Appearances to the contrary, actress Cameron Diaz wasn’t always the picture of health. A few months of kung fu training changed all that, and now she’s written a guide for women to make smart decisions about their bodies. For Diaz, “The Body Book” is about dispelling confusion and letting people know how things work from the eyebrows on down.
What motivated you to write “The Body Book”?
Two years ago I was 39 and having conversations with other women my age, and they kept saying the same things about how they were confused about their bodies and how to get them to where they wanted to be. I thought it was crazy that someone could live their whole life in their own body and not know how it works.
But it’s because we’re not taught. We’re not given good information. I was tired of hearing about women hating their bodies and being forced to compare it to other women. Such comparison is a brutal assault on one’s self.
So what is it that makes your book different from other fitness books?
It’s about basic education. Diets don’t work. When you’re being told what to do and what to eat and checking off a list that someone else created, you’re not really thinking about what you need to be doing for yourself. You’re just following someone else’s lead.
We should all be experts in our own bodies and how they function. I want people to be happy and healthy and productive, and you can’t tell them how to do that. They have to learn it themselves, so it all comes back to giving them the basics of how the body functions and letting them figure it out from there. I don’t give a diet or fitness plan. I want people to learn critical thinking to figure out their own plan. Or to be able to look at another plan and understand what parts are right for them and how to adapt it to fit their own needs.
How has your dedication to exercise changed over the years?
When I was growing up, kids just played outside. I rode my bike everywhere, we played in the park and on the street. … There wasn’t a moment we were inside, because there was nothing to do inside. I also ran track and played softball. Things are much different now because kids have too many distractions.
In my 20s I slowed down. I smoked and ate terrible and didn’t have any ambition to do anything with my body. That changed with “Charlie’s Angels” because I had to put my body through something extreme that I’d never done before. It was eight hours a day, seven days a week for three months of kung fu training for the role that changed everything. … It was “movie” kung fu, but I learned what my body was capable of. I never looked back after that.
What are your go-to exercises these days?
I’m into everything. I just like being active. I hike and do Pilates and weight train. Wherever I am I try to keep active. I look at New York as an opportunity to walk around fast and get my sweat on. Just going to the gym to get my blood going and staying connected to my body, even if it’s only for 20 minutes, is really important.
I like to build strong muscles, which is especially important at my age, so I’ve done some pretty intense weightlifting to build muscle. It’s something that I moved into naturally just from trying different things. I love lifting heavy because when you build strength in your body it’s a great feeling, so you’re compelled to keep up with it.
Hating on carbs is trendy these days, but you love them.
It’s the type of carbs that matter. Carbs fuel our body’s energy needs. If you’re going to be active, then it’s a great source of fuel for that. People can experiment and try different diets, because we all vary, but for people who exercise a lot, I think carbs are a good fuel choice.
Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of sixpackabs.com.