Actor Naomie Harris Says Her Health Is Her Proudest Accomplishment
After overcoming a serious condition as a child, the star is on a mission to stay healthy and fit.
Naomie Harris, 43, learned the importance of physical and mental strength as a child in London. "Around age 11, I was diagnosed with scoliosis," she says. "The progression of the disease became severe in my teens, and I needed an operation. Doctors inserted a metal rod down my spine. I spent a month in the hospital recovering and had to learn how to walk again. It was really traumatic."
That experience taught Naomie not to take her health for granted. "I saw kids in the hospital with scoliosis so advanced that they would never be able to stand properly," she says. "I felt really lucky. Since then, I have always appreciated the gift of a healthy body."
Today, Naomie works out regularly, meditates daily, and eats healthfully, and she doesn't drink alcohol or coffee. "I don't abuse my body," Naomie says. "Health is the greatest thing you can have." (Related: What Are the Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol?)
She has channeled that strength into a successful movie career, one that includes athletic feats and stunt work. Naomie stars in the film Black and Blue (opening October 25) as a rookie cop who runs for her life while fighting police corruption. "Alicia, the character I play, is kick-ass, and that's wonderful," Naomie says. "But she also has moral strength, and that's a rare thing." Naomie knows a thing or two about being tough. She plays Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films, and in 2017 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her powerful performance as an abusive, drug-addicted mother in Best Picture winner Moonlight.
Despite her hectic shootings schedule, Naomie always finds time for what matters most. Here's how she makes her health the priority.
I Constantly Challenge Myself
"After my scoliosis operation, it took me a long time to become active again because I didn't want to do anything that could hurt me in any way. I was very protective of my body. When I started making films that required me to be physically active, I realized that my body was capable of doing a lot more than I thought it was, and that if I exercise I become stronger. So now I do Pilates twice a week. It's physically challenging but in a nuanced way. During a session, my instructor might work with me on just one area of my body. I love that it's so detailed and that it focuses the mind too." (Try this Megaformer-inspired workout to understand what she means.)
"I also swim. I go to the pool three times a week for 45 minutes. I find it incredibly relaxing and centering. You feel like you've worked hard, but it's soothing as well." (Related: The Best Swimming Exercises You Can Do That Aren't Laps)
My Body Gets What It Needs
"I'm a really healthy eater. I believe that only through trial and error do you find what works for you, and my diet is based on what I've discovered from years of experimenting and listening to my body. For one thing, I incorporate Ayurvedic principles. That means plenty of warm, nourishing foods like stews and soups, even for breakfast. I have a really fast metabolism, so if I don't eat something filling in the morning, I'll be hungry again in five minutes.
"But I do think the 80-20 rule is important. I've learned that it doesn't work if you become too neurotic about food. I once went off sugar for three months, and then one day I ate five candy bars! You have to have some treats every now and then. I'm obsessed with chocolate. And fresh warm bread with butter and cheese is my idea of heaven." (Related: Why the 80/20 Rule Is the Gold Standard of Dietary Balance)
There's Always a Goal In View
"Meditation has changed my life and the way I deal with stress. I do it twice a day for 20 minutes. It forces me to stop whatever I'm doing and take a break. "That's crucial because I have to have a goal. It keeps me expanding and growing and learning, and it forces me out of my comfort zone to develop new skills. My mom taught me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard. And I believe that." (Related: The Best Meditation Apps for Beginners)
Role Model Is a Term I Take Seriously
"I never really considered myself a role model, but people have called me one, so I guess I probably am. I've always tried to live my best possible life. I want to be an upstanding citizen and contribute. I'm an ambassador for a youth theater group in the U.K. that works with kids from troubled backgrounds, I'm an advocate for a mental health group, and I work with a charity that helps children in South Africa who have been affected by AIDS and HIV. I try to use my voice and bring awareness to these critical issues.
"I also want to present positive images of being a woman, especially a woman of color. That's so important to me. In my work, I've stayed away from stereotypical roles because I don't want to reinforce them. It's such a privilege to be in the public eye, and I try to do as much good as I can."