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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models share how they prepare to pose in bikinis — and it doesn’t include dieting

What makes Sports Illustrated Swimsuit special? The models are keeping it real by eating cheeseburgers and practicing affirmations before posing in their bikinis. That’s thanks to editor MJ Day, who has shifted the annual swimsuit magazine’s mission in recent years to focus on empowerment, featuring people like Martha Stewart, Hunter McGrady and, this year, Gayle King. But even for the professional models, the goal is authenticity. “This particular legend class that we are celebrating for the 60th [anniversary] really represents the face of Swimsuit today,” Day tells Yahoo Life.

These women are “not going to the gym and starving themselves for like six months prior, which I feel like, in the past, you know, we’ve all heard stories about,” says Day, who encouraged King, 69, to not change anything about her routine with fitness or food leading up to her first photoshoot with the brand.

“I did think that I would reduce my eating, but I didn’t even do that,” King told People. “The day before, I did have a cheeseburger. It’s one of my favorite things.”

As for other models in the issue, they have their own routines to get them ready for the shoot. Here, some of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit favorites share theirs.

“I think when I was younger, I would train and do two [workouts a day] and you know, maybe would cut certain things out of my diet,” the 2019 cover star tells Yahoo Life of her earliest shoots with the publication. Upon returning for her seventh consecutive year in the magazine, however, Kostek is more focused on cultivating a positive mindset and letting her confidence radiate that way.

“It’s a mind game,” she says. “[It takes] a lot of journaling, a lot of self-talk and looking at myself in the mirror and being like, ‘I love you.’”

“I still do my affirmations. I will never stop that. They’ve just shifted,” McGrady, who is one of the 2024 cover models, tells Yahoo Life. “At first they were like, ‘I want to love my hips. I want to love the way my eyebrows are super bushy.’ Now, they’re a lot deeper.”

McGrady credits having two children for that changed perspective and for giving her more gratitude. “It really kind of makes everything feel a bit brighter, which then in turn, of course, makes you feel a bit more grounded and able to really soak in every moment. That’s something that has changed in me drastically. And it transcends into my confidence, who I am as a person. And I think it’s so important.”

“Fitness has become a big part of my life just for general well-being,” the television host and model, who is appearing in her third consecutive issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, tells Yahoo Life. “I don’t really have fitness goals in mind where I’m like, ‘This is exactly what I want to look like.’ It’s more of what I want to feel like. … So working out is definitely something that I do to mentally prepare myself.”

Crawford has also recently adopted journaling and tries to abstain from alcohol. “Mentally, you just feel more energized when you’re not having a glass of wine every night,” she says.

Agdal landed the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit’s 50th anniversary issue in 2014. Now, she returns as a mother-to-be.

“​​My focus for the shoot was really to just build my mental strength and remind myself of how these changes to my body are a sign of life and how incredible that is,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Positive affirmations to yourself can change a lot. So even in the days leading up to it, and especially the morning of, just talking to yourself internally — like you’re your best friend — really does make a difference.”

Music also helps. “Having a few songs that make you feel good and make you feel confident in yourself can really change the trajectory of the day,” Agdal says.

The professional DJ tells Yahoo Life that she pulled inspiration from her preshow ritual when preparing for her first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photoshoot.

“I’m the most extroverted person. But five minutes before I go on to DJ a show, I need quiet time to save up some of my energy,” she says. The same applied when she was arriving at the beach for the shoot.

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