En español l Tosca Reno, 55, flipped her life downside up in her 40s. In a decades-long battle with her weight, she not only triumphed but also spurred a multitude of (mostly female) fans to follow her strategy — "eat clean," embrace weight lifting and live life to the fullest at any age. In the past 15 years, she's published at least a dozen books — including the New York Times best-selling Eat-Clean Diet — and has built a brand that is only expanding. We caught up with her from her home in Caledon, Ontario, to discover her secrets to staying fit, slim and healthy.
What did turning 50 mean to you?
Although the number feels big — 50 years of living is pretty nice — I didn't feel overwhelmed by it, mostly because I had a plan — the one that I have been putting into action for 10 years and that had served me well.
As a fitness professional, how did you embrace it?
The plan was to continue "eating clean" and exercising, because doing that helped me change my entire life. I wanted to see what more I could unveil about myself. My biggest concern as I turned older was how to remain relevant in a business that is highly skewed toward younger women. The physique industry was where I got my start, but how does that translate when you are 55? Do I continue to compete? Target a new audience? Act differently? In truth, I did compete at 52 and won my bikini class. [Reno competed in body sculpting competitions.] It was exciting, but as I thought about the people I wanted to serve, I realized that perhaps this was not the way to keep my brand front and center. Being 55 or 50-something means to be deeply and truly yourself while practicing those tenets that are the backbone of my life — eating clean, training, being mindful and evolving as a whole person of purpose.
Let's talk about your "eating-clean" lifestyle. What five foods will almost always be handy in your kitchen?
Coconut oil (good for skin, hair, cooking and sex), greens (loads of these), eggs for healthy fat and protein, wild salmon for healthy fats and fresh berries for antioxidant power.
Is there one thing you eat or drink every day?
Water! I always mix with it a pinch of unrefined sea salt and a shot of lemon juice to increase the electrolyte value.
You avoid sugar, but do you have a food indulgence?
Really good dark chocolate. Oh! Heaven!
How often do you work out?
I work out six days a week, and try to do it in the morning. As the day wears on, I get so busy that it's hard to fit a workout in later. I look at training as a way of becoming more productive and happier; good things happen to the brain with solid, sweaty exercise.
What do your workouts tend to look like?
I usually begin with a robust 30-minute sweat session on my Cellerciser [mini trampoline], with my skip rope or on the treadmill — or I do a combination of all three in one session. Whether it is raining or pouring, even snowing lightly, I take my mini trampoline outdoors, along with my skip rope, and train outside if possible. When that is done, I head indoors and use weights, stability balls and other equipment to challenge my muscles. Then, I finish with a good stretch.
What exercise do you love to hate?
Training my calves has always been challenging, because they are genetically small. So I dread doing calf raises because they hurt, but I do them anyway because I want nice calves.
What exercise do you love and why?
I absolutely love to train my glutes [gluteus maximus muscles] any way I can. Before I started training them, I had no glutes. Now I do, and it's because I shaped them through hard work. The benefits of training glutes are many, including increased metabolic rate (fat burning), lifted glute muscles (aesthetically pleasing), stronger butt muscles (great for lifting and balance) and all-around bodily development for creating a more pleasing silhouette.
How do you balance all you do?
Balance comes from knowing yourself well, and that means knowing what you need to do to be the best you can be. If I didn't train or if I ate junk food, I wouldn't be my best. I wouldn't feel good. So know what you need to do each day and prioritize those things. Balance also comes from being able to say no to what doesn't work or what won't fit in your day. It's liberating to say no sometimes. But I won't give up eating clean foods, nor will I give up training — so those things make up the backbone of my day, and I do them. The rest falls into place.
What advice would you give people in their 50s and up who want to get in shape?
Do not hesitate! Don't wait to start! Now is the time. You can't afford to not work out. The value to brain, mind and body is immeasurable. Begin with a personal trainer to get comfortable with the skills of training, including journaling, using the equipment, cardiovascular exercise and weight training, as well as stretching and flexibility. Work to your ability, not more. But never say never. I started this whole renovation on myself nearly 15 years ago at the age of 40, when most people are giving up — and look what happened!
How do you keep your metabolism revved up?
The way to keep the metabolic rate high is to eat six small meals filled with clean food, drink plenty of water — at least 3 to 3-1/2 liters per day — and train the big muscle groups regularly. These include the abdominal core, the glutes and the quads. You should be training one of these every day. When you do, the metabolic rate stays revved up for several hours afterward, burning more fat. Also, train with weights. When we exchange fat for muscle, we burn more calories because active muscle has a voracious appetite, while fat does not.
What's next for you?
Currently, I am shooting a pilot for a new TV show called Clean Living With Tosca Reno. There are talks for another show in the new year, too. I am writing regular columns for Oxygen and Clean Eating magazines, as well as Huffington Post, and have written several new books. I also just relaunched my website after an extensive overhaul. I just launched the brand-new Superfoods for a Super You, which is an e-book and which contains 100 brand-new recipes using superfood ingredients. I wrote a four-week program called Strike Sugar for detoxing yourself from sugar and getting it out of your diet. I also will be launching a two-month fitness renovation program in the new year, complete with an eight-week menu plan, a fitness regimen and recipes.
Your fans know your story and have seen your before-and-after transformation. What would you go back and tell the "old" Tosca Reno about grit, self-confidence and believing in yourself?
I would have to tell that girl to never doubt who she is as a person. The catalyst that got me started in all of this was that very thing — I believed I had something valuable to offer, and I was darn well going to do it. I didn't know how or what it was going to be, but I had faith in myself. It's like oxygen. We can't see it, but we all know it's there. Faith. It's the magic ingredient.
Stacy Julien is executive online health editor for aarp.org.