Health

‘The Umbrella Academy’ Star Tom Hopper Shares How He Changed His Life By Changing His Diet

Tom Hopper Dishes on Breaking Away From Fad Diet Culture for Good

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We’ve all been guilty of putting in a little too much time at the gym or ordering more takeout than we need, for a night of binge-watching in front of the television, but for actor Tom Hopper, striking the right balance between wellness and learning to cultivate a healthy mindset around diet culture didn’t come easy.

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After years of going to nutritionists and dietitians, following endless fad diets, and obsessing over why his contemporaries were seeing better results than he was, Hopper was ready to move on from the never-ending loop. Leaning into cooking the right foods for his family’s personal needs turned out to be exactly what he needed to stop the cycle.

Below, we spoke to The Umbrella Academy actor on exactly how he overcame his self-inflicted obsession with fad diet culture and what he and his family have done to take their health and wellness to the next level — without ever having to go on another diet again.

AskMen: What was your experience dealing with body image pressure as a man?

Tom Hopper: I put a lot of pressure on myself, let’s put it that way. Initially, when I got into acting I felt like I needed to look a certain way — I was going to a lot of auditions where I had to take my shirt off to audition for a role. It was all about how you looked and I suppose once I knew that diet had something to do with that I became obsessed with it.

AM: What sort of caveats did you have while trying all these fad diets?

TH: I knew that diet was a factor so I would read food labels, watch what I ate, and just tried to find the perfect diet. I went through a period of time where I was being put on these diets by so-called “nutritionists” and no matter what I did, I never felt optimal. I always felt like I was lacking in energy, like something was missing.

I felt like I was doing long-form math, going through a process of elimination to see what diet worked for me and I became obsessed. It became such a big part of my life. It would raw me when I would go out for dinner and it was on my mind all the time.

AM: How did you end up breaking out of that cycle?

TH: Seeing someone else follow the exact same diet as me and getting amazing results. I felt like something was obviously not right. I wanted to find an answer to that and eventually, I came across this company called Viome. What it created was a calculator that takes out the guesswork.

AM: How did Viome help you get into a routine that made sense for you personally?

TH: I think what happened was that it was an effect of what we were trying to do for my son. Freddie is autistic and non-verbal and we were trying to do whatever we could to help him along with his journey — he was having a lot of pain and gut issues. A friend of mine, who is a fitness trainer, was telling me about how he fixed his gut through this new technology that tests your poop! I was like, okay, interesting let’s look into that.

I was looking into how the gut affects autism and it turns out the gut really affects so much. It can create brain fog and all kinds of problems in development in the brain. I thought we’d try it out for Freddie and at the same time, try it for my wife, Laura, and myself.

This was really the major turning point for us. We tested Freddie and got all these results back about the things we were feeding him. In fact, a really good example is the banana. You think bananas aren’t going to be very harmful to anyone but it turns out that bananas are a really big problem food for Freddie. They were creating all sorts of gut irritation.

The one thing that made me go ‘wow’ was that there are all these diet wars — the vegan diet, the paleo diet, the keto diet…— but you see all these varied results. That’s because there are certain people who respond well to certain things but then plateau because the body is always in flux.

The only way to know what you’re doing is to have something that allows you to see the inner workings, or else it’s guesswork. That’s what has been so amazing for Freddie and for my family. I’m no longer doing the guesswork.


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AM: How has this technology changed the way your family spends time in the kitchen together?

TH: Well, I’m a big chef — I love cooking — and I get so excited when I get to experiment and make delicious foods for my son and my family. It’s kind of like a double win thing: we get something delicious that we want to eat but I know that it’s perfect for our bodies.

Sometimes it’s cumbersome but I love trying to experiment and find a meal that fits everyone’s needs. For example, I love to make spaghetti bolognese. I make this recipe that has no tomato (which I can’t eat) and includes turkey meat (which is a superfood for Freddie). I make a ragu with sweet potato that has all the same flavors as the Italian tomato ragu sauce. All it is, really, is thinking outside the box and experimenting.

I believe everyone should get back to the kitchen anyway. The fast-food world and processed food world have taken away the family comfort element of cooking and eating together. These days, my daughter, Truly, will come and watch and get involved in the kitchen with my cooking. That’s really important to me because I want her to think that cooking and feeding yourself is normal.

Laura and I have just kind of gotten comfortable with making mistakes in the kitchen. I think experimenting and just kind of being comfortable saying “no that one wasn’t as good as this one,” or “this one wasn’t so good,” or “this one is really good,” is key. You’ll occasionally get a gem that’s just amazing but sometimes you’ll get one that’s more meh – but then you can always tweak it! That’s the fun. It’s a family activity and I think approaching it that way is the best way to make it work.

AM: What sort of mindset shifts did you have to go through to change your diet so significantly?

TH: I used to eat a terrible diet. I would smash 12 Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting, I would go to McDonald’s and have a Big Mac meal with a large strawberry shake, and then two cheeseburgers on the side… I was that guy.

I remember being miserable a lot of the time, I would have brain fog, I certainly wasn’t in good mental or physical shape. I felt like I couldn’t make a decision and I got moody really easily. I think if people are struggling or feel that things are a little off, before popping a pill or going to all kinds of doctors, maybe take a look at what’s going in their mouth.

The one constant in our lives is the food we eat every day and we make a decision every single time we put something in our mouths as to what information to give our body. I never realized that until I took notice of it. I think if everyone started doing that, the positive change we’d see across the board would be astronomically huge.


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