Supermodel Gisele Bündchen On Healthy Eating & Unhealthy Relationships

By Mattie Kahn
New York Times
Gisele Bündchen with her dog Alfie and daughter’s horse Idem, at home in Southwest Ranches, Florida. Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times

The supermodel opens up about life in Miami and her new cookbook, Nourish.

Beautiful people are not spared the indignities of overextended joints, which is how supermodel Gisele Bündchen found herself staring down the barrel of two shoulder surgeries in 2019 and 2020.

At the time, Bündchen was living in

“I never felt so depressed and vulnerable,” Bündchen, now 43, recalled. She couldn’t lift her own luggage or pick up her two young children, Benjamin and Vivian. “If I was sitting, I was hurting,” she said.

At present she sat, dressed in faded Levi’s and a white waffle-knit shirt — so informal she might have been mistaken for the prettiest mum at school pickup. But when the sun filtered in and her gaze narrowed, the face that sold millions of Victoria’s Secret bras came into focus.

Bündchen winced as she recalled her months in and out of the operating room. It has been a taxing few years. She lives in Miami now, having left the frigid Massachusetts winters behind for the warmer climes of Florida with its easier access to her native Brazil. The move was as documented by ESPN as it was by the Instagram gossip account Deuxmoi.

Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times
Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times

The gist: Brady had retired and unretired in rapid succession, trading his beloved game and the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (He would last three seasons.) Fan accounts speculated about Bündchen’s resentment over his sudden switch. Reddit warriors accused her of dampening his triumphant comeback. Within months of the relocation, the two shared almost identical statements announcing their divorce.

Recently, paparazzi spotted Bündchen on an apparent date with her jujitsu trainer Joaquim Valente. Brady has been photographed with other women since the split, but Bündchen has faced accusations he has been spared — rumours that her relationship with Valente predated her divorce.

“I really don’t want to make my life a tabloid,” she said. “I don’t want to open myself up to all of that.” But the stories seemed to her more insidious and more familiar, too: The trope of the adulterous wife is as old as time. In no uncertain terms, she refuted the charge that she had cheated: “That is a lie.”

“This is something that happens to a lot of women who get blamed when they have the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship and are labelled as being unfaithful,” Bündchen said. “They have to deal with their communities. They have to deal with their family. Of course for me, it just happens to be a little bit amplified.”

Bündchen waved off the particulars of her former relationship to make a broader point. “No one really knows what happens between two people, only the two people in the relationship,” she said. She noted that she has been divorced for almost 18 months. In that time, Brady has appeared to move on. Now she has, too.

Yes, she confirmed, she is dating someone, and it’s new, and she’s protective. “This is the first time I am seeing someone that was a friend of mine first,” she said. “It’s very different. It is very honest, and it’s very transparent.”

Before the surgeries, Bündchen vowed to transform her own health. Long before most of America realised juicing could be a verb, Bündchen drank her vegetables. She had been religious about workouts, building a pickleball court and a yoga pavilion at her beachside retreat in Costa Rica. Now she has focused on her strength.

When the movers came to pack up the home she shared with Brady, she demonstrated her newfound power, hoisting boxes and rolling out the furniture. She carried a table out to the truck. “Those guys! If you saw their faces,” she said, “they were like, ‘You’re crazy.’”

Her twin sister, Patricia, attested to Bündchen’s handiness and tenacity. “She has the ability to nail, screw, sand, fix anything,” she wrote in an email. “She really gets her hands dirty.”

Bündchen prepares a salad at home. Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times
Bündchen prepares a salad at home. Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times

This month, Bündchen released her first cookbook, Nourish: Simple Recipes to Empower Your Body and Feed Your Soul, which features 100 recipes, one of which is the fresh summer roll with cashew dipping sauce that she served as lunch on the afternoon of this interview. She did indeed get her hands dirty, folding wet rice paper over mounds of vegetable matchsticks. She worked at her kitchen island, a white slab that sits at the centre of the modest Miami home she acquired in 2022.

After the split, Bündchen also purchased a palatial estate in Surfside, Florida, across the water from Brady’s mansion in the exclusive Indian Creek enclave. A strong-shouldered swimmer could swim from dock to dock. While that residence is under construction, she has moved into an intimate suburban cottage on a thumbtack of land. If Bündchen wanted to, she could shake hands with her neighbour through the kitchen window.

Like millions of Americans (including Bündchen’s own children), the people next door have perhaps encountered tabloid stories about her post-divorce life.

Sometimes the attention roils her. When the coverage needles Bündchen, she said her daughter comforts her. “She’s like, ‘Mommy, you always told me not to listen to the gossip and the lies.’ It’s funny because the things you teach your kids, they come back and teach you.”

She loves the intimacy of this house. Washing her hands at the sink, Bündchen gestured to the children’s bedroom doors. “When I’m like, ‘Benny, Vivi, dinner!’ it’s like, ‘You are hearing me,’” she said. “‘You’re definitely hearing me.’”

She has dispensed with a big staff. She makes breakfast and picks her children up from after-school sports. Chores have become a focus. “Now that I’m here, I can be alone with them,” she said. Later, she added, “They have to help me, and I tell them that. I say, ‘Listen, I understand we had chefs working with us and all that, but Mommy is choosing to do it this way right now.’”

It was an adjustment after the divorce to not have her children with her all the time. But she has since realised the advantages of solo parenting. “They get to have this home, with the things that I feel are necessary. They’re going to learn how to live in a more simple way,” she said.

“I really don’t want to make my life a tabloid,” Bündchen said. “I don’t want to open myself up to all of that.” Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times
“I really don’t want to make my life a tabloid,” Bündchen said. “I don’t want to open myself up to all of that.” Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times

The scale feels closer to the environment in which she was raised. Bündchen is one of six sisters, born in the small town of Horizontina. Both her parents worked, and her mother handled all the housework on top of her job as a bank teller. When Bündchen’s children neglect to put their clothes in the hamper, she thinks of her mother, boiling hot water and scrubbing her daughters’ dirty socks in buckets.

A month before this interview, her mother died of cancer, at 75. Bündchen cried when conversation turned to the loss — not delicate tears, but real, catching sobs. “It’s just because it’s so raw,” she said. “My mom — she’s superwoman to me. She’s a warrior.”

“She was strict,” Bündchen added. “She was a woman of few words, but whenever she said something, you would listen.” Bündchen moved to Japan at 14 and then travelled on to New York. She remains convinced that at least part of the reason she never got into real trouble was because she would tell herself, “My mother would not approve of this.”

Nino Muñoz, a photographer who has been friends with Bündchen for decades, remembered the model as preternaturally organised, even as a teenager. “I was always very impressed by her way of just being so structured — making sure she was never late to work, getting to bed early enough so she would sleep and be fresh for the next morning,” he said. “Those were the days I think she was shooting every single day.”

No drugs, no wild nights, but Bündchen did struggle. In her memoir Lessons, published in 2018, she recounted panic attacks and a bout of crushing depression in her 20s. Meditation, movement, breath work and an overhaul of her diet grounded her. “I had habits that were going to kill me if I continued,” she said. “All that caffeine, all that alcohol, all the cigarettes, no sleep at all, working nonstop, feeling like I had to keep going.”

She met Brady in 2006, a year after breaking up with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. She and Brady married in 2009 and had Benjamin that same year. (Brady also has a son, Jack, with actress Bridget Moynahan, whom Bündchen has called her “bonus child”.) She was 26, but she’d been working for over a decade. She was ready for a family.

Bündchen announced she would leave the runway behind in 2015, making a conscious choice to pull back from work. Still, she raked in millions of dollars in partnerships with designers like Chanel and brands like Pantene. Since the divorce, she has been working with many other fashion labels, including Louis Vuitton, Alaïa, Balmain and Frame. Next year marks her 30th working in the industry. She insisted she would not retire, but intends for the milestone to mark the end of this phase of her career.

“I feel like that’s a good time to have some closure and to start a new season,” she said.

Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times
Photo / Rose Marie Cromwell, The New York Times

Whatever comes next, she doesn’t care to make it look easy. Bündchen is quick to point out that she hired someone to help her finish and test the recipes in Nourish. “I’m like, ‘Just put a bit of this, a bit of that,’” she said, of recipe writing.

With her disposition in mind, almost all of the recipes in the book include improvisational tweaks, meant for parents who cook like she does and have children with a palate like hers. “One day they like carrots, the next day they hate carrots,” she said, nodding toward the summer rolls.

Vegetable-related grievances she can accommodate. But she only has so much time to prepare them for the world outside her kitchen, where mistakes are inevitable.

“You think you know something, and then you find out that you don’t,” she said. “You think you make a judgment of a person, and then it’s not what you thought.”

She has survived her own disappointments; she hopes her children learn to as well.

“We cannot live life wrapped up in Bubble Wrap,” she said. This, from a woman who can now put her detractors in a headlock. She is less fragile than she thought.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Written by: Mattie Kahn

Photographs by: Rose Marie Cromwell


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