The Kissing Booth’s Meganne Young on Dismantling What “Healthy” Looks Like

"I’m proud of myself and my body."

by | Aug 11, 2021

Image: Tom Belding, Wardrobe: Daub + Design, Location: Westside Gym.

Between all of the fitness models, filter-obsessed Instagrammers, and friends with picture-perfect lives, it makes sense that 80% of all Australian women suffer from negative body image. Put that on a global scale and the numbers are heartbreaking.

Imagine then, being an actor, having a public platform and large following where nearly millions of people think they have the right to judge everything you do. And sure, you may have ‘chosen’ that lifestyle, but does it make your feelings any different?

Of course not, Meganne Young, the 31-year-old creative known for her work in Netflix trilogy The Kissing Booth, Black Sails (2014) and Eye in the Sky (2015), tells Women’s Health. “I work in an industry that is a visual medium,” Meganne adds. “An industry that has been a big part of creating certain ideals, whether that’s in terms of beauty, body image, relationships, or where you should be at 30. As much as I want to be part of shifting that narrative, I’m also still very much a product of them. I still struggle with body image and dismantling those ideas.”

Image: Arjun Malik, Hair & Makeup: Shengting Xiao

And while Young has gained an army of loyal fans thanks, in part, to her willingness to speak openly about body image and mental health, she’ll be the first to admit that her relationship with health and fitness is an ever-evolving one, and that she, like most other women, has had to dismantle ideas around what “healthy” actually looks like – and if it looks like anything at all.

“For so much of my life I’ve seen health and fitness in very black and white terms,” she explains. “It’s been very appearance based. I think of how many times I’ve had people compliment my body not realising that I was going through something at the time and not eating and extremely stressed and probably over training. For a while that just supported the idea in my head of what looked good and therefore healthy. But how could I be heathy if I was so unhappy and not eating properly?”

Being called a role model certainly didn’t help with the pressure, yet it was the moment she decided that the best thing she could do was take pride in herself, that helped her begin to manage her relationship with her body.

“I try and put the focus on what my body can do. I share a lot of videos on Instagram stories from my workouts. I also have posted more… I guess risqué photos too, modelling shots. I find it interesting because I sometimes lose followers or I get messages from fans saying things like “please take that down, I don’t want to see you like that”. That doesn’t really bother me,” she explains. “If it makes you feel uncomfortable then don’t follow me. My following shot up over a few days when TKB2 came out and I felt this immediate anxiety that so many people knew who I was and chose to follow me. People started calling me a role model. I don’t know about that, but I decided that the best thing I could do was take pride in myself.”

Young found that the things her body could do would be the things that gave her that pride. A love for working out and staying active, getting involved with disciplines such as Cross Fit and boxing to promote her mental well-being became key in her self-love journey.

“I work out to feel strong, it makes me happy, and sometimes I take photos with wonderfully talented creatives and I think; hey, I look great. I’m going to share this one. I’m proud of myself and my body,” she explains. “I prefer weight lifting and strength training. Conditioning is probably my least favourite thing so I have to be told to do that. I work with an amazing coach, Jenika, at her gym in Vancouver. I get bored very easily so I need the workout to vary from session to session. I also walk everywhere.”

Her fitness, paired with a positive approach to food (“I’m definitely not restrictive. I love food, I love eating. I’ve been really enjoying seeing the progress I’ve been making with my workouts this past year and such a key part of that has been making sure I fuel my body.”) are the things Young knows she can control, as well as making time for her mental health.

“Working out is pretty key, not only because I feel good after a session but it helps me find structure and routine. Also, being as self-aware as I can. Knowing when I need to have time on my own to process things, or decompress and knowing when I need to have coffee with a friend and vent.”

Other wellness practices she swears by? “Baths! Does that count? I often learn my lines in a bath. There’s just something about hanging out in some hot water with some bath-salts that calms the mind and makes everything better. That and dark chocolate.”

The main thing Meganne wants you to know? That if you are struggling with issues around body image, eating, exercise or low self-esteem? You are not alone.

The Kissing Booth 3 premieres August 11, 2021.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the new web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she has a mean punch inside and out of the ring. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.

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If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

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