If physical perfection is a Hollywood religion, its guru is personal trainer Harley Pasternak, the guy responsible for the enviable shapes of Megan Fox, Halle Berry, Kanye West and Robert Pattinson, to name just a few of his celebrity devotees. With careful branding and a little Oprah pixie dust, Pasternak has become an unparallelled figure in the fitness industry. We asked him for the secrets of his success.
Mo money, no difference
Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten was from my father. He always said keep your ego in your wallet. As I’ve become more successful over the years, my spending habits haven’t changed. I have lived in the same house for 10 years, I drive the same car. I think a big part of being successful is not hopping on that hedonic treadmill.
Stick with what you (don’t) know
You hear people say “do what you know,” but I have done well by doing the exact opposite. I went from being a personal trainer to learning how to create recipes to learning how to write a book to learning how to design a video game. I am always looking for opportunities to learn and to create synergies. For example, I have a friend who works in home appliances. We were talking and I asked if they made blenders. They did and I have a blender cookbook coming out, so what if we were to brand it with the cookbook? That’s what we did.
In 2002 I was doing well working as a trainer in Toronto and working toward my masters when I got a call asking if I wanted to come to Montreal to train Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz and Robert Downey Jr. on the movie Gothika. The only problem was that they didn’t have the budget to pay me anywhere close to what I was making at this point. They said, “We’d love to have you, but you’re going to have to pay for your own hotel and cell phone and rental car.” My answer was, “I’ll be there tomorrow. I realized how huge training someone like Halle could be.”
Branding according to Oprah
[After training her for Catwoman] Halle called me and put me on the phone with Oprah, who said “Halle looks amazing. You need to write a book.” She asked me what I was going to call it and I said the name of the program I was developing, which was called Multiple Variation Training. Oprah said, “No, no – what are you really going to call it?” I realized what she was saying and that’s when I sort of stepped back and came up with the concept of the Five Factor Diet. It was an important lesson about branding.
Clothes don’t make the man
After I moved to Los Angeles, I learned a lot about not judging a book by its cover. You never know who anyone is there. I’ve got clients who are billionaires and wear jeans and T-shirts every day and I know people who drive fancy cars and wear fancy clothing and live at their parents’ house.
Maintain home turf advantage
My clients come to me. I don’t make house calls and I haven’t in 10 years. Originally this was just a basic decision – by working out of my home I can see a lot more clients in a day. But then as my clientele evolved into a who’s who, I realized that working from home was a very useful filter. The people I deal with are some of the most famous, powerful people in their fields, so their willingness to leave their comfort zone and to work on my terms shows me that they’re serious about committing to a program and making a difference.
Don’t make the other guy rich
Many years ago Jake Steinfeld (a.k.a. Body by Jake) told me I should stop making other people wealthy and start investing in myself. At this point I was doing a lot of endorsements for other products. Jake said I needed to stop diluting my own brand and that I should create my own products. Today I have my own running shoe, my own Wii game, my own line of snacks, workout DVDs, exercise equipment, books.
Do not covet the Fox’s flesh
Megan Fox’s body and most bodies are primarily genetics, so achieving that is just not going to be possible. We need to focus on being the best possible versions of ourselves.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Harley Pasternak's new book The Body Reset Diet will be on shelves March