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Real Talk About Calories & Weight | Aja Uranga-Foster

At Cast Images, we believe that being healthy and strong is much more important than being thin. We believe that good food is a gift and that we should enjoy and appreciate the food that fuels our lives.

Many times we field questions from models and others on how to best maintain their bodies for this industry and today, we're happy to share with you a guest post on the subject by Wellness Coach and Cast Images model, Aja Uranga-Foster.



Real Talk About Calories and Weight

“I bet you never eat! How do you stay so thin?”

I smiled calmly at my wellness coaching client, and recalled the delicious pho soup bowl I’d eaten for lunch. I’ve been a model (with Cast Images) for many years before becoming a wellness coach, and I’ve heard this comment from people I’ve just met for most of my life. 

My client and I had several sessions scheduled to work together. And by the end of them, she would know the real and natural ways to get to her healthy weight. No more fads, no starvation, no yo-yo diets. 

“Your parents must be thin,” she continued.

Yes, I’m built exactly like my tall, thin father. But just like most people, once I hit college, I realized I will gain weight if I eat junk or just plain over-eat. In order to figure out how to maintain the body I was used to, I set out on a journey of research, education, and practical application. This journey led me to the truth about how to be lean, healthy, and have my best body. The truth is, we have to eat all day and eat healthfully to be our optimum weight and performance. I told my client this.

“Wait,” she said, “so I have to eat to lose my excess weight?”

Yes! This is counter to much of what you'll read in glossy magazines and un-informed threads on the internet. For example, I recently saw a page in a popular magazine featuring “celebrity meal plans” which included an article showing one supermodel’s meals totaling a mere 1400 calories for the entire day. Articles like this are a problem! Firstly because I’m not sure whether this model actually eats like that, or whether it just makes good magazine copy. And secondly, because this level of calorie restriction over time ruins a person’s metabolism.

It is important to understand that the human body uses calories all day long, regardless of our activity level. Yes, your body uses more calories when you are moving around or exercising. But this does not mean your body uses 0 calories if you are sedentary.

You may have heard about Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR (similar to Resting Metabolic Rate) back in biology class. This formula approximates the calories your body needs just so it can perform its basic functions: pumping blood, firing electrical signals through the brain and body, breathing, processing food through the intestines, repairing wounds, and all the other amazing things our bodies do so well.

The BMR for an average female model who is 22 years old, 5’10, and 125 lbs, is approximately 1,400 calories. Calories are just a unit to measure energy, specifically energy used by the body. Keep in mind, this is an approximation. If the individual has above average muscle mass, their BMR may be higher because muscles burn more energy.

Any activity beyond lazing in bed all day will require more calories than the BMR of 1,400 for the person above. Remember, the BMR is the number of calories required to just stay alive and healthy.

So, what happens when you restrict your calories to your basic BMR or less? There are the obvious problems such as having nutrient deficiencies and loss of energy.

But other problems also begin to happen after extended periods of calorie restriction, binging and purging, or “yo-yo” dieting.

  • Digestive problems happen as the gut slows down to conserve energy.
  • Metabolic dysfunction happens as the body hoards calories and slows down all of the body functions to try to conserve energy.
  • Concentration and mental functioning decreases.
  • Heart and other organ malfunctions begin to occur.

A mentor of mine describes the human body’s metabolism with this helpful analogy: Imagine your stomach is a furnace, and your body is a house where it is always winter outside. Inside this “house,” your organs represent a family. Everyone in this family will freeze if it’s not a steady warm temperature inside the house. Food is the “fuel” for the furnace. Your job is to keep the furnace at a nice, steady temperature. Doing so keeps everyone in the family happy.

An important thing to realize is that not all “fuel” you put in this “furnace” provides “heat” in the same way. For example, 500 calories of cookies (roughly 6) will not work in your body the same way as 500 calories of a salad of fresh veggies, legumes, olive oil, and lean meat. All those cookies will cause a sugar crash and make you feel like garbage 30 minutes later. Whereas a hearty salad with varied nutrients including fats, carbs, micronutrients, and protein will give you energy for hours. Cookies will shock the body and be stored as fat, whereas the hearty salad will be used as premium “fuel” for your “furnace”.

Don't worry, it doesn’t need to be about salads all the time! But fruits, vegetables, legumes, non-animal fats, lean protein, and whole grains should be the foundation for your meals. Remember, your body works most efficiently with whole foods as fuel.

Food is not the enemy. Food should not be the center-point of a daily restraint challenge. When people starve themselves, they are damaging their body in ways that can be permanent. Food is a gift...whole, nutrient-rich food is nourishment for the intricate and amazing machine that is your body.

If you have challenges with food and your weight, don’t be afraid to ask for help from healthy people you know, dietitians, and wellness coaches. Life is not about calories and weight. It is not about antagonism and stress about your body and food. Life is about about being nourished so you have the fuel to be your best!


Aja Uranga-Foster has modeled with Cast Images for over a decade and is also a Certified Holistic Life Coach and Wellness Specialist at Mighty Mind & Body. This year she co-founded a non-profit organization called Above the Fray, which works to to empower safe and responsible social media use, especially among young people.

Some resources for more information:
Eat More to Lose Weight


Cast Images Kids Cover Family Fun Magazine!

Not one, not two, but THREE Cast Images cuties on the cover on Family Fun Magazine. Love it!
Kudos to Ashlynn, Kaitlyn & Sydney.

Cast Images Kids - Family Fun Magazine