Need a little nudge to feel ready for beach season? Fitness superstar Tracy Anderson is here with the tips and inspiration that will get your body and confidence in peak form for summer—and the rest of the year.

Credit: Nathaniel Welch

Nathaniel WelchNeed a little nudge to feel ready for beach season? Fitness superstar Tracy Anderson is here with the tips and inspiration that will get your body and confidence in peak form for summer—and the rest of the year.

When I arrive to chat with workout guru Tracy Anderson in Los Angeles, she tells me it's not just going to be the two of us.

Her kids, Sam, 16, and Penelope, 2, are home, and Penny needs to eat. So the trainer from Noblesville, Ind.—wearing jeans, a ruffled shirt and sneakers—breast-feeds her daughter while we talk. "I do not nurse until they're 5, just so you know," she says, laughing. "Not that I'm judging anyone who does that!"

Tracy, 40, has just gotten back from filming a streaming version of one of her classes, the latest offering in the empire she launched 16 years ago called the Tracy Anderson Method. Tracy, who leads studio classes in L.A., New York City and the Hamptons, developed the at-home workout DVD series titled Metamorphosis and recently created Real Time with Tracy, a video-streaming option with a new installment of Tracy's master-class workouts available every Wednesday (the subscription runs about $80 a month). The workouts, based in part on Tracy's training as a dancer, are designed to help clients form a balanced body—an approach that worked so well for Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress partnered up with her in the business.

Now Tracy is determined to help us all achieve our healthiest body, whatever our shape—and she means it. "I want to get away from 'Tracy Anderson is going to make you teeny-tiny.' I'm not trying to make everyone the same. To me, 'hot' is not defined by a height or weight or measurement; hot is going to the root of who you are."

Over a spread of cookies, tortilla chips and guacamole—all soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free—Tracy shares the weight struggles that shaped her and what every woman should know about getting fitness results.

You're a business powerhouse now. What were you like growing up?
I was incredibly shy until about fifth grade. To this day I struggle with that. It's very difficult for me to be heard if I want something. But if I'm advocating for people's health or something that I know is right for my children, then my voice is strong.

You put on extra weight at a young age. What do you attribute that to?
I was 19 and gained about 35 pounds. I attribute it to the wonderful world of marketing and the science of "everything's fat-free." Fat-free cookies. Fat-free frozen yogurt. I was like, "Really? They're fat-free?! I'm so on board." I've always loved food. I grew up with mashed potatoes, chicken and noodles, biscuits and gravy. My mom was a ballerina, but her metabolic rate runs very high, and she was able to eat, like, literally a trucker's breakfast, and she would still stay superthin.

How'd you get through it?
I had a scholarship to dance school, so I felt a huge responsibility to succeed. But I was clearly gaining weight. I'm 5 feet tall, so in pink tights and a leotard, any amount of weight is going to start sticking out pretty quick. I was like, "I'm not going to starve myself." Instead, I was like, "OK, maybe I won't have the large fat-free frozen yogurt after school. Maybe I'll have the small." And I started exercising. It was very apparent to me that being a ballerina wasn't going to happen. But I've always been, like, "Welp, there's a different purpose for me. There is something else I'm supposed to be doing." Then at 21, I gained 60 pounds while pregnant with my son, and that's when I started creating my method.

What is the biggest mistake you think women make with their workouts?
They work out for social purposes or because they want to fit into something. They don't really sit and say, "Wait, what's best for me and my body?" It's like, "Oh, people over there are drinking that Kool-Aid. I'm going to go do that."

So you don't believe in juice cleanses?
Anybody is going to lose weight if they drink liquid all day long. That's like lunchtime liposuction or freezing the fat cells off. You don't own that change. The weight is coming back.

Do you always enjoy exercising?
I love working out, though there are times I definitely don't want to, like Sunday mornings. I've got two delicious children. She wakes up earlier than him and walks in, like, "Let's go to the park!" And I'm like, "Ugh, bag the workout. I just want to make pancakes." So my brain goes, "Why is it that I have to give away the workout to make them pancakes?" Instead, it's "I'm going to make them pancakes and do my own streaming workout in the living room instead of going to my studio." There's a constant recalculation in all of our heads all day long.

Which workouts do you refuse to do?
You will never catch me on a spin bike. I'll take a bike ride with my son, but I will never do the same thing over and over and over. That creates imbalance in your body. It doesn't matter if you're a size 10 or you're a size 2; you want to feel in proportion.


Nathaniel WelchWhat fad is harming us more than anything?
One hundred percent: It's called celebrity. We should love their work. But to blow up their importance to the level of obsession takes away from our own beauty and our own gifts. There's a disease here—the disease is vanity, insecurity and the lengths of unhealthy behaviors people go to to achieve what they think is beautiful. The disease of "I'm not worth anything unless I look like that person over there."

Do you think how we look at women in Hollywood has gotten any better?
I think it's changing, and that excites me. You take a Kim Kardashian, who is a curvaceous, voluptuous, petite woman—and she's on the cover of Vogue! I like that. I think that's progress. Lena Dunham, who is a buddy of mine, is on the cover selling magazines with her beauty and her light. And her book, Not That Kind of Girl—I love this concept of "I'm just going to unzip for you. I'm OK that I'm flawed. Judge me however you want to." I have two different thumbs. She shows that her left thumb is about 1/2 inch shorter than her right. I hated this thumb growing up! In fact, at homecoming, if a guy tried to hold this hand, I would freak out and go, "You can't hold that hand!" Our judgments and our insecurities become so toxic to our beauty. Maybe this is going to sound cheesy, but look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I am so blessed to be alive. I am so blessed to have my unique eye color, my unique hips, my unique look."

What was your "aha!" moment when it came to your diet?
It involves Gwyneth. I was so good at designing bodies, including my own, that I could eat a pizza and a tub of ice cream every day and you wouldn't see it; it was like a free card to eat whatever I wanted. And I was in London, dunking cookies in frosting. And she looked at me and was like, "What are you doing?" And I was like, "What do you mean? It's so good!" And she's like, "Do you know how toxic that is?" I said, "Yes." And she's like, "And you're still eating it." I was like, "You know what? She's so right." That was almost nine years ago. That was the last cookie dunked in frosting I ever had.

Tracy's Four-Minute Beauty Routine

"Getting my workout in doesn't make me feel selfish, but spending an hour on my makeup instead of making my son lunch—that would," Tracy says. "So I literally spend four or five minutes. I have a very clear process." Here's Tracy's routine start to finish. Ready? Set? Makeup!

"I begin with a tinted moisturizer: Estelle & Thild BioHydrate."

"I apply my Claudio Riaz concealer."

"Next I use a little blush balm—Tata Harper cheek tint."

"Mascara is next. I like Charlotte Tilbury Full Fat Lashes."

"Then the blush balm goes on my lips, too. Period. Done."

Tracy's Favorite...

Song that amps her up to work out: "'Live Forever,' by Travis Barker."

Way to eat eggs: "Omelet with mozzarella, spinach and tomato, well done."

Podcast: "What is a podcast? I'm just kidding. I know what a podcast is, but I've literally never listened to one. I listen to TED talks."

Kind of date: "I'm never going to get asked out again, but I was going to say eat! I love to go to dinner."

App: "Instagram. And I love Uber. In New York City, you can get an Uber with a car seat. That's brilliant because you can't put these little guys in taxis—even though my parents drove around with us all bouncing around in the station wagon!"

Item in her closet: "My vintage-looking RRL Ralph Lauren dresses. They're little cotton dresses that look very '50s. I wore one for Easter a couple of years ago, and my son was like, 'Mom, you look so pretty. You should dress like this every day.' Now I have several."

Gifts to give and receive: "Gwyneth and I have a tradition with our gifts. Every year for her birthday I get her shoes, and every year for my birthday she gets me a bag. I like getting 'wow' gifts that I would never buy for myself."

Pizza topping: "Pepperoni. I definitely do the gluten-free crust, but pepperoni all the way."