Busy Philipps Opens Up About Anxiety, Marriage, and the Things She Doesn't Even Share on Instagram
The doyenne of Instagram gets real about paralyzing anxiety, mom guilt, and how she balances it all by finding some happy every day.
One thing’s for sure: You never have to ask Busy Philipps what she’s been up to—just follow her on Instagram, and you’ll get the full scoop. In a funny, confessional way, Busy, 39, constantly shares random thoughts (often starting off with, “Guys...”) with her one million followers while she sweats through her favorite morning workout at LEKfit, gets her hair dyed, or eats a salad in her car.
There are also many relatable parenting moments featuring her daughters, Birdie, 10, and Cricket, 5. One example: This past spring Busy cried while talking about the #MomGuilt she was feeling because Birdie’s stuffed bears were left behind on vacation in Hawaii. What ensued was dozens of Insta Stories about friends and hotel staff searching for the bears—Radar was found safe, but sadly Flat Bear remains MIA.
So while we all became familiar with Busy when she starred on shows like Freaks and Geeks and Dawson’s Creek (where she met bestie Michelle Williams), this unfiltered look into her life is what has turned her into everybody’s dream BFF. And we have a feeling her recently announced talk show on E! and as-yet-untitled book of essays (out this October) will just cement that.
When she sits down with us at a sidewalk café in Los Angeles—wearing a flowy dress, sneakers, and her requisite oversize sunglasses—it’s no surprise that people stop to chat with her every 20 minutes as if she’s a female Mister Rogers who knows all the people in her neighborhood. “I’m the mayor of Hollywood,” she laughs. Today, over afternoon lattes, Busy opens up about even more, revealing the stuff she’d never share on Instagram, the funny issue she has with “eating clean,” and what keeps her healthy in body and mind.
What’s the motivation behind sharing so much of your real life on Instagram?
It’s never occurred to me, ever, since I became a professional actor at 19 years old, to not be as honest and truthful as I could be, publicly. Before social media and the Internet really existed, it was a lot more difficult to get across who you really were. So for me, the advent of Twitter, then Instagram and Stories was incredibly freeing, because I felt like I had a direct line to expressing exactly who I feel I am and the things that I struggle with.
So what is your ultimate goal with your social presence?
I don’t f---in’ know! [Laughs] I really don’t know. But [my husband] Marc [Silverstein] and I always talk about, like, if it ever gets to a point where I don’t wanna do it, or if the girls ever say that they don’t wanna be on it... I am very conscientious. There are definitely things that I don’t share.
People are like, “Your girls always look so sweet,” and I’m like, “Yeah, because I’m not gonna post their horrible moments for you to see!” That’s not fair to them. And there’s some private stuff that I don’t talk too intensely about. There’s stuff with Marc and our relationship that I don’t think is appropriate for me to put out publicly because of my children. I’ve been vocal that marriage is not easy. It’s complicated. We had a really hard summer [last year], with him directing [I Feel Pretty]—and the specifics of what that is and what that means, I don’t think is super important, publicly, to get into. Everyone is working and struggling to make it work, you know? But I think being honest about how difficult marriage is, and succeeding in long-term relationships is—I think that’s a great conversation to be had.
What has been the relationship secret to help you guys succeed long-term so far?
Complete honesty is key for us. We’re just in a place where we’re incredibly open and honest with one another about literally everything. It took us years to get to that place—and some of it was f---ing brutal, you know? And like, not great—you don’t wanna hear it! But it really is incredibly helpful, ’cause [your partner knows] you better than anyone, probably. I like being very open and honest. And sometimes that means saying, “I’m sorry,” and sometimes that means saying, like, “I need you to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”
You’ve also been very vocal about your struggle with anxiety.
I grew up in a family where mental health issues are...we’ve got ’em! I’ve had that since I was a kid—racing thoughts, unable to get control of my thoughts, spinning out into paralysis of not being able to do anything and crying hysterically about it, or just feeling totally helpless.
When’s the last time that happened?
Uh...like, the day before yesterday? I was in New York and almost the whole day was, like, a full panic attack. Part of it was circumstantial, part of it was being away from my family, and I hadn’t been working out as much. For me, getting the endorphins and the sweat every morning is part of what I think helps me keep it in check. I’ve also done acupuncture for it; the infrared sauna helps, and the CBD and THC gummies, which I’m a very strong proponent of now.
Going back to the movie your husband codirected, I Feel Pretty—you costarred in it with Amy Schumer, and it really addressed that eternal issue of body confidence. Where are you now with yours?
Yeah, OK, let’s get into it. Because I get so angry that I’m always hard on myself, and the things that I fundamentally hold to be true as a feminist somehow do not apply to me. Which makes no sense! This is me being very honest, because I would love to tell you, like, “Oh my God, I love my body, and I’m so happy all the time with the way I look.” But...I don’t. It’s a struggle for me to remember to keep it in perspective. My own self-image is a constantly changing conversation.
When you’re having negative thoughts, what’s the conversation?
Well, I really hate what I call “my ruined stomach” from [giving birth to] my two daughters. So the conversation is that. I’m so unbelievably lucky. I’ve had so many friends who have gone through fertility issues and have struggled to carry their own children—and here I am pregnant right away both times, with two beautiful, healthy kids. And so what that they ruined my lower stomach?! Like, I’ll live, you know? I’m gonna wear this wrinkly skin with a lot of pride.
And what do you 100 percent love about yourself?
I have never not loved my nose. And I love my moles—which took a little bit longer for me to kind of embrace. When I was on Dawson’s Creek, the makeup artists had been told that they were to cover up all my moles. And it was such a moment of reckoning for me as a young actress—of “Oh wait, my uniqueness is not wanted here? You don’t want me to look like me?” It was really horrible. And by the way, you can’t cover up moles; it’s a ridiculous proposition! After the first two episodes, it was like, “Forget it. Let’s just see if they notice...” And they didn’t say anything, so then we got away with it. But it was a pretty intense experience.
Day-to-day, how do you measure your happy place with your body?
It’s, like, a feeling. And a pair of vintage Levi’s that I have: I fit into them yesterday, and I felt really good about it. I stopped weighing myself almost two years ago, because I noticed that it was giving me anxiety and really affecting my mood.... If you are somebody who wants to make a life change and that scale gets you the motivation of, like, “Yes, I got down two pounds this week!” I for sure get that. But for me, just being stable in my body has helped me a lot.
How do you choose your food—what are your healthy go-tos?
Well, I do Bulletproof coffee every morning, and I love it, because I felt like the smoothies were just, like, too much sugar. I do it with two tablespoons of ghee, a tablespoon of the Brain Octane Oil from Bulletproof, and two scoops of collagen protein powder. And then I don’t eat until about 1 o’clock. I do enjoy a salad for lunch—like an arugula salad with salmon or chicken on top of it and veggies in there. It’s also just dependent on the day. If I had a really super-hard workout, I eat a brown rice bowl. Because if I don’t listen to what my body needs, I end up making a bad decision later. Listening to your body is key. So sometimes that means eating a piece of bread—you’re gonna be fine. Get some carbs in there, you’re gonna be OK!
What’s your most common craving?
Gummy candy. I have a cinnamon-gummy-bear addiction. I used to crave salty-crunchy, and now I get the, like, 3 p.m. sugar snack crave, or right after dinner. That was one of the good things about doing Whole30...it helps to break you of those habits of needing a sweet treat after dinner.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever done for your body?
I work out seven days most weeks, but I’m also not hard on myself. If I wake up and I’m exhausted and I can’t f---ing do it, then I’ll give myself a break. I also think there’s a point where I know to push through, ’cause I’ll feel better after I do it. The best thing you can do if you’re hungover is work out, and then you feel 100 percent better—even if you’re still drunk when you get on the SoulCycle bike. [Laughs]
You Instagram during your LEKfit workouts. How have they changed your body?
You should ask Marc that question! He says it’s definitely changed my body. I think my ass may have gotten higher and tighter, and my legs are pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. I go to the studio in L.A., but I did the streaming when I was in Boston all summer. Before my mini trampoline came, I just did the dance cardio version of it. You don’t have to commit immediately to a mini tramp—although I would, if I were you, ’cause that’s part of the thing that’s made it so addictive, fun, and silly.
If we could read your thought bubble during a workout, what would it say?
I’m an incredibly self-motivated human. For almost everything, I have it in my head that quitting is not an option, ever. You can’t leave a class early. You can’t leave a movie early, even if it sucks. Like, you cannot quit. Except for smoking, which I quit when I was in my 20s. I think that’s the best decision I ever made.
Is there a health trend you’re totally against?
That code word for people who are “eating clean”—that’s code for, like, “I don’t f---ing eat.” Yeah. “Oh, oh...you’re eating clean? Oh, OK.” Eye roll. Sometimes I read these “What I eat in a day” things. I’m like, really? You had your [puts on a posh voice] "boiled chicken breast and three ounces of kale"? Like, what are you talking about?! I don’t know, maybe some people can exist in that manner. It’s not a viable option for me. I definitely eat nachos. I think you make choices in your life, and my choice is to go out for dinner with friends and my husband and my family and eat food that sometimes is not on the diet.
Speaking of hanging out with your family, how do you deal with mom guilt? Do you compare yourself to other moms or worry about people judging you?
I care deeply what everyone thinks about me, right? Everyone does. I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t. It’s like the “clean eating”—there are a bunch of lies we tell ourselves to get through the day. But by and large, I find that my biggest moments of mom guilt come from myself, not from external forces shaming me in any way. Like, being away from them for work is hard. Tonight I have to go to an event, and I know [Birdie] will be like, “What? You have to go to a party at night?”
So how do you shake that guilt? Like, when you have to go work?
We try logic. We have a lot of conversations about doing things that you love, and how important that is for how good you feel about yourself: “I have to work, because it makes me feel really good about myself, and then I can be a nicer mom.” But a lot of times, children’s emotions override logic, so sometimes you can’t shake it; sometimes you have to just sit in it for a while, and I think that’s OK. I think that there’s a lot of pressure that’s put on people to get rid of bad feelings immediately, and I think that it’s OK to sit with bad feelings. It’s just a part of life.
What are you most proud of yourself for?
Perseverance. In all aspects of my life. This business isn’t easy; life isn’t easy; marriage isn’t easy; kids isn’t easy; friendship isn’t easy. So just sticking to it is important. Sometimes you just have to show up, and the rest of the stuff will fall into place.
What are you working on with yourself right now?
Trying to figure out how to be the healthiest version of myself as I get closer to 40 and beyond—physically and mentally. I’m doing, like, the physicals, and getting my thyroid checked, and going to the dentist more regularly. My kids never miss their dentist appointments, but I didn’t go for two years!
How do you define happiness overall—and how do you get it?
Happiness is an elusive thing. I don’t know anyone who’s super happy all the time. I think you just have to enjoy the moments of joy that come into your life on a daily basis and know that other moments are gonna suck.
Styling by Lawren Sample for Crosby Carter Management. Hair by Bobby Eliot using Kerastase Elixir Ultime for Starworks Artists. Makeup by Kindra Mann using Charlotte Tilbury for TMG-LA. Manicure by Fariha Ali. Prop styling by Fi Campbell and Tamasin Reid for Still Sets.