Taryn Toomey, the fitness guru behind the sweat-drenching, yoga-cardio hybrid the Class, is at the epicenter of the health-and-wellness world, and known for sculpting the body, mind, and spirits of Jennifer Aniston and Naomi Watts. Unlike some of her peers, the approach Toomey takes isn't trendy nor does it promise any shortcuts. The secret behind it is simply—and maybe to the frustration of some—discipline. As daunting or "harsh" though that may sound, think of it as tough love. As she said to me over the phone while driving back to her New York City home from the Class in the Hamptons recently, "People always ask me how to start. The answer is: You just start." With the first day of spring around the corner, there's no better time to reset your routine, as Toomey believes. Here, she reveals the health-and-wellness ideas that are truly worth trying—and which should be avoided.
Do you believe in the idea of seasonal cleansing?
I do. A seasonal cleanse or detox of mind, body, and spirit is something I wholeheartedly agree with because I’m a big fan of seasonal eating. I believe that what the earth is producing is what your body should be eating. So in the winter, I eat more food that’s grown underground, like root vegetables, because the body needs more grounding. In the summer months, lighter food is easier to digest and eat because there’s sun and warmth, so the body doesn’t need that earthy element as much. I’ve always eaten that way because I find that it helps my mental and energetic state.
What does an average day of meals and supplements look like for you in the springtime?
Every morning I wake up and do a big glass of warm water and lemon. Lots of times I’ll put some turmeric and cayenne in there, or some ginger. Then I do probiotics and collagen and make a smoothie. In the springtime, it will be almond milk, spinach, berries, plants, and chocolate protein powder. I’ll put some chia seeds in there, and sometimes I use Goop Glow, which is a powder packet for skin.
For lunch, I’ll eat something heavy like a vegetable salad with sauerkraut, beets, carrots, seaweed, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds. Sometimes I’ll roast cauliflower the night before and toss that in. Or steamed spinach will be the base. The middle of the day is usually a bunch of vegetables mixed in with a bunch of seeds and nuts.
For an afternoon snack, I’ll have guacamole or arugula, or I’ll have an apple with almonds—something that will have fat in there to get me through to dinner. This is on a really good, clean day, keep in mind.
Dinner usually replicates lunch. I’ll put four ounces of a white fish or a sauteed shrimp in a salad. I’m a pretty boring eater. I eat clean and very plant-based, with fish.
What does a bad day look like for you?
I’m not someone who’s going to go eat pizza and cake. A bad day for me is when I’m eating and I’m not hungry because I have a nervous energy; when I’m not tuned into the conversation that my body is having with me. So I’m just eating all day. I would say it’s everything I just gave you times five. I’d do hummus and crackers, but way too much of it, like a container of hummus. I hear myself saying this and cue eye roll. But it’s not healthy to overdo any of these things.
How do you recover from a bad day?
Kindness [laughs]. I don’t get angry with myself or criticize myself about it. I say, "Tomorrow is a new day." Because I find that when people get into cycles of hate, they act out against their best interest. Then there’s a cycle that gets created where the back side of it causes self-loathing. Then you feel bad about yourself and do it again then you feel worse and say, "Forget it all." That’s when you end up eating chocolate cake. Being able to stop that before it starts is how you recover.
What are your coping tools for avoiding negative self-talk?
Taking a moment to close my eyes and place my hands on my lap and just breathe for a few moments until that swell softens. I would also do breath work to allow the body to clear some of that energy. Taking a few moments to notice why I’m doing that and what comes before that feeling is really important.
What is the difference between breath work and meditation?
Breath work is actively applying effort, and meditation is the consciousness practice where you’re sitting behind the thoughts and observing the thinking as if you’re watching a TV show or movie. I do breath work before meditation because it allows me to clear some of the energy from my body that makes it difficult to settle into the space of observation.
What does your personal meditation routine look like?
It’s consistent and daily, and those two things are the most important to flag. Meditation is like working a bicep muscle: If you decide you want to work it once a week, then every time you go back to it you have to really apply this effort and focus, and it’s like you’re starting again. When it’s every day it doesn’t feel like effort.
I always try to get it in during the morning, and I have two kids so we have a consistent routine. I wake up, make breakfast, and then sit on my BioMat and get at least 10 minutes a day in. I aim for 20. I think it’s important to do it at a specific time of the day. My kids know that when I meditate, I’m meditating. They can come in and sit with me or they’re welcome to interrupt me if the house is on fire, but, other than that, they’re really respectful because it’s a part of our daily routine so it’s not foreign. It’s like brushing your teeth.
For those who don’t have meditation as part of their routine, how do you get over the mental hurdle of starting?
You get over the mental hurdle just by beginning. That seems like a harsh way to put it, but that’s it. We get so caught up in our neuroses of what we should be doing and how and why, and then we’re not doing it and we’re judging ourselves, and you’ve wasted five minutes not actually starting. I think it’s important to start with digestible pieces like three minutes. Put your phone on do not disturb. Place your hands on your lap and find a mindful meditation. After a week, make it five minutes. I feel like the sweet spot is 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, there’s a release that happens when it starts to feel really good and it’s not so much a fight for each minute. You just have to get through the sludge sometimes and notice your feelings, as opposed to having a dialogue with them. We procrastinate our own healing. Sometimes you have to self-care like it’s your job.
Self-care does feel like a job—especially when you factor in seeking out healers.
It can be overwhelming. I turn around and every day someone is like, "T, I’ve got to hook you up with this person." I’ve started to realize just from being out there in the wellness world that everybody has a somebody, and if you keep just trying the next somebody but don’t find a consistent person that’s your person that you feel connected to, that can feel overwhelming. Otherwise, you have no idea what’s working and what’s not.
What are some of the trends you’ve seen in health and wellness that you wouldn’t encourage?
Any time someone is inflicting fear and saying if you’re not doing something then something is wrong, I have a hard time believing it. I look for if there is an intention behind it. With crystals, for instance, I love the way they look and feel, and whether or not they work or not is beside the point for me. It’s the intention that matters.
I’m going to throw out a few other health-and-wellness trends to get your read on them. How do you feel about infrared saunas?
I love them because I’m somebody who just likes to sweat. I know that there’s science behind it, but I haven’t done much reading. I know that I sweat a lot, and I feel good when I leave. I think when it comes to the at-home lights and therapy, there might be more of, "Is someone just trying to sell me something?"
Sometimes the science is irrelevant if something makes you feel good and you’re seeing positive benefits.
You just said my belief in general. You can strip out the idea of crystals, science, whatever. If it’s making you feel better, it’s working. Each human being is different, which is why in the Class you’ll hear me say everything we talk about in that room is universal language so anyone can connect to it. It’s about being a human and understanding that we’re all made different, but the end goal is to make you feel better—and if you’re not feeling better, then it’s not working.
This brings me to juice cleanses.
Yeah, I’m not a juice cleanser. I just believe in eating whole foods to cleanse. I know there’s a lot of studies around fasting, and I do a bit of intermittent fasting, but I’m not somebody that believes in doing a juice cleanse. It feels like torture, and if you’re doing it for weight loss, of course you’re going to lose some weight. But you can get all of those nutrients from eating whole foods.
So what do you think of Whole 30? I don’t know that much about Whole 30. Does that make me not into health and wellness [laughs]?
It sounds like you live Whole 30. Do you ever eat dairy, gluten, or sugar?
I don’t really because I believe in eating foods that are grown from the earth, and that eliminates a lot of things. I know when I’m eating sugar I am craving sugar, and that’s not a fun feeling because I’m hooked into the craving and then have to get through the withdrawal. Talk about that cycle with anything from a bad emotional pattern to food to an unhealthy relationship you’re having. You go through these periods of craving and withdrawal until you want to make a change to get better. When you’re just fighting the cravings, it’s time to take a peek at what’s going on.
How do you feel about dry brushing?
I do that every day. Skin is the largest organ. Dry brushing has been around for so long.
So many of these trends in health and wellness have been around for centuries. What churns the movement behind them?
The state of our world. Our world has a disease right now—it really feels that way—from social media to everyone sitting behind their screens, the lack of connection we have as humans, anxiety in teenagers, bullying, our political environment, our way of treating one another and ourselves. We seek when we hit these bottoms. It’s unfortunate that’s what happens, but people also have breakthroughs after a breakdown. We really need this unity with ourselves more than ever, and I think that’s where a lot of self-care is coming in. We all feel unwell. It’s scary. When you’re in a state of fear, you can either live in it or get yourself into your body and use meditation and mindfulness, which is the best prescription of all.