wellness theories

Emmy Rossum on Body Acceptance at the Gym and Learning to Breathe

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum Photo: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Corbis

You’ve likely seen the hairier aspect of Movember — the mounting legion of men who grow mustaches in November to raise awareness about men’s health issues. But another arm of Movember is driven by celebrity ambassadors who run campaigns to promote healthier lifestyles. Emmy Rossum is one of those ambassadors, and while discussing her commitment to encouraging people to engage in a physical activity, she caught up with the Cut and shared the breathing app that keeps her calm, how she maintains healthy habits, and why she no longer compares her body to others’ at the gym.

How I start my day: I get up and feed the dogs, and then I make black tea. I usually shower the night before. I wash my face and brush my teeth. I use this Dial antibacterial soap that I really like after a workout. My skin-care routine is pretty simple.

How I like to sweat: I work out with a trainer and friends. It’s not really fun working out, so I like to turn up the music really loud and be around people that I like. I use a lot of my own body weight and do exercises that work multiple muscles at a time. It saves time and it also optimizes your workout. I do cardio probably every other day. On Sunday my motto is “less brunching and more crunching.” I’ll get my friends together either at my house or on my lawn and we’ll work out together.

What wellness means to me: Wellness sounds kind of hippie. I’m not really a hippie, but I do believe in leading a very calm lifestyle because I know that what I eat and drink affects my sense of well-being and my ability to focus and work.

My wellness shortcut is: There aren’t any shortcuts.

How wellness has changed for me: I used to beat myself up if I didn’t get a workout in, and now I feel that I really need to listen to my body. If I’m sore, I’ll take a day off or go walk around the block. I think it’s not about being perfect, but being the best version of you. I also used to compare myself, my body, and the way I look on the outside to other people that were in the gym. Now I just try to be the best version of me, because that’s my body shape and that’s my body type and that’s the best version of me. I also think health and wellness are not just about the physical but also about the mental and how you feel about yourself. A part of the reason I’m involved with Movember is that as women we have a lot of influence over the men in our lives. Women are more comfortable talking about our feelings and mental health and taking the stigma out of that for men to encourage them to talk about feelings.

How I achieve mental clarity: I’m not really into meditating quite yet, though I’m sure I probably should be. If I feel really stressed out, instead of reaching for a glass of wine at the end of the day, I’ll do breathing exercises. I have a breathing app on my phone, actually, and it’s really helpful. I feel like when I’m stressed out I’m not getting enough oxygen — I forget to breathe, which makes the situation worse. If I’m sitting in traffic and I’m getting annoyed, I’ll remember to breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, exhale for six, hold two. It’s called Paced Breathing. I think it’s for panic attacks, although that’s not what I use it for.

How I eat when I’m alone: I have a string-cheese addiction. I can’t keep them in the house. It’s not something I would eat with other people — it’s not like I’ll pull out some string cheese when I’m having a glass of wine with a group of friends. It’s just something I like to have when I’m on the go, and I really don’t have to think about it. I guess it could be a lot worse.

My wellness advice is: I think that when we think about New Year’s resolutions or when you beat yourself up about not going to the gym, it can be so overwhelming. I’m reading this book about habits called The Power of Habit, and it’s kind of fascinating. It talks about how if you want to change a pattern, you shouldn’t try to change everything all at once — you should try to change one little thing first. Then it becomes a healthy habit and you can take on the next one. Start slow. Give yourself one small task to accomplish, like tell yourself to go to the gym twice a week, not I’m going to go to the gym every day, and I’m not going to drink at night. Don’t do everything at once because it will feel like an insurmountable mountain of change. Slowly acclimate yourself.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Emmy Rossum Talks Body Acceptance at the Gym