Beth Behrs has been making us laugh as Caroline Channing on 2 Broke Girls since 2011, but now she has some new titles to add to her resume: author, foodie and empowerer. The actress’s new cookbook and lifestyle guide, The Total ME-Tox: How to Ditch Your Diet, Move Your Body, & Love Your Life, hits shelves on May 2, sharing easy recipes and exercise tips that are perfect for a busy collegiette.
We had the chance to talk with Beth about what a “ME-tox” is, what she eats for a quick pick-me-up and why she and her grandma have a special bond over cauliflower.
Photo Credit: Taren Maroun
In your book, you talk about realizing that to reach your goals you needed to change your lifestyle physically and mentally. Can you talk about that change and how you coined the term “ME-tox”?
Beth Behrs: “ME-tox” came much later, and I actually just kind of made up the word because I was trying to think of something that would make clear that this book was encouraging women, in a smart and friendly and warm and open way, to be human and not superhuman. At the end of the day, it’s about self-love and self-care, and through that getting empowerment—whatever that is for you, if it’s a “meh” workout or if you do like sweets sometimes. And how to truly enjoy your life while still living a healthy lifestyle.
For me, it was hard because I had come from living in a one-bedroom apartment post-college. I was sharing a one-bedroom and eating Top Ramen and Kraft Mac & Cheese. And then I booked 2 Broke Girls, and sort of overnight my life changed. And I was thrown into this pressure I had never experienced before—really long hours on set, and a lot of times on both movie and TV sets, there’s Doritos and donuts. I used to have the time to run or work out all the time, and then my time was limited being on this television show. So really for me it was, as I talk about [in] the book, a slow burn; it didn’t happen overnight. And I’m still trying to…put self-love and self-care first. It was truly a process, and I’m still on it, I’m still on the journey.
I think it’s sort of a life journey, but “ME-tox” to me just really means I’m helping more powerful women be the most authentic and best version of themselves, but without striving for perfection or having to check a box of success or performance, like “I have to have my body look like this.” Really just approaching it with joy and ease and warmth and then hopefully ultimately leading to empowerment, strength and loving yourself.
Why did you decide to translate all of these tips for healthy eating into a book, and what do you hope readers learn from it?
BB: That was a process of, over the years of my life, things that have helped me and have been super personal. I do Yoga with Adriene videos when I can’t get to a yoga class but I feel like I need to move my body, and I can do them for 10 minutes in my bedroom. The way I picked the material for the book was truly what worked for me, and sometimes I’m not someone who forces myself to go lift weights for two hours every day if I don’t feel like it. And I like to change things up. Sometimes I like to box or sometimes I want a lighter workout or to take a walk with my dog on a hike. And I think that was really important to me too—making sure that there was something that works for me. There’s less of a separation between my gym life and my personal life. And how cooking can be a form of meditation; it can destress as well as be healthy. Or hiking with the dog or connecting with animals and doing something you love—because you’re with your dog but you’re also moving your body.
We have a lot of talk [in the book] about working out with friends and cooking for friends. My fiancé is a great cook and a big foodie, and I talk about that in the book and, for us, all of these things have really built a community as well. I talk about…all of the things that helped me at least in these 31 years of my life. Keeping in mind that the book won’t be for everybody—but that’s the point of detox: take what works for you, and if it’s encouraging self-love and making you happy and self-care, then take it, and if not there’s no pressure, you know? So I wanted it to be happy, funny and fun to read and not like it felt like a task or that it was about losing 10 pounds or something like that. But that it was a truly “from the inside out” type of situation.
Photo Credit: Taren Maroun
Your book includes a list of reasons why people say they can’t cook and why, no matter what, they usually can. Do you have any cooking or healthy eating advice for college students who may not have easy access to a kitchen or healthy foods?
BB: Well, the great thing about farmers’ markets—which I’m sure most college towns have if you can find them—it’s going to be cheaper, the produce and everything. There’s those little NutriBullets if you can’t have a full blender, and I have one in my dressing room. You can throw spinach and fruit in that and get all the veggies you need for the day in a great-tasting situation. Because I’d rather drink my salad because I’m not a big salad fan and I wasn’t in college either. So adding something like that—I know it’s an investment to have it, but maybe it’ll save money in the long run if you’re not ordering pizza or having to go out to eat, which can be more expensive.
So I’d say finding a local farmers’ market—like, I just bought these the other day and they’re sitting right next to me, garlic pistachios, to bring with you to class. I bring these little nuts that I get from farmers’ markets to set all the time; it’s just a great pick-me-up when you’re busy and don’t want to spend more money, and you just keep it in your bag. I guess if you can’t cook I would say scouring things like farmers’ markets—and in the book we have trail mix recipes—and planning ahead for your week. It really does not have to cost a lot of money to be healthy at the end of the day. And if you want pizza, you’re in college and you’re stressed out, you should have pizza! Not every night, but also you have to live your life. I definitely think you have to strike a balance, but it’s definitely doable.
What was the most intimidating aspect of learning about fresh, healthy food and incorporating it into your daily life?
BB: Well, I think that the misconception about it for me—who was a really, really picky eater and grew up in small-town Virginia, where it was meat-and-potatoes and junk food, and there wasn’t really the Californian, vegan [lifestyle]—it’s not going to taste good because we think, “Oh, healthy eating, it’s not going to taste good,” but then actually it can taste delicious. I was always so intimidated by cooking. I always thought it was so hard, but actually if you’re in college and you’re following or reading instructions for your class, it’s the same exact thing. It’s fun to play with flavors and taste the things I was always so scared to before. My fiancé actually really helped encourage, “Instead of ordering chicken saagwala, Indian chicken, why don’t we make a healthy version of our own with Greek yogurt? How? I don’t know, we’ll figure it out as we go!” Then it becomes kind of fun and creative, and there’s no pressure. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart overnight, and you probably won’t be; and neither will I! And that’s OK!
Why do you think it was important to include advice from nutritionists in your book?
BB: Well, because I’m not an expert, I’m an actress. I really just wanted [to have] people who are of true authority in this space but who also live by the principles of the total “ME-tox”—that it’s everything in moderation and that self-care is self-love above all versus having to look a certain way. It’s truly about how you feel from the inside out.
Are there recipes in the book that are personal favorites for you, and why?
BB: Yes, actually the Indian chicken is one of my favorites because I make it pretty much once a week because it’s really great to keep for lunches and it’s really healthy. Everybody on my set is sick right now, and in the spicy Indian chicken and spinach—saagwala—there’s fresh ginger and garlic and spinach, so I feel like it also really is able to kick up my immune system. That’s definitely the one that I pretty much cook at least once a week.
I also like the curried cauliflower recipe because my grandma does not eat vegetables ever, including salad. She’s just not into it. And I dedicated the book to her and I made her the curried cauliflower over the holidays, and she was obsessed. She was like, “I have never had cauliflower in my life.” She’s 80. And she loved it, so that is just sentimental to me because every time I look at the cauliflower recipe in the book, I’m like, “Gram loves this!” And it’s so easy to make—the cauliflower one is super easy.
Photo Credit: Dana Gallagher
You also talk about the importance of fitting exercise into your life. What exercise advice from your book do you think is most relevant to busy college students?
BB: I think the philosophy behind what we call “meh” workouts. If you’ve been studying all night and you have an exam, sometimes the last thing you want to do is go to the gym for two hours, so I found these videos that I still use all the time called Yoga with Adriene. They’re free and they’re on YouTube, and you can pick anywhere from a seven-minute video to an hour. She also has stuff like yoga for stress and anxiety, yoga for creativity, and her whole philosophy really goes well with the “ME-tox” philosophy because it’s all about finding what feels good for you.
I’d say the best advice I have for college students is make sure what you’re doing [is what] you enjoy and that you don’t force your body when you don’t have the energy or you’re not emotionally feeling like you really want to go run on the treadmill. Then go take a walk outside or hike in your college hood or something. Finding things that make you happy as opposed to feeling like a task—because I know for me, when working out feels like a task, I’m not going to do it. I have to find something that excites me. Dance in your underwear to the new Beyoncé album! It doesn’t have to be SoulCycle or something expensive or very intense in order to make you feel good and to make your body feel good.
You’re also an advocate for sexual assault survivors and a self-proclaimed “nasty woman.” Why are these causes important to you?
BB: A dear friend of mine in college was sexually assaulted on her campus, and we Googled what to do and found this amazing organization called the Rape Treatment Center here in L.A. that I was able to take her to the morning after. So ever since that happened, it’s been a cause—fighting for survivors—that is just so near and dear to my heart, especially on campus.
We’re starting a nonprofit called SheHerdPower, which is going to provide an equine therapy retreat weekend for female survivors of sexual assault abuse. That’s kind of my next endeavor that I’m pursuing that also goes along with the cause of sexual assault just from my own personal experience. I’m sure your readers are familiar [through] their own college campuses with that, and I hope that our website and our program can be a resource for survivors and encourage us to keep talking about it and help hold colleges accountable for how they handle sexual assault and making sure we take care of survivors after the fact as well.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.