Alison Brie: Lifting won’t make you bulky ‘You can pack muscle into a lean body’

Alison Brie is covering the May issue of Women’s Health. As Kaiser often notes, we’re still getting pre-virus interviews and profiles. A lot of outlets include newer quotes to bring some seriousness to otherwise fluffy pieces, but WH didn’t do that here, which I understand. Alison’s interview was deep and revealing, without any pre-lockdown workout or personal stories (like in-person gym classes, parties, etc.) to make us reminisce. It also includes details on how she works out on the go, which is more relevant now. I found myself relating to several things she mentioned, like her body dysmorphia, how she used to focus only on cardio and how weight-training helped her so much. She’s promoting Glow season four, which is coming out this summer. Apparently it’s been delayed like so many other shows.

On how strength training changed her body:
“Everything was cardio, cardio, cardio.”

“I thought, I’m in my late 20s, I should probably start doing some strength training.”

“…being small was a side effect of being super fit and muscular. I like to lead the charge against people thinking that strength training makes women bulky. Jason [Walsh from Rise Nation] uses my body as an example at the gym, because I can lift more than a lot of people. You can pack a lot of muscle into a lean little body.”

On whether she still grapples with body dysmorphia:
“Oh definitely. Still do! I go back to red carpet photos where I thought I looked so horrible, and there are some where I now think, God, I looked beautiful. And I’ll remember: An hour before that I was in tears; I thought I was so disgusting. I think it’s something I’ll probably be working through my whole life. And depression too.”

On her marriage to Dave Franco:
“I’m so lucky I’m married to a really wonderful, open person. We have great lines of communication, and I can talk often about my feelings.”

“It’s been funny talking to him about it. He said, ‘Before I knew you, I’m not sure I believed body dysmorphia was a real thing. It’s so interesting to me what you see – and what I’m seeing when I’m looking at you – and the frank discussions we have about it.’”

On dealing with depression
“When I’ve been in a really serious depression, I’ll drag myself to a yoga class – even if I don’t want to be around people – tears streaming down my face. But, Get in class, get out of your head, get blood flowing. It ends up helping eventually.”

She used to have sugar cravings but has upped protein
“I used to feel more out of control with it. Being more diligent has been helpful for me mentally.”

[From Women's Health]

I used to be more focused on being thin when I did only cardio too. I know that I don’t see my body realistically and can be very hard on myself, but lifting weight helped me in a similar way. It was stressful for me to gain weight when I started strength training, but I also saw that my clothes still fit. I also think doing too much cardio does something to your body where you get so hungry and end up caught in a vicious cycle. At least that was what happened to me, especially with sugar as she mentions. Oh and I’ve also cried at yoga class. There’s a yin yoga class I used to take with this one wonderful instructor, and it would get to me sometimes. Other people in that class have cried too. Yoga is one of those things that always helps but which I don’t do enough. I like Alison, and I appreciate how she took what could have been a superficial interview as a chance to open up.

Also, the photoshoot is really cool for this. I like how they used a plane as a prop and put her in contemporary athletic gear with pops of color.




Photos credit Aingeru Zorita for Women’s Health and received via promotional email

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18 Responses to “Alison Brie: Lifting won’t make you bulky ‘You can pack muscle into a lean body’”

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  1. Züri says:

    I used to like her until I heard her interview with Dax Shepard a couple of months ago. She was clearly performing and spent a lot of the time discussing how much Molly she use(s/d) and drinking to excess. It was a little much. She has also a had ton of cosmetic work, which is obvious when you look at old pictures of her. I thought she was quite pretty before, but she just seems so plastic and disingenuous now.

    • Ashlyn says:

      I heard that podcast too, but I didn’t think she sounded bad at all. I thought she was funny/cute. She wasn’t bragging about Molly at all. She was telling a story involving past drug and alcohol use and experimenting in college after getting out of a controlling relationship. I think a lot of people have gone through a phase like that, and m use is pretty common on college campuses these days. It doesn’t make her any less of a person, and she was just being honest about some past experience!

  2. emmy says:

    Love the photos. I know I’m nitpicking but I wish she (and others) would stop “reassuring” women that you can gain strength and still be small or little, as she says. It always sounds like “Don’t worry, you can be healthy and thin at the same time!” I know they mean well (I hope) but the emphasis is still not on health, at least to me. All these celeb women who talk about lifiting weights and strength training vs. cardio are still very very slim. It’s just a new trend packaged as advocating for health. You know, at least Tracy Anderson and Goop never pretended that it was about anything but being skinny.

  3. Esmom says:

    I’ve liked her since Mad Men and really want to see Community — still waiting for it to come to a streaming service! I started Glow but abandoned it after a few episodes. I didn’t hate it but I guess other shows took priority, lol.

    As a runner and cyclist, I always minimized strength training until I started being plagued by minor injuries. But once I added strength, my knee and other issues have pretty much disappeared. Stretching also helps. And once I neared 50, I stepped it up even more, thinking it would be better for my long term health.

    The only thing I’d caution is not to do ZERO cardio, which applies to a lot of people in my gym. I think a balance of strength, flexibility and cardio fitness is optimal. I love still having the stamina that cardio gives me that weightlifting alone could never provide.

    Trying to do strength on my own is really hard now. I’m used to having the trainer/instructor and other people around me to help me stay motivated. But I think I’m getting a little better. The key is dragging myself down to the basement and getting going. It’s so easy to blow it off!

    • Common sense says:

      Community is on Netflix , or is it not available in the USA? I am in South Africa and it just because available this month.

      • CROOKSNNANNIES says:

        It’s on Netflix in the US now, too!

      • Esmom says:

        Yay! So glad to hear that. I had been trying to get the DVDs from the library but the first season was always out. And now the library’s closed. I think I’ll start tonight since I have no other shows going on at the moment except Better Call Saul and its last episode of the season is next week.

    • lucy2 says:

      If you’re in the US, Community is on Hulu. I just rewatched it recently.
      I like Alison a lot as an actress, but she always irritated me a bit in interviews, not sure why. That’s improved for me with GLOW though, I think she’s so great on that show (everyone is), and I’ve really liked how she and Betty Gilpin have talked about it in interviews.

      She is so pretty, but always looks different to me in every photo.

    • Prairiegirl says:

      GLOW only gets going about 2/3 of the way through the first season. Maybe give it another go at some point; season 3 was especially good, I can’t wait for season 4.

  4. WriterMarie says:

    I like Alison, I have enjoyed watching Glow… I feel for her because her and I are both small. I am actually shorter than her and weigh 15 pounds more, (we wear the same size supposedly) but somehow she has more muscle than I do? I strength train usually 4xs a week when there’s not a pandemic going on.

    I feel like either she has a crazy metabolism or she’s had lipo or something. She’s always been tiny. I’m only a year older than her, I eat healthy (most of the time), and I weigh around 130ish when I am full on strength training. And you tend to eat more when you strength train, your body craves protein and carbs. I guess having a fulltime trainer and having hours on end to work out then I would be super tiny too.

    On a side note, I tried to watch that “horse girl” show… sooo boring, couldn’t even get through the first episode.

    • bananapanda says:

      She’s gotten on the health train bc of GLOW and needing the strength to do some of the stunts and wrestling. I think she’s burning a lot of calories due to the filming schedule and training.

  5. gemcat says:

    I get what she is trying to say, but the ways in which muscle builds is different from person to person. I’m an athletic-looking person with somewhat defined abs without doing a damn thing, and when I do lift weights or do muscle building exercises, because of my muscles’ fast-twitch fibers or a higher testosterone level, or both, I build size and weight super quickly. For me I am only lean when I don’t work out very much *I mean I never do cardio really because uuughh.. so I can’t say how I would go doing only that.

    Other women might have more slow-twitch muscle fibers, and/or lower testosterone and they don’t get big as easy, but can still be strong in their leaner muscles of course. So for ‘Jason at the gym’ to use her as an example (ehh humble brag much) feels a bit irresponsible..

    • frenchtoast says:

      It depends on your body type. If you’re a mesomorph, you build muscle more easily.

    • bananapanda says:

      I get a lot smaller looking when I’m in shape – even if the lbs haven’t changed – so I understand what she’s saying. Also the more you lift weights, the heavier the lbs for each set become so I’m not surprised if 4 yrs into it she’s lifting heavier weights than what people expect.

      Mostly she sounds trapped in the 1980s mentality of women shouldn’t lift weights bc they’ll get too bulked up. A surprising amount of people still believe this.

  6. TyrantDestroyed says:

    She looks different in the face. She used to be so naturally beautiful in Community. I’m glad to see she found a way to achieve her desired body shape. She looks super fit.

  7. Prairiegirl says:

    I was wondering when season 4 of GLOW was coming out … and now I know! Great!

  8. Laura says:

    I love lifting-I actually lift heavier than my husband. My favorite is still running and HIIT for the rush it gives you, but lifting makes you feel powerful in a different way.

  9. LunaSF says:

    I don’t do traditional weights but I practice Ashtanga yoga which is very physical and builds strength. I’m pretty lean and muscular from it. I’ve never been a cardio person (I’ll walk my dog sometimes). My trainer/fitness friends seem to be all about weights and getting muscle over cardio these days. I’d rather be strong rather than just thin.