Taraji P. Henson: ‘The older you get, the harder it is to get in shape’

Taraji P. Henson has kept herself busy this last year by launching her hair care brand, acting, running a foundation, and hosting her Facebook Watch series, Peace of Mind, which is going into its second season. Like everyone else, Taraji found herself having to slow down during the first wave of COVID lockdowns. That lead to Taraji revisiting some unhealthy habits. In her cover profile for Women’s Health, Taraji discussed how waking up with a Cheeto stuck to her face motivated her to pursue a healthier lifestyle and get back in shape. Taraji said that she began eating all the snacks and drinking old fashioneds which led to weight gain. She was concerned she could exacerbate an old stomach issue that she was warned could lead to ulcers and stomach cancer. Being older she knew that if she let herself go too far in an unhealthy direction that it would be harder to dig herself out of it. Below are a few more highlights from Women’s Health:

A holistic doctor put her on a plant-based diet to help her stomach problems
“[A doctor at the hospital] said, ‘If you don’t correct what’s going on inside of you, you’re going to develop stomach ulcers, which can lead to stomach cancer.”

“Western medicine saves lives. But it wasn’t helping in my situation.”

On indulging during the pandemic
“I was like, ‘Well, ain’t nobody going nowhere, so I might as well eat. And I was loving it.”

On getting back in shape after waking up with a Cheeto stuck to her face
“I was like, ‘This can sink me.’ The older you get, the harder it is to get in shape. I didn’t want to be climbing out of a hole.”

“That’s when I realized I had to do everything I could to feel good, or that depression thing was going to get the best of me. When I get those endorphins going, I’m like a whole different girl.”

She studied musical theater at Howard and has been working on an EP
“I’ve been singing. It just came out of me! I’ve been secretly working on an EP,” “But it wasn’t like, ‘Taraji wants to sing,’ and then 20 writers come and bring me their songs.”

“I want people to know that it’s never too late for anything. You can get your health together and live out your wildest dreams.”

[From Women’s Health]

I can’t believe that Taraji studied musical theatre, I thought she had studied acting in college. That truly surprised me. I love the fact that she is also making an album and I look forward to hearing it.

I love how Taraji has taken back control of her life by working on her health and fitness this last year. I understood her when she said she woke with crumbs in her bed and Cheetos stuck to her face. I actually laughed because I have awakened in a similar state. Like Taraji, in the last month I have decided to take back control of my life. After gaining twenty five pounds this last year during lockdown, I feel sluggish and unlike myself so I joined the gym. I am not yet as dedicated as Taraji but I am getting there and I will definitely use her as inspiration.

I also like that Taraji went to a holistic doctor and I love that she said that Western medicine saves lives but it wasn’t helping her situation. I have decided to take the holistic approach as well and I have lost five pounds in the last two weeks so I feel great. Anyways, I am looking forward to more pictures of Taraji’s abs on Instagram. Knowing that Taraji is only six years older than me and was able to accomplish what she has health-wise is all the motivation that I need at the moment.



Photos via Instagram

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25 Responses to “Taraji P. Henson: ‘The older you get, the harder it is to get in shape’”

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  1. Mcmmom says:

    Yep – I can relate. I gained some Covid weight, but I was still (mostly) fitting into my clothes and in denial. Then, I saw a picture from my son’s end of season sports tournament and I had to strategically crop the picture of myself and realized I needed to make some changes. I started watching my calories, cut out alcohol, kept up the exercise and lost 16 lbs. I’m back to my college weight, which is nice.

    But – and this is a big but – it’s a little remarkable to me how slow my metabolism is at 50. I eat regularly, but I don’t eat a ton of food and I no longer drink alcohol. I exercise nearly every day. I had my metabolism checked a couple of years ago and it’s just not very fast. In my experience, it’s not impossible to stay in shape at middle age, but what works at 35 probably won’t work at 50,

    • FHMom says:

      I’m 57. I’ve watched my weight since I was a teen because the pounds come on so easily, and I’m self conscious. I gained Covid weight like everyone else and it’s upsetting. I was so good for 9 months and then stopped caring after New Years. Ive since gone back to the gym, although from a Covid point of view it still worries me. (I’m hearing about way too many break through cases) I think, for me, I have to frame the conversation around my health. Losing weight has nothing to do with vanity. It has everything to do with heart health and keeping depression away. I wish in my younger years I knew that.

      • Mcmmom says:

        FHMom – I will admit that wanting to lose weight was at least somewhat about vanity for me, but the exercise is mainly about mental health. I notice a big difference in my anxiety levels and my ability to manage my stress when I exercise daily (or close to it).

        Also – I noticed that I’m teetering on the edge of looking too thin in my face. The adage about a woman having to “choose between her face and her a$$” is legit.

      • ooshpick says:

        @FHMom You were good even if you ate too much to cope with stress 🙂

    • Liz says:

      53 and same here. I started running again – I live near a big public park with wonderful running trails. I’m back up to 4 miles/4 days a week. I’m down about 10 lbs off my peak pandemic weight. I’m happier with myself, too.

      I’m slowly getting back to the “yes, she works out, but she eats the cookies, too” look that I had for years. And I’m OK with that. I know my metabolism has slowed down and I need to watch what I eat and drink. I don’t want to get back to my college weight (under 110lbs) but I don’t want to get anywhere near my pregnancy weight of 150 either.

  2. SarahCS says:

    Oh my goodness yes, to all of this. Looking after your whole self is so important.

    I was mostly fine with my physical health through 2020, largely because my work dried up and I had plenty of time to exercise and cook well even if I was drinking and snacking a bit more than usual. But then work started to pick up again in the autumn (yay!) and I really started to slide, especially as the emotional toll of everything caught up with me too. I’ve been trying to get back on track in the last few months but even at 43 I’m noticing the difference to how I was even 5 years ago.

  3. Normades says:

    Yea, I’m pushing 50 and really watch what I eat. It cracks me up when they ask 20 something actresses how they maintain their weight. I know it’s not the same for everyone but maintaining your weight in your 20s or before you have kids is just not the same thing.

    • Becks1 says:

      NOPE, not at all. I’m almost 40 like I said below and the difference between how easy it was for me to lose weight even 10 years ago and now is mind-boggling.

      • Normades says:

        That’s what I meant, that losing weight and staying fit is much harder as you age.

      • Becks1 says:

        @Normades oh I know! I was just agreeing with you. My “NOPE” was aimed at how maintaining weight in your 20s is just not the same thing so asking the 20 year old actress how she stays so thin is not really relevant for me.

    • WithTheAmerican says:

      Yeah like when they use a 14 year old to sell face skin cream.

  4. Chaine says:

    She looks amazing! I love the green bodysuit/sweater. Losing the pandemic weight at this age is tough. I’ve struggled and I’m down about eight pounds, another seven to go before I get back to a BMI that’s not in the “overweight” range.

  5. Becks1 says:

    I’m almost 40 and I’m trying to lose the pandemic weight now, and its hard bc the initial weight loss isn’t there. In the past, if i wanted to lose some weight, I just had to watch what I ate for a few days and I would lose 2 or 3 pounds in those few days, and that motivated me to stick to it (of course then the weight loss slowed, but that was okay.)

    Lately I feel like there is just always “something” – two weeks ago I sprained my ankle and spent days on end on the couch with my foot propped up and my eating wasn’t the best, we’re going away this weekend and I know I am going to eat whatever I want, then the holidays are coming up, etc. But if I can get that initial loss going I’ll be motivated to make smarter choices even when we’re away etc.

    Working out is also just harder because it feels more complicated. Like just cardio isn’t enough anymore, now I have to worry about heart rate zones and which is best for fat burning and strenght training and yoga and which is best for muscles and which is best for losing weight etc. I used to just be able to go for a run a few days a week and it was fine.

    I set a goal for myself to lose 30 pounds by my birthday (in February) and I’m not entirely sure I’m going to make it at this point, ha. But as long as I’m on the right track I’ll be fine with it.

    I just really really love food lol.

    • JEM says:

      Becks – I want to lose 20 pounds by my February birthday! Let’s do it! Or at least try. I’m always tired and my clothes don’t fit.

    • SarahCS says:

      The ‘something’ is so frustrating, I seem to constantly have minor injury, illness, busy work schedule, or something else. Obviously some of that is out of my control (like mystery, probably some sort of virus, illness that my neighbours and I both developed on Friday even though we hadn’t seen each other in over a week), but one of my goals right now is to try and figure out how to get the balance; not over schedule work, avoid exercising too much when I do have the time so that I get injured and/or over-tired and then eat more, etc. etc.

    • JJ says:

      Am finding this too! Am 39 and usually when I start to get back on track for a healthier lifestyle my body would reward me with a 2-3 or even 5 lb drop in the first week (I know that’s probably a lot of water) and that first week would help me make it stick for months or longer… but now my body just isn’t playing that game anymore.
      I’m also finding a ton of little things happening! This year alone, my teen headbutted me in the face (on accident) I thought it was fractured, I got back on my bike for exercise and got in a bike crash and my left arm was hurting for months, and two months ago, rolled my ankle so hard gardening that I sprained my ankle. Tried to do even just a minute of jump rope a few days ago and was reminded instantly Whoops! That ankle isn’t ready for that yet!

      But I’m gathering up the will to still try, because the alternative is not appealing — my cardio went way down the last two years and it’s scary!

  6. Leslie says:

    That early pandemic cycle is so relatable! She’s amazing, very inspiring

  7. ooshpick says:

    I had an eating disorder when I was younger. My mum is a frail bird in her 80’s. I decided to gain weight by creating an appetite and gained about 10-15 pounds. I wanted to have some wiggle room in case I got sick as my mum became very ill and never returned to her healthy weight. She is now brittle and her bones will break easily. Mum has the same problem as me with appetite. It is hard for her to eat a big meal. Now that I’m in my 50’s I have gained more weight. It is not healthy to aspire to be the weight I once was. Women’s bodies change. As long as you’re eating healthily and exercising, it’s all good. I am curious about people framing exercise as a way to ‘deal with their mental health’. Benefits are obvious but it seems like a newer narrative that can hide a need for body control (see Adele). Also see yoga community, clean eating etc as another narrative. I have a g.a.d. and I used to have to exercise to deal with it but now I can meditate and i lose no weight at all 😉 Is this quest for mental health the only goal of exercise? Or is it another way to frame eating/exercise issues for some people. Not accusing. Just asking. I once had a beautiful body but now i have a beautiful 50 year old body with love handles and softness. I once had a thick head of brown black hair and now it’s all silver! I can’t have the body of a younger woman. This is a long game, people. Think bone health, joint health and pleasure. Setting a goal is a great asset to mental health but so is acceptance and joy.

    • Mcmmom says:

      Ooshpick – I’m not sure I totally understand your question. I run (vs walk) for my mental health, but I do exercise to also stay in shape. Honestly, my figure is better now than it was in my 20s because I didn’t exercise then (I was just naturally thinner). My body is definitely middle aged and soft in places, but I also have muscle tone that I didn’t have on my youth. I enjoy feeling strong – I am training for a triathlon, running races with my kids, and skiing all season, things I didn’t do when I was younger. I exercise because of the health benefits, but it would be disingenuous to say I don’t like how exercise makes me look as well as it makes me feel. ,

      • ooshpick says:

        I think i was exploring the notion of exercise/health vs exercise/control. It came out a bit muddled. Mostly I am interested in the quest to change my body. I have never really loved it unconditionally so while I am struggling with this new body, I am also recognizing that I can’t go back without a lot of work nor do I need to aspire to. I guess my question was asking other women how much of exercise is about how they look and how much really is how they feel.. and it seems like for healthy women it is both and for those of us who struggle with health mental or otherwise it can be more complex.

  8. Becks1 says:

    ETA sorry, this is in response to ooshpick at #7 above.

    For me, I feel better after I exercise, mentally – most of the time. Even just a walk outside helps. I think part of it is that I suffer from SAD in the winters, so a walk outside in the sunshine helps a lot. But even if I’m on my bike in the basement, or doing an online exercise class – I feel better. I think part of that is that its “me” time, and especially if i’m running or walking, its a self imposed break from my phone, bc its hard to run and check Facebook at the same time lol. Plus, endorphins, especially after a great workout. If you do something that you didn’t think you could do – that’s an awesome feeling.

    It’s not for everyone and I exercise for other reasons besides my mental health, but it is a big one.

    • ooshpick says:

      @Becks1 Thanks for your answer. Yes I am inspired to do more exercise too. I see that it can be healthy and not just a cover. I would like to be able to achieve that balance 🙂

  9. TeresaMaria says:

    I have always watched my weight although I used to have a super-fast metabolism when younger. But, boy, how things changed when I hit 40!
    My approach is similar to AA as crazy as it sounds. What I say to myself is “Every day counts. Every bite counts” I remind myself of that every time I want to eat that extra piece of cake I don’t really need or take a second helping while already feeling full. This approach has helped me to stay in shape almost 5 years and I am not stressed about holidays or birthdays.

  10. Emma says:

    I love Taraji Henson, her interviews are always so inspiring and fun

  11. PixiePaperdoll says:

    But why did they put her on the cover posed as though she’s taking a dump on the beach?