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Celeb News

Georgie Parker on why her husband was worth the wait and how she overcame her scoliosis

The Aussie TV star opens up about her marriage and her life-changing health diagnosis.

By Paul Ewart
As Lucy Gardiner on A Country Practice, Terri Sullivan on All Saints, and – most recently – Roo Stewart on Home and Away, actress Georgie Parker has been a fixture on our screens since the '80s.
Iconic, long-running roles aside, she's also managed to pick up seven Logies, forge a dazzling theatre career, marry her dream guy, and become a mum along the way. Her secret? The simple fact that she's full of beans.
"I have a lot of natural physical energy," a smiling Georgie tells Good Health & Wellbeing. "I'm quite excitable! And expending some of this excess energy through exercise definitely helps relax me."
The go-getter's passion for fitness has its roots in her childhood, during which she was a confirmed "sporty kid".
"I've always liked health," she says. "It's just the way I was raised. I played a lot of softball, swam and was a ballet dancer. For us, it was never about how you looked, it was always about how exercise made you feel."
However, at the age of 13, after nine years of ballet training, Georgie's promising future as a dancer came to an end when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a spinal condition.
"I'm quite excitable! And expending some of this excess energy through exercise definitely helps relax me." (Image exclusive to Good Health & Wellbeing)
"Everyone in the room was very quiet and looking at me when they told me," she recalls of the fateful day. "So I realised that it was very important. I was good at ballet and it gave me a lot of physical freedom, so to be told that not only could I not do it but that I'd need to be put in a brace for years, was a shock."
Though the blow signalled an end to dancing, Georgie was determined to make the best of the situation. Already knowing that acting was where her real ambitions lay, she made peace with the fibreglass brace that covered her torso.
WATCH: Georgie Parker and Todd McKenney sing a duet medley. Post continues after video...

Adjusting to 'Boris'

"On paper it was quite diabolical," she reflects. "Luckily, I've always been up to a challenge. I ended up naming the brace 'Boris' – I thought he deserved a nickname as he was with me all the time – and viewed him as a sort of ally in trying to figure out this obstacle that was scoliosis. I embraced the challenge of dealing with scoliosis in my life… that was the way I saw it. Looking back, in some ways, I think I was fortunate to have an experience like that early on."
Adjusting her exercise regime, Georgie is more active than ever. But these days it's also out of necessity.
"If you have any back issue, movement is key in terms of staying on top of it," she says. "Swimming is really great for any back issue because it's non-weight bearing, there's no impact, and you're working the body fairly evenly. Then I do yoga, Pilates and light weights at the gym. It seems a lot, but I mix it all up. It's never more than an hour each day."
"I've always liked health. It's just the way I was raised." (Image exclusive to Good Health & Wellbeing)
Just as the Logie-winner took lessons from her teenage heath diagnosis, she's done the same thing with her attitude towards food, after witnessing firsthand the devastating impact that an obsession with dieting can have.
"Being a ballet dancer I saw people who were having issues with food and it not playing out well," says Georgie.
"I'd see people dieting at the age of 14 or 15 – it was really concerning. Being exposed to people who developed eating disorders and problems with food, well, it just put me off the word 'diet'. I understand why people go on them, but I've never been one for them. I like good food too much!

Balance and quality

"I look at food as being the fuel that you need. I love chocolate and dessert – I'm looking at the dessert menu before the main course when I'm at a restaurant! I think it's weird to deny yourself something, it just leads to you wanting something more. I think taking a balanced approach to food is key."
Case in point: the superfood salad she's munching on during our chat.
"I'm eating a salad of Brussels sprouts, salmon, potato, pumpkin, and roasted beetroot – I love roasted beetroot!"
"I love chocolate and dessert – I'm looking at the dessert menu before the main course when I'm at a restaurant!" (Image exclusive to Good Health & Wellbeing)
The nature of working on soaps is that filming is ongoing and often erratic, schedule-wise. Good Health witnesses this during our interview with the actress, which takes place in-between shooting for Home and Away. So how does the busy screen star manage to eat well while on the go?
"You just plan for it," she says. "I've been doing this since I was 20. I carry my food around with me. I make up a batch of vegetables and just make sure I always have tuna or something like that. I believe in eating – and the better you eat, the more you can eat!"
Georgie frequently shares snaps from the set of Home and Away. (Image: Instagram @georgieparker)
Her approach to mental wellbeing is equally as simplistic. There's no complex meditation regime, or self-help books for the soap star, instead she maintains mental equilibrium through staying active.
"You can't really think about anything else while you're exercising," she muses "Especially with the kind of exercise I do. Swimming, in particular, dramatically changes your physical environment. I feel completely restored when I get out of the water… it's a great mental health break. For me, exercise wipes the slate clean. When you finish exercising, you start everything afresh.
"If I have a problem, then I figure out the solution. I think having my diagnosis and being put in a brace at the age of 13 taught me this really early on. When you look at problems like this, it becomes clear what you can do and what you can't. If there's nothing you can do about it, then you need to figure out how to live with it, or ride it out. Problems are part of life, so we all just have to deal with them."
It's clear that Georgie takes a 'when life gives you lemons' approach, and she is quick to agree.
Georgie takes a 'when life gives you lemons' approach when it comes to life's problems. (Image exclusive to Good Health & Wellbeing)

Simple common sense

"I am incredibly pragmatic," she says, chuckling. "If I do need extra help to shift gears mentally, then I'll put my favourite music on and cook a meal. I might catch up with a really old mate, someone I've known for a long time; or I go for a walk, which in itself is really beautiful."
Further evidence of her pragmatic nature can be seen in how she dealt with her hip replacement last year. Despite the fact that she was first diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 40, she waited 13 years before undergoing the procedure.
"The osteoarthritis was actually caused by my scoliosis," she says. "As my pelvis is slightly twisted, my right leg just wore out. At that stage, a hip replacement lasted 15 years and after that I would have needed another operation. But you can only have two or three replacements, and then they run out of options. So, I waited and waited, and finally had it done last year. By waiting so long, the new generation of replacements last longer, so I'll be 78 or so when I need another one."
She'll always have that ballerina star power! (Image: Instagram @georgieparker)

Worth the wait

Playing the waiting game is nothing new to the small screen legend though. She wanted to get things right before approaching motherhood, giving birth at 35 to her daughter Holly, now aged 18.
"I wanted to be a mother for a very long time," she confesses. "I just had to wait to meet the right guy! I kept on meeting guys I just didn't want to be a parent with, then finally I met my husband when I was 33. It was just the way it worked out."
And the "right guy" turned out to be screenwriter, Steve Worland. The pair married in December 1999, making this year two decades together as husband and wife. But after 20 years, and a home life that often sees both of them in the house for long periods as Steve works from home, how do they avoid conflict?
Her Home and Away character may have had some rocky romances, but Georgie and her real-life husband Steve keep things pretty private. (Image: AAP)
"We just give one another an enormous amount of space," she admits. "We've never been joined at the hip, it's just not the way we operate. I think it's very healthy to do a lot of things separately, we have our own interests and I think that really helps. We do things independently, but also as a family, and as a couple."
Her husband's job means that child-rearing has been an even split, though Georgie knows that all too often the lion's share falls to women to "juggle".
"I think we women see it as our role to juggle," she says. "This isn't meant to be disparaging towards men, but it isn't the way society sees them when they become fathers. They aren't seen as 'having it all'. It's not even a turn of phrase used for dads. No father is ever asked, 'How do you juggle it all?'"
Parenting isn't the only area that Georgie is breaking new ground in. Professionally, she's one of only a handful of women who are acting into their 50s and beyond.
Georgie is one of the few women who are acting into their 50s and beyond. (Image: Getty Images)

Model examples

"It can only be a good thing," she says of this new wave. "We've always had so many male actors over 50, so it's about bloody time! We were underrepresented, in fact, back in the day our age wasn't represented in the media much at all. It was basically viewed that woman were no longer viable over the age of 40. But that has really changed now."
Certainly getting older doesn't bother the 53-year-old, and she views her parents, Tony and Rosemary, as model examples of ageing gracefully.
"My dad is 89 and he's pretty much the same as he was when he was 59. My mum is turning 85 this year and she still does adult education. They're both involved in social activities and stay current with politics and the like. These are people who are involved in life, and I think that has a lot to do with how you see yourself, as a person, rather than as an age."
It's plain-speaking advice like this that has helped see her through tough times. And when it comes to life lessons she employs day-to-day, she has wisdom that is characteristically matter-of-fact.
"Don't get in your own way," she states, simply. "I learned that when I was very young. A lot of people will think themselves out of doing something, but instead of overthinking you should just back yourself and do it. It'll turn out all right!"

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