You may look at Molly Sims and think she has a lot on her side: those enviable genes that make for a perpetually slender physique and flat tummy, a carefully curated diet, a personal trainer, perhaps a secret beauty cream. But the five-time Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue model says it’s inaccurate to think that it all comes so effortlessly—and that she hasn’t waged the same battles many other women face when it comes to their bodies.

“People think I just look like this naturally, which couldn’t be more untrue,” Sims tells LivingHealthy. “I deal with adult acne. I’ve always struggled with my weight—even gaining 85 pounds after my first pregnancy—and I had an undiagnosed thyroid problem all the way up until after I had my son,” says Sims of her first baby with husband and film producer Scott Stuber.

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The now 42-year-old mom of two says she wants to be open and honest about the cosmetic and wellness strategies she credits for continuing to keep her looking so great. Even though she’s a lover of all things green, Sims admits that it’s taken more than just a healthy lifestyle to look the way she does now. “I’m not going to lie. My body isn’t the result of just diet and exercise,” she says. “I love being healthy and really wanted to believe that doing another 1,000 sit-ups would get rid of the last bit of belly pouch I had after having my babies,” she says. “But the truth is, it just wasn’t happening, no matter how healthy I was eating or how much I was working out.”

At her next appointment with her doctor, Sims asked if there were any options to remove a bit of fat without having to undergo anesthesia or get invasive liposuction. Her doctor recommended CoolSculpting, a device that freezes and eliminates fat cells that the body then naturally eliminates. Depending on the amount of fat and surface area being treated, a couple of sessions are often needed, and the cost generally ranges from $750 to $1,500 per body area per session. Sims decided to give it a go since it was suggested by her doctor and is cleared by the FDA.  

“I was thrilled with the results on my stomach—and I would recommend CoolSculpting for anyone who can’t get rid of that last bit of fat in a certain area,” says Sims, who is now a CoolSculpting spokesperson. She adds that aside from the temporary discomfort from the blast of cold, she had no side effects. (In general, there isn’t any downtime associated with the treatment, though some people may experience redness, swelling and bruising afterward.) It may all sound too good to be true, but Sims says the catch is that you have to be in good shape to be a candidate, and that it’s not a shortcut for weight loss. In other words, if you get the treatment but don’t support it with healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle, you won’t see results.

It may be surprising to learn that a 5-foot-9-inch swimsuit model has insecurities about certain areas of her body just like the rest of us, but Sims says she doesn’t feel ashamed about having these types of feelings. “I’m photographed in bikinis, and I was feeling self-conscious about my stomach even though they can Photoshop afterward. Some people believe in doing something, other people don’t—I made the personal decision to do something about what bothered me,” she says.

At the end, Sims says that focusing on healthy living doesn’t necessarily have to be at odds with a cosmetic enhancement here and there. “I think Cindy Crawford has the best advice for women. She says to do whatever makes you feel good. The decisions you make about your body are personal, and between you and your doctor, and is no one else’s business to judge.”

So what exactly are the healthy living strategies that complement Sims’ CoolSculpting treatments?

Sims says the time she used to spend working out when she was younger has now become less realistic with two kids, but a slew of healthy-living strategies help keep her in shape. While she used to dedicate an hour a day to physical activity, she now gets daily 10- to 15-minute spurts. She walks her babies whenever possible (they count as weight-lifting) and sticks to a high-protein, high-fiber and low-carb diet without eliminating anything entirely. “The moment I completely cut out anything, I start craving it like crazy and it’s a disaster—so I always allow myself treats as long as my overall eating is good,” says Sims.

Traveling and constantly working on the go are the biggest health hurdles she’s had to overcome. “It’s hard—you want to just grab that 500-calorie muffin like no one’s business when you’re rushing through the airport!” she says. Now she never leaves home without handy snacks like nuts, turkey slices and cheese in her tote bag to stave off temptations (“My husband makes fun of me,” she says). She also practices the “three-bite rule” at restaurants when dessert comes out. “I know I’m going to sit there and look at it, and if I don’t take a taste, I’ll just eat something worse later—so I always enjoy three bites of dessert,” she says. Sims also steers clear of indulgent lattes and smoothies, which she says can tack on “invisible” calories worth a meal that most people don’t realize they’re drinking.

On Sundays, Sims sits down with her favorite recipe books to plan out the meals for the week. From Meatless Monday to Fish Friday, having a game plan and the ingredients ready to go in her kitchen helps her and her family stay on track. As a rule, she eats a snack before going to dinner parties so she doesn’t overeat out of hunger. And she’s never been a fan of water, but finds that keeping a glass nearby with a straw in it makes it feel like a more special drink that she ingests much more easily.

Ultimately, Sims emphasizes that wellness is more about the journey than the destination. “Some women think they’ll be happier if they could just be a size-whatever, but I can tell you it doesn’t work that way,” says Sims. “You have to find joy in who you are right now to find lasting happiness.”

 

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CoolSculpting