Alicia Silverstone's 3 Best Ways to Get Fit Inside & Out

An excerpt from The Kind Diet

Let’s face it, an entirely sedentary lifestyle isn’t going to get you to your most vibrant, energetic and healthy self. Here are my favorite ways to keep my body and brain fit and toned.

1. Exercise

If you’ve thought of exercise as punishment you must inflict on yourself in order to lose weight, those days are over. If you already love your workouts, that love will deepen. Either way, it’s time to start enjoying your beautiful life in your beautiful new body.

What would happen if you really listened to your body and let it go through the rhythms it wanted to go through? When you just exercise mechanically — raising your heart rate to a prescribed number, working out your legs because that’s the regimen for Wednesday — you can lose touch with your inner self. What if you just said, “You know what? I’m tired right now! Maybe I’ll actually rest for five minutes — or take a walk outside.”

Little decisions like those can change your whole perspective, and in those five minutes — resting or walking — you can get quiet inside and ask your heart, “What do I really need?” If you’re too busy looking at the cardio monitor on the Stairmaster, it will be impossible to hear the answer to that question because you’re just not in touch with your body.

As you continue to eat whole grains and vegetables, your body will begin to tell you what it wants and needs. Your energy will lighten up, and you may not need to work as hard or sweat as much to feel the benefits of exercise.

So do what you love. I find yoga, dance classes and walks make me feel most relaxed and energized. I want to love my whole life, and that includes exercise.

Here are some of the benefits of the simplest forms of exercise:

Walking

Unbelievably good for you. Great for the heart, the lymph system, and your overall outlook on life.

Take a walk every day if you can. My husband and I try to walk with the dogs every night after dinner in the summer. It’s also a great way to catch up with my girlfriends (I hate talking on the phone). Looking at nature is so much better than going to the gym, and it’s free — right outside your door!

It’s great if I can walk for half an hour, but every day is different. Doing it regularly is more important than how long you spend walking.

Here’s a tip: Whenever you see grass, take off your shoes and walk on it. That connection with the grass brings out your goddess and helps you connect with nature!

Yoga

Yoga is a beautiful battlefield. I breathe through the sticky stuff of my mind, the resistance in my body — without force or judgment — all on a safe little rectangle. I engage in a soft, loving battle with my stiffness and laziness in an attempt to get down to the good stuff of life. By practicing yoga, I get stronger and stronger, little by little, and I bring that strength into my life.

And the best thing about yoga? You don’t have to be good at it. I go to beginners’ classes because there’s no pressure to be anywhere but where I am.

Playing with friends

Sometimes we get together with friends and play soccer. On the pitch, we have a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old, a handful of 30-somethings, and a guy pushing 60.

Together we go completely insane, running around, kicking the ball, missing the ball, and laughing our heads off. And at the same time, it’s a serious match that gives all of us a kickass workout.

So find a friend and shoot some hoops, embarrass yourselves at a public tennis court, or fling a Frisbee. No gym membership required!

2. Inner exercise

Journaling

Writing calms my mind. When I’m stressed out about something, thoughts and worries can just swirl around in my head on an endless loop. When I take the time to journal, the thoughts come out onto the page so I can really look at them and coach myself through them, asking myself, “Why are you doing that?” “What do you really want?” When I’m writing, the answers have the time and space to present themselves. We all have great stores of natural wisdom, and journaling helps to tap into them.

Meditation

If you struggle with stress or anxiety (and who doesn’t?), a meditation practice can be life-changing. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate ritual; just set a timer for 10 or 15 (or even five) minutes and observe your breath (even if it means noticing you’re not breathing much). Or focus on the sensations of your body, beginning at your toes and moving up your legs, torso, and so on, bit by bit.

Your mind will wander, but the practice is to bring it back, again and again, gently. Eventually and with practice, the mind begins to slow down and become focused. You will then carry that peace and focus through the rest of your day. If you find meditation helpful and satisfying, try to go for 30 minutes. It’s hard at first, but you will find a depth and relaxation inside that’s just amazing.

Of course, life is full of opportunities to practice meditation. By relaxing when I’m stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or facing a frustrating situation, I drop my inner tension and just enjoy the moment. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but life is so much better when I am able to sink into my body and ride the waves.

3. Putting myself first

Sometimes I forget to put myself first; all my goals and responsibilities come before basic self-care.

I had one of these times recently; I was taking care of my dogs (one of them is incontinent, the other blind and unable to walk), writing this book, rehearsing a play, campaigning for our new president, advocating for the release of elephants from the L.A. Zoo, going to auditions, and trying to be a decent partner to my husband — not to mention handling all the random stressful surprises that pop up in life. And that’s all without mentioning the endless to-do list staring me in the face.

It was a real struggle; I felt like there was no way I could do it all, and yet I had to.

It’s at times like these that I start to make shortcuts: I scarf sandwiches at the computer, eat while having stressful conversations, and make other cuckoo choices. Meditation gets the heave-ho. Exercise? Forget it. My journal gets lost under my bed as taking care of myself drops off the to-do list.

Suddenly I’m on the floor, sobbing.

I’ve lost my way.

But thank God I have a way to lose. So I remember to:

  • Make clean, healthy food
  • Sit down while I eat
  • Take a deep breath and say a prayer of gratitude before eating
  • Remember that I don’t run the world, and then I cut my to-do list in half
  • Restructure my time to put myself first

And I find my way again.

The second I structure my time to allow myself to eat better, I feel completely different. My whole body changes. Drastically. That’s what’s so amazing about this way of life — one day of clean eating and my throat stops hurting. I feel rested. I’m surprised every time it happens, and it happens every time.

I know you have a million excuses for not taking care of yourself. It’s easy to feel pulled down by the ball-and-chain of the to-do list. But if you don’t stay centered by doing the basic things, everything and everyone in your life will pay for it.

I know it may feel naughty to acknowledge (even to yourself) that you are putting yourself first, but think of it this way: A mother must eat good food to produce good milk for her baby. There are no shortcuts there. So be a good mother to all the beings and creative projects in your life by taking care of yourself first. Know that when you lose your way — and you will — you will always be able to come back home.


The Kind Diet

Excerpted from The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet by Alicia Silverstone. Copyright © 2009 by Alicia Silverstone. Photographs copyright © 2009 by Victoria Pearson. Reprinted by permission of Rodale.

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