While she’s known for her svelte limbs and girl-next-door good looks, deep down, Rachael Finch is a passionate health, food and wellness enthusiast. She chats to Danae Dimitropoulou about living a happy, healthy and simple life.
Rachael Finch’s mantra is perfectly encapsulated in the title of her latest book: Happy, Healthy, Strong. Since adopting a holistic approach to health several years ago, Finch, 28, has seen improved energy levels and has developed a new-found respect and relationship with her body. “As I became more involved and interested in the health and wellness world, I started getting out of bed feeling better and better,” she says. Now, the TV host, health coach and former Miss Universe Australia is on a mission to spread the message far and wide.
Finch’s philosophy on wellness centres on living with simplicity and getting in touch with ourselves. “A lot of us are so out of touch with listening to our bodies, so I think it’s really important to get back and take those [simple] steps to make that happen,” she adds. The concept of simplicity, along with how to nourish ourselves, how to move our bodies and how to establish a healthy mindset are the core messages communicated through her book and dance program, B.O.D by Finch. In fact, Finch has always paid particular attention to her body: firstly, as a child training as an athlete; secondly, as a teenager learning to become a model; and thirdly, as a mother and an adult who’s learnt to love the skin she’s in.
The relationship with the body
The Townsville-born beauty has been passionate about movement and exercise since the time she could walk. “Mum says she can remember me running down the athletics track with nappies on,” laughs Finch. “I was about three years old when I started competing [in athletics], I remember travelling to different carnivals and competitions every weekend. My childhood was very outdoor-focused, which I absolutely loved.”
Finch spent many years training as an athlete and playing sport, and while her childhood dream was to one day compete in the Olympics, her career took an unexpected turn when she was 15. “I was in the airport and a man approached me with an entry form to a modelling competition,” recalls Finch. “I decided to enter and was lucky enough to win it. I won a contract with an agency in Brisbane, so I made the decision to start semi-exploring the industry and working as a model. Within three months, I was working in New Zealand, and before I knew it, I was in New York, Germany and London. I spent the next four years travelling and working as a model internationally.”
Despite having a naturally slender physique, Finch recalls putting a lot of pressure on herself to stay in shape. “There were certainly times where I was comparing and judging myself [against other girls]. Working in an industry where it’s completely body-image focused was a really good way to grow up quickly.”
There were certainly times where I was comparing and judging myself [against other girls]. Working in an industry where it’s completely body-image focused was a really good way to grow up quickly.
The pressure eventually manifested in Finch’s eating habits and played a key role in her changing moods and energy levels. “I was very, very strict: two gym sessions a day sometimes and cutting out all carbohydrates,” she says. “I was tired, exhausted, had no energy and I was moody. All of a sudden, I stopped menstruating and that was the most incredible wake-up call.”
Finding happiness, health and strength
When Finch finally saw the devastating effect that her diet and exercise routine was having on her body, she decided to change her ways and educate herself. “There was definitely a phase where I transitioned to looking after my body and making it a holistic part of my world and lifestyle,” she says. “I slowly started educating myself – reading more blogs, reading more online – and just generally becoming more aware of health and nutrition.”
Finch continued to learn about nutrition and health, trialling new principles to see what would work for her. “I experimented a lot,” she says. “I tried meditation, yoga, stretching, exercise, eating nutritious food, clearing the toxins and getting my gut into good health,” she says. “[Health] is a holistic approach and there’s no one answer or secret. It’s about taking daily steps to try and find who you are from a neutral level, so that you’re better able to make decisions for yourself.”
Once Finch identified what felt good, she saw the results – mentally, physically and emotionally. “I started thinking, ‘This is a way of life’, and I love getting out of bed feeling amazing,” she says. But feeling this way wasn’t enough, and Finch wanted to share her story, experiences and knowledge with more people. “I wanted to be able to help other people in similar situations or just going through some sort of health issue,” she says.
Getting back to basics
A large section of Happy, Healthy, Strong is dedicated to the concept of simplicity and how it can benefit our modern-day lifestyles. “Generations ago, life was much more simple; we didn’t think about exercising, we just walked from place to place,” says Finch. “We didn’t think about ‘superfood this and that’, we ate what we ate because it was in season and that’s what was available. That’s what I’m talking about: simplifying the mind, body and diet, and going back to basics. It’s as simple as breathing and not analysing things too much. It’s so easy to over-complicate things.”
Finch says the first step towards improving our health is listening to the body and setting a good foundation. “I would say it [health] all starts with nourishing your body and getting a good night’s sleep – you’ve got to have the foundation in place,” she says. “Have a good amount of fresh water flowing through your body, limit your processed foods, limit your coffee and get your body feeling good on a neutral level first, so you’re ready to tackle the world and then tackle all of the other elements properly and effectively.”
My philosophy is living with simplicity, not over-complicating things, but also listening to your body.
Now, Finch’s philosophy on wellness focuses on using our intuition to add more simplicity to our lives. “My philosophy is living with simplicity, not over-complicating things, but it’s also listening to your body,” she says. “Don’t follow a prescribed diet because it works for someone else – try it, to see if it works for you, then apply what works for your body.”
Simplicity is something that Finch and her husband, Michael, instill in their three-year-old daughter, Violet. “We sit down for a meal at the end of the day, we eat together and we balance our lifestyle: we spend some of the day inside, and some outside,” she explains. Finch also places a big emphasis on balance and leading by example. “We try to make everything as balanced as possible. When it comes to children, it’s the whole ‘Monkey see, monkey do’; it’s the role model approach. The more patient and compassionate I am, the more inclined she [Violet] is to be the same. Children are very smart with energy, it’s amazing how much they see and mimic what we’re doing.”
Switching self-doubt for self-love
Cultivating a practice of self-love is a major talking point for Finch and she offers a wealth of knowledge and insight. “Self-love is putting yourself first and choosing love over fear in any particular moment,” she says. “[It’s also about] understanding that your health is the most important priority, over anyone else’s. How do I do it? There are so many ways. It could be food-related, it could be a massage, it could be a walk along the beach, it could be a five-minute cup of tea on my balcony, it could be closing my eyes for three minutes and taking three long breaths. Self-love is also mentally letting go of stress and anxiety. If there’s an issue, not dwelling on it and not making it a part of your chemical structure inside your body.”
For Finch – who’s pregnant with her second child at the time of this interview – getting older and becoming a mother has helped her feel more at home in her body. “I’ve definitely developed more self-compassion, as I’ve gotten older,” she explains. “It’s amazing how much you thrash your body and have the restrictions, rules and regulations with yourself [when you’re young] but I’ve come to this point of thinking, ‘Actually, no, I’m just going to rest today’. But it’s not just about resting your body; it’s about resting your mind, body and soul, so you can be a better version of yourself the next day.”
Photography: Bayleigh Vedelago
This article was originally published in Australian Natural Health magazine.