October 2010

Exercise Authority

According to TRACY ANDERSON, you are the boss of your body—here's how to treat it with love
by ROBIN SAYERS /photograph by KAYT JONES

“I was on my way to [work with] Shakira in the Bahamas,” Tracy Anderson says of a close encounter with fitness guru Richard Simmons, “and we were on the same flight to Fort Lauderdale. He was in his typical outfit with the shorts, and as he walked through the airport, he was just so lovely and encouraging to each of the people who came up to him—exactly as if he popped out of one of his videos. That was kinda cool.”

Wait, did the hottest trainer on the planet just give mad props to Richard Simmons?! You bet. “He and Jane Fonda translated so well and were so iconic in the exercise industry because they were authentic,” Anderson says. “I have a lot of respect for both of them.”

So much for the too-cool-for-school label one might be tempted to place on this Indiana native based on her circle of intimates. Best known as the woman who helped Madonna get her guns, Anderson counts Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Emily Blunt and Courteney Cox as loyalists and has built an empire that’s poised to go into manifest-destiny mode.

There are three eponymous studios—Studio City, TriBeCa and East Hampton—boasting both her patented equipment and unabashedly astronomical membership fees; eight DVDs, three featuring dance-heavy routines; a new guidebook, Tracy Anderson’s 30-Day Method, with a foreword by client and business partner Gwyneth Paltrow; and an in-the-works reality show for Ryan Seacrest Productions. And yet the petite dynamo, herself en route to becoming a household-name trainer, was too starstruck to say hi to Simmons in Florida.

And that isn’t the only surprise: Without a moment’s hesitation, Anderson responds to the question of whether she could date someone who was overweight by saying, “Truthfully, yes, I could. I would have a tough time if it was someone who deliberately was unhealthy—and also if it was someone who is obsessed with their appearance and getting ripped or whatever. In a weird way, that’s not a turn-on to me.” (Sorry, the Situation.) “I am a healer by nature. I love to teach.”

And proving just that, Anderson shares her philosophy on getting—and staying—in shape:

Less Stick, More Carrot

“I am so turned off by this entire movement of motivating people through fear. It’s ridiculous how the marketing world is making a fortune off of fear tactics and products that don’t work. Instead of motivating people, they’re like, ‘You need this product now, or you’re going to have this or that disease.’ It’s all crap. Fear might motivate short term, but it doesn’t long term, because it starts to feel bad. So just set a goal for yourself: I want to be healthy. I’m going to feel good. I want to look good. It’s about celebrating your body and its potential.”

Rethink the Whole “Just-Start-by-Taking-a-Walk” Strategy

“Why begin with walking when what you really want is to have Gisele’s butt? Take baby steps that are doable, but start doing the first step that’s going to help you reach your goal. Seeing a change in that area will make you feel better.”

And Seeing Is Believing

“Obviously, your health is the number one thing, and feeling good is so much more important than what you look like. But if you look healthy, it’s verification. That’s not even from a vanity aspect: When you really see a difference in yourself, your self-confidence changes, which further changes the way you feel.”

Ix-Nay on the Food Diary

“The only time I ever agree with food journaling is if someone really has a problem facing the reality of how much they’re eating. Otherwise, it’s just one more element to add. Plus, if you become too in your head about what you’re eating, then you have just screwed the natural emotional connection you allow yourself to have with food.”

Don’t Diet

“It’s not healthy to be overweight, but it’s also unhealthy to diet to keep yourself thin. I highly recommend you never cut out a certain food group—say, dairy or meat—if it’s just to look a certain way. People who say, ‘I can take so much weight off you, but I’m going to change your whole lifestyle’—that’s just about losing weight. News flash: Anyone can lose weight. That’s not the problem. It’s about designing your body, designing your health, designing what makes you happy. I know what I love in terms of food, and I rotate so I’m not overdosing on any category. But I don’t eliminate any of them.”

Rid Yourself of Aggressive Detoxes

“If you’re doing a cleanse for spiritual reasons, that’s a whole different subject. But detoxification has become very popular, and in my opinion, it’s misused. If you’re a person who has a very poor diet that includes fast food or alcohol, you have no business doing a hardcore cleanse. You’re going to feel like you’ve got the flu or were poisoned, and you’ll gain all the weight right back. It’s really bad to be pitching juice cleanses as the solution to years of bad health habits.”

Trust Your Body to Take Out the Trash

“If you just eat a natural diet—good food, with variety—your body will know how to detoxify. That’s what it was designed for. I don’t believe in shocking your system. The Master Cleanse and things like that are not healthy, and there’s no need for them. And I don’t believe in colonics. You’d be surprised by some of the things people do—sometimes continually—to make their stomachs flatter. I’d rather walk around bloated than try some of those things.”

If You Must Detox, Go the Pureed Route

“Only in response to this trend of women juice-fasting for events, I came up with my own version, because I thought it was needed. Rather than juices, eat considerable portions of pureed nutritious foods. You won’t shut down your digestive system, because you’re getting fiber and a high concentration of phytochemicals and antioxidants. And you’ll still lose weight but without feeling hungry.”

Have It Your Way, but Only One Way

“A bunch of small meals throughout the day is good for your digestive system, because you’re never letting yourself feel starved—which is when you make bad choices. But I know just for purposes of living a life I love, I have a big dinner at the end of the day with my family or friends. That works for me, because I can make it through the day with protein shakes and bars. You have to choose, because after you turn 30, you can’t have three huge meals a day—fried eggs and bacon for breakfast; turkey with mayonnaise on white bread for lunch; steak, potatoes and pie for dinner—and be a healthy weight.”

Accept That You Will Be Exercising More Days Than Not

“Since I have a tough time with diets, I believe in getting people into a routine of doing a workout six days a week. I would never put Gwyneth on a diet. She loves to eat, loves to cook. What good would that do her? If I even say the word diet to her, she’s like, ‘Yeah, right!’ So we have to get it all done with her exercise program. Understanding that you have to work out frequently is just being realistic.”

We All Fall Down—Get Back Up

“I’m five feet, and I gain weight so quickly. If I didn’t do my workout, I would probably be 100 pounds heavier than I am now. Sometimes I get very cranky, because obviously I’m a role model for many women and for my method, but I love to eat so much. When I get to where I’m feeling tired or stressed out, sometimes I actually think, You know what? I just want to gain weight. I just want to eat cheeseburgers and not care. We all have those moments.”

Your Social Network Affects Your Health

“My assistant lost 50 pounds after she came to work with me. When I’m having a moment, she will look at me and say, ‘No! You don’t understand how good I feel and how much I hated myself when I was overweight and would go into the bathroom and down a bag of Doritos. You don’t wish for that.’ There is definitely a strong sense of success in community. It’s very rare, but you could be the person who has friends who are going to McDonald’s, and you’re the one who thinks, I don’t want to be like that. But that’s tricky.”

Discretion Is the Better Part of Valor

“I’m not a fan of people feeling like they have to make an announcement for a big change before the change has happened. People talk all the time and say, ‘I’m going to do this thing,’ but then five years later, they’re 20 pounds heavier and still having the same conversation. It’s such a personal choice when you decide to make a change in your life. You need to spend a lot of time nurturing yourself, thinking and setting yourself up to really be able to do it.”

Don’t Sweat Gaining a Few Pounds When You Gain a New Love

“When you’re in love, you want to go to dinner, because we have a very emotional, celebratory connection with food. You’re not going to fall in love and be like, ‘Let’s sit at home and eat healthy food.’ You want to share experiences you love, and most of those in our culture have something to do with food. It makes us feel alive, because taste is one of our big senses. If it makes you feel bad while you’re eating it, you’re probably overdoing it or eating for the wrong reasons, and there’s a deeper issue. But if you’re having a normal meal, then who cares? So you gain a couple of pounds. Don’t obsess, punish yourself or bitch about it with your boyfriend. Just up your workout.”

Cancel on Your Plastic Surgeon

“I spent over a decade figuring out sequences to activate super-powerful small-muscle groups without them being overpowered by the large-muscle groups. These smaller muscles are like threads, and if we stimulate them in a certain way, we can get rid of things people think need plastic surgery—saggy skin, cellulite, batwings, stomach fat, scar-tissue pockets. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women I’ve been successful with, fixing those problems with this method. Now my main thing is to make it available for the rest of the world.”

Be sure to check out Tracy Anderson's 30-Day Method: The Weight-Loss Kick-Start that Makes Perfection Possible.

Stylist: Hayley Atkin
Hair: Jason Stanton
Makeup: Bethany Karlyn
Bra: Alexander Wang