

I think that’s what people have the biggest fear of. They don’t know what to do and they think they’ve got to get into extremes straight away. If you’ve never trained before, your body’s not used to it and you’ve got to take it slowly. It’s a process and you have to work your way into it. Just get moving and ease into it!

With meals, find meals that you enjoy eating. They don’t have to be boring! You don’t have to steam your vegetables, broccoli and chicken like I used to do. You can find meals that are tasty and healthy and mix it up. If you don’t like eating something, don’t force yourself to eat it.

Once you’ve started a healthy diet, how do you stick to it?

It’s all about balance! I’m at a point right now where I’m happy with how I feel and with my body. I don’t feel I need to be leaner or more muscular. I’m just maintaining. Until you get to that point, I do believe you’ve got to be restrictive and have control, but once you have it it’s all about maintaining and balance.

If I want to have treats I’ll go and have them, but I think about how I’m going to feel afterwards. I have a lot of food sensitivity and my gut blows up and gets upset. I just have to ask myself, do I want it that bad to put up with the pain and discomfort? A lot of the times I do.

Don’t feel like you have to restrict yourself. You should be able to eat the foods you enjoy eating. If you have ice cream one night, it’s no big deal — just get back on track the next day. Just don’t let yourself slip and stay there.

I don’t call it ‘cheating’ or a ‘cheat meal’, either. I call it treats, because having a treat isn’t cheating — it’s treating yourself.

Did you ever think your love of health and fitness would turn into a successful career?

Yes and no. Yes, because when I decided to change my life and became healthier mentally and physically by changing my thoughts, my lifestyle, getting moving and getting healthy, it really helped me see that I wanted to make health and fitness my career and I wanted to dedicate my whole life to it. From there, I knew I was going to make something of it. I knew I was born to do this and I had this crazy feeling it was where I was meant to be.

On the other hand, it blows me away that I’ve actually executed it and actually got there. It’s bigger than I expected it was going to be. All I wanted was to be able to help as many people as possible. I guess the possibilities really are endless.

I did work really hard to get here. I had ups and downs and times I felt like giving up, but it was all worth it. When I see people that have changed their lives with something I’ve had input in, it’s all worth it.

You just launched your new fitness program, Emily Skye Ignite, in 60 Goodlife Health Clubs across Australia. Can you tell us a bit about the new program?

Participants can expect to burn 300 to 400 calories in a 30 minute class through a mix of body weight, core strength and cardiovascular exercises designed to increase the heart rate and target the fat burning zone.

In each class there are a few different circuits put together, so it might be upper body, then lower body, then core or a full body work out. You’re really hitting everything, which I believe is the most effective and efficient way to burn fat and get that toned look.

It’s all about getting everyone together and achieving their goals, too. If people have similar goals they’re more likely to achieve it if they’re doing it all together, with people who can support and encourage and hold each other accountable. It’s all about the support and finding your ‘fit family’.

Emily Skye Ignite is running right now in Goodlife Health Clubs all over the country. For more information visit www.goodlifehealthclubs.com.au