wellness theories

Hari Nef on Eating Salad for Breakfast and Feeling Skeptical of the Wellness Movement

Hari Nef. Photo: Stevie Remsberg; Photos: Getty Images

Hari Nef is a model and Transparent actress. When she isn’t working, you can generally find her buried under a warm blanket in her freezing apartment or eating a protein-rich salad for breakfast. The spokesperson for Gucci Bloom – the first Gucci fragrance developed under creative director Alessandro Michele –caught up with the Cut to tell us how she does wellness. We chatted about rowing machines, moisturizing, and the “sci-fi” aspect of scent.

How I start my mornings: I travel a lot, so I don’t have a morning routine because where I wake up tends to be inconsistent. But I’m always really, really hungry when I wake up, so breakfast is important. People make fun of me because I’ve been known to eat lunch things for breakfast. I’ll eat a good salad. I’ll maybe have some tempeh or kale in there. I try to make breakfast a lavish meal because, one, my body tells me to, and, two, that’s what carries me through the day. It’s preemptively preparing for bedtime — I try not to eat much at night because it makes me feel gross in the morning. I try to front-load the nutritional intake.

On moisturizing: I keep a very cold apartment — I tend to crank my AC just about as low as it can go. I sleep with a big, warm comforter even during the summer, and just burrow underneath it. My dad also used to keep his apartment really cold, so maybe it’s a genetic thing. In my mind, it’s like I’m preserving myself in a freezer or something.

But that can dry your skin out — and I also tend to have dry skin as it is. So I’m into serums, beauty oils, and very rich creams. I’m still trying a bunch of them. There are certain ones that I do like, but I’m lucky enough to get to try different products at not as much of a financial burden because of my job. Staying moisturized is the only real beauty secret I have. Dryness is the enemy — it leads to breakouts and all that other stuff.

On fragrance: Fragrance is important to me because of its emotional dimension. I feel like fragrances are able to transport, stir emotion, and bring up memories. You can wear makeup, you can dress yourself up, but fragrance gives a powerful aspect to how you can present yourself that you can’t necessarily get any other way. When you walk into a room, when you meet a new person, in those intimate moments fragrance gives you a unique opportunity to communicate about yourself and communicate your point of view. It goes right up someone’s nostrils and into the brain — it has a sci-fi dimension to it.

Hari Nef in a Gucci Bloom ad.

How I sweat: I’m only in the headspace to exercise when I’m not working. Oftentimes when I’m working, I’ll have a hard time motivating myself because I feel like I want to save all my energy. I’ll have three weeks where I work out five times a week, and then I won’t work out for a month. It’s not the best; I’m trying to change that. There’s a gym in the basement of my building, so I’m lucky enough that I can go down there — and it’s pretty pathetic that I ever find an excuse to not motivate myself at all times. There’s a rowing machine down there, and that’s my favorite cardio because it gives you the illusion that you’re sitting in one place and not moving that much — but it’s actually really hard.

Wellness, to me, is: a word that I try to stay skeptical of, because I feel like wellness has a different definition for everyone who aspires to it. At my most cynical, I think “wellness” is a thing that upper-class white women in their 30s invented in order to battle invisible demons that don’t exist. The culture around wellness is a little fervent. But I think the definition of wellness that we should aspire to is a holistic feeling of homeostasis and satisfaction about what’s going on in your mind and in your body.

My definition of wellness changes every day. I listen to my body, I listen to my head, and I ask myself what feels good and doesn’t feel good. It’s a process; there’s no formula. The pursuit of wellness necessitates a lot of experimentation and an open mind.

On eating vegan: I’ve been vegan for about two years. It’s not political for me and it doesn’t extend further than what I eat. I began eating a vegan diet because I was looking for a productive boundary that I could draw with food. My relationship with food in the past has not always been perfect or easy. I looked at the food culture of the country I grew up in and the Jewish family I was raised in, and I wanted to set limits for myself that weren’t unhealthy (in that they weren’t depriving me of anything that I needed).

I just feel better about eating food now, and I feel better about what I put into my body — but not because it’s a necessarily superior diet to any other. In general, if I avoid processed foods and stick to veganism the healthy way — because you can eat a pretty calorie-dense diet and still be vegan — I feel great about nourishing myself. It’s just something that works for me.

My biggest wellness struggle: I’m not anti-wellness. I just resist defining it because of how personal it is for everybody who must pursue it. But my personal wellness struggle is keeping everything together amidst the change and unpredictability of my schedule. When there are flights happening, crazy work hours, or just a general sort of turbulence in the up-and-down rhythm of my life, it’s important to me to be able to hold onto the things that make me feel well.

It’s not super easy to eat well while I’m in Europe. It’s difficult to manage medications and prescriptions when I’m abroad if I need something. It’s hard when work is taking up space I’d normally dedicate to exercise. I wasn’t able to go to therapy for almost the entire month of September because I was working. I don’t have a 9-to-5 schedule and it’s hard to keep everything on track, but I’m learning.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Hari Nef on Why She’s Skeptical of the Wellness Movement