The Real Life Diet of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Who Found Out the Hard Way That Pilates Isn’t As Easy As It Looks

Jesse Tyler Ferguson tells me he’s an introvert, but I don’t think I believe him. The guests he’s had on his podcast, Dinner’s On Me, read like a who’s who of Hollywood: Dax Shephard, Mandy Moore, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks... And, remarkably, Ferguson has the same easy rapport with celebs he’s just met (like Geri Halliwell-Horner, aka Ginger Spice) as he does with longtime friends (such as Modern Family co-stars Julie Bowen and Ed O’Neill).

Ferguson chalks the free-flowing convos up to his podcast’s unusual setting: restaurants around New York City and Los Angeles. “I feel like people are more themselves and they open up a lot more when they're having a meal with someone,” says Ferguson.

Sure—the show’s gimmick works; it’s delightful to hear the guests banter with the waitstaff as they order their chai lattes. But if you ask me, you don’t get Bryan Cranston to open up about the time he was wanted for murder unless you have a way with people.

“I really do hunger for my friendships and just interacting with people that I love,” Ferguson concedes. And, for him, these relationships are just as nourishing as any comfort food.

On the heels of the premiere of Dinner’s On Me’s second season, the Tony Award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor lets me be the one to ask the questions and fills me in on the wellness habits that lighten him up.

For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.

GQ: Dinner’s On Me is recorded at restaurants across NYC and LA. Do you consider yourself a foodie? How important is food for you in your life?

Jesse Tyler Ferguson: Well, that’s one of the reasons I love this idea of the podcast: I love going out to eat. I am a foodie—although I hate the word foodie.


I've written a cookbook; I love creating meals at home, and I love eating. So, my podcast is a fun combination of two things that I love doing: eating and having great conversations. It also gives me the opportunity to shine a light on some of these restaurants. It's chefs that I really admire. A lot of people send me messages saying, oh my gosh, I've gotten so many great restaurant recommendations just from your podcast alone.

Following this food thread, the name of this column is obviously Real Life Diet. Can you walk me through what a typical day of eating looks like for you?

I was looking at the other people that you've had on this column, and it's like… Let's be honest. Let's be honest, Abbey! They're athletes, they're Bachelors, it's Simu Liu, who’s literally a superhero. So I’m honored that anyone's interested in what my diet is, but it's not going to be as much of a diet as maybe some of those other people.

I try to eat healthy. I'm married to someone who's 10 years younger than me, and he likes to eat Paleo mostly. So, I find myself eating similarly to how he eats. I used to be pretty strict about eating Paleo. I wouldn't eat any corn or any beans; it was just meat. And I would use small amounts of butter, and I would just use ghee, and I'd measure out the olive oil—and it just felt like: Okay, I’m not really living. I am someone who loves food so much. I love finding healthier ways to eat things, but I don't want to worry so much about what I'm putting in my mouth.

That being said, I try to eat healthy, and I try to eat things that are going to make me feel good. I'm also trying to be a good example for my children, who are picky eaters, saying, "You can eat anything you want. You don't have to worry about it." So, I'm trying to live by example.

I'm not a huge breakfast person. I sometimes will even not eat breakfast at all. I'll just have coffee to sort of power me through until I am starving around lunch, and I know that's probably not the greatest thing.

I am not a breakfast person, either. And, through my line of work as a wellness journalist, I met with an Ayurvedic doctor a few months ago, and he told me that that's okay! Some people aren’t breakfast people, and coffee is great in the morning.

Yeah, I feel good about it.

Well, you might not be a professional athlete or a superhero, but I actually love speaking with actors for this column because something that I find so interesting is that your schedules are so jam-packed. This means everyone has a different strategy for regimenting their days and prioritizing things like healthy eating and exercise. What does exercise look like for you? How important is working out?

Exercise is very important for me—and just for my mental health, as well. I find that if I don't do something active, it usually means I'm going to have a bad day. I'm also the type of person who has a really hard time working out after 11 a.m. I kind of need to get it done, or else it's probably not going to happen. I literally forced myself to get on a Peloton for 30 minutes [this morning] because I knew I had this call, and I knew I had a little window of time. I did not want to do it. Even when I started, I was like, There's no way I’m able to get through this 30 minutes. But I just stopped talking myself out of it and did it.

When I was shooting Modern Family, I would oftentimes have to be set at 6:30 in the morning, and so that meant leaving my house by 6 a.m. I justified it in my head that I could take a 5 a.m. Barry's Bootcamp class on my way to the studio, which meant I had to get up at 4:15 or so to make it to the class on time. I was doing that for a while because it was really important to kickstart my day with a workout. I was then exhausted by 5:00 because I got up so early, but it really helped me to get through the day. So if I find myself shooting something where the schedule's really tough, as long as I'm not working late nights, I will try to get up extra early and do something before the day begins.

I love Pilates. I’ve started taking Pilates classes. I was one of those people who—probably it's slightly male chauvinistic for me to say—but I walked into the room, and I was like, I got this. It's all these ladies in Lulu… And I was by far the weakest member in the room—all these ladies were kicking my ass. And so I was like, Okay, this is challenging for me! I've gotten better at it; I'm really proud of myself. But I don't think I'll ever be as good as some of the people I take these Pilates classes with. They're just superheroes to me.

Do you have a favorite Peloton instructor?

I mean, it's Cody [Rigsby]. But also, I will search for whoever's doing a Broadway-themed ride. I love a themed ride—a Beyoncé-themed ride; I think there's an Usher one out right now.

Your podcast roster of guests makes clear that you have a ton of friends. Do you think about your friendships and your relationships with other people as being core to your well-being?

Yeah, I definitely feel I get a little depressed when I haven't seen friends and loved ones for a while. I'm also an introvert, and I love being at home. I love being at home by myself. I'm totally cool if Justin, my husband, wants to go out with some friends and I stay home with the kids and get in bed early and watch something on TV. That's awesome. But after a while, after maybe a week of that, I really do hunger for my friendships and just interacting with people I love. And so I think definitely it is part of my wellness routine to try and see people—especially when I'm working because I can get very tied up in work, and then that's all I do. Then I need to remind myself that I have a life and I have friends that aren't part of that career.

Something that’s really captured public interest recently is this idea of having a health span and approaching health through a longevity lens. How has your approach to food and fitness and wellness evolved as you’ve gotten older?

When I was a teenager, I had a very, very high metabolism. I could eat anything and just not gain any weight—and people hated me for that! That lasted until my mid-twenties, and then it started to slow down. Now, I'll be 49 this year, and I feel like I'm in better shape than I've been in a long time just because I've had to stay more on a routine and I've had to sort of think about what I'm eating.

As a newish dad—I have a three-and-a-half-year-old and a 15-month-old—I can't drink booze as much as I used to. The hangover really kills me. So I've naturally cut back on my liquor intake and turned to non-alcoholic options when I go out, just because I can't be groggy the next day. I save the booze for the really special occasions., I think that’s helped me just with losing weight and not being so puffy. And then, of course, I have more energy for the day, and I have a better workout….I feel like I have a little bit more energy, even though I’m a new father. I also nap really hard when I need to. When I go down, I go down hard. I love a nap.

I also love a nap. Do you have tips for falling asleep?

Someone told me that if you have a cup of espresso—and I've tried this—right before you nap, the espresso will naturally kick in after about 20 minutes and naturally wake you up. And that's about how long you really should nap for.

Are you into any wellness trends, gadgets, or practices?

The Oura Ring—but sometimes that gives me too much information. I was like, I'll base how I slept on what my ring is telling me rather than how I feel. Or I'll use it as an excuse if it says I didn't get enough sleep. I'm like, Oh, I shouldn’t work out too hard today. So, I'm trying not to look at it too closely. But I do think it's interesting to see my sleep patterns through the night. Of course, my Peloton is something I love. Justin and I both do acupuncture.

I've started getting IV drips. I started doing them when I was doing a play in New York over the winter. It was COVID and flu season, I was traveling back and forth to Los Angeles, I had a newborn, and I just was really worried about getting sick. So once a week, I would get a shot of multivitamins, and it would give me crazy energy for a few days and make me feel really good. It might've been a placebo, but it made me feel like I was really taking control of my health.

I also like cryotherapy rooms. I was doing that two or three times a week to help recover from my workouts.

My last question, which maybe should have been my first question, is do you have a personal philosophy when it comes to well-being? What does being well mean to you?

It's changed over the years. Now, as a 49-year-old, what it means to me is my happiness level, feeling rested, and feeling good about myself. I try not to step on a scale too much. The best barometer is how you feel in your body, and I think that that should be enough. And that’s a perfect example as to why I have this love-hate relationship with my Oura ring. I don't want a number on my phone telling me how I should feel. The other day, Justin and I were looking outside, and it was pouring rain, and he was like, “But it doesn't say it's supposed to rain on my phone.” And I was like, “It's literally raining.” I was like, this is the perfect analogy of how we should be feeling. If we're feeling good, it shouldn't matter what a device is telling us.

I know what makes me feel good, what doesn't make me feel good, and what foods make me feel gross and what foods don't. And I know if I'm feeling heavy, at the end of the day, it's probably because of something that I've done. So I really try to just, I guess, be accountable for my actions and know that there's always a reason as to why I'm feeling a certain way. And to let myself off the hook, too! I'm here to enjoy life.

Originally Appeared on GQ