Interview – Morris Chestnut Talks Personal Fitness and Changing Lives With The Help Of Verizon Wireless

Morris Chestnut - Verizon Campaign

Morris Chestnut is making great strides in not only his personal health and fitness but also in the lives of many around the country. From getting in the best shape of his life for his lead role in the box-office hit ‘The Best Man Holiday,’ to partnering with Verizon Wireless’ Potential Of Us campaign, a Black History Month initiative, which focuses on “participating in challenges that positively impact the community” – Morris Chestnut is on a mission! We had the pleasure of speaking with Morris during his stop in Los Angeles, California, where he hosted Verizon’s Potential of Us 5k Run/Walk along with partner Black Girls RUN! Find out how Morris stays in shape, what tips he has for healthy living, what obstacles he had to overcome in his personal fitness, his plans to use health and fitness as a vehicle moving forward, and more!  

BFT: Please, tell us a little bit about the purpose of the Potential of Us campaign and your involvement with the project?

MC: The Potential Of Us campaign is what I like to call a movement – it’s a movement to encourage and inspire people to reach their true potential in whatever walk of life, or whatever areas of their life so they can make an impact on our communities. My involvement with the project; I have begged and slept at the doorstep of Verizon for like the last three years trying to get them to do something with me [laughs]. No, actually to be honest with you, I have always loved what Verizon stood for, [they are] very strong and they’ve always had some type of community outreach. So I have wanted to work with Verizon for a long time now and when this program came up it seemed like a great time for them to accept me into the family helping people reach their full potential; and this is something that I believed in – just changing the way people see themselves and their potential and how they can make a change in the community.

BFT: How has the experience been so far partnering with Verizon to help give back and build a stronger African American community?

MC: So far it’s been great. It’s going to be a great challenge tomorrow and I’m looking forward to that because it’s along the lines of what you guys are about with the health and wellness. I’m really excited to see who comes out tomorrow because I know there’s going to be people who are really active and really get out there and run, they walk, go to the gym three to five times a week but I’m really excited to see the people who don’t necessarily do that; the people who don’t really get those opportunities to work out or maybe just haven’t really been motivated to work out as much – I’m really excited to see how many of those people we can get out tomorrow.

BFT: Now we know you’re into health and fitness because we had a chance to speak with your trainer Obi Obadike about helping you prepare for Best Man Holiday – how has fitness impacted your life and career?

MC: Wow! Fitness has definitely impacted my life and career. Most of the time when I’m on-screen people see me and I’m in shape a lot of the time and I think that’s contributed to my career and my health – I feel healthy and I think it all comes together [because] for me to be doing this after 20+ years being in the business; I see some people who aren’t as fortunate to keep themselves together with their health and wellness, which to me, I’m a huge proponent of because once your health starts to deteriorate sometimes it’s kind of hard to reverse that path that you’re going down with deteriorating health; so I’m just a huge proponent of that.

BFT: It’s safe to say you inspired a lot of people to step their game up after leaving watching Best Man Holiday; we get a lot of traffic to our site from “Morris Chestnut Abs,” article on helping you train for the movie. How do you plan to use health and fitness as a vehicle moving forward?

Morris Chestnut - Muscle & Performance

MC: Tomorrow is a vehicle and being out in the community getting the word out about health and wellness. They’ve been advertising on the radio out here about the [Potential of Us 5K Walk/Run] event and people have heard the advertisement but if they say “hey Morris Chestnut is there, I want to go out there and participate,” that’s one step in the right direction to being healthy and getting exercise. So I think we have an opportunity to make an impact and it’s not just in LA – I’ll be in LA but it’s going to be a number of cities across the country and I think it’s just the first step in the direction of getting a large number of people to become involved in getting healthy and exercising.

BFT: You’re going to be participating with Black Girls RUN!, is that correct?

MC: That’s correct.

BFT: They’re a great organization and they’ve accomplished a lot of things. How has it been partnering with Black Girls RUN?

MC: This is going to be my first event with Black Girls RUN!, but I’m excited because I believe in everything that they stand for and it’s really at the core of [many issues] because here’s  the thing, even my wife sometimes after she gets her hair done “well babe I don’t want to go work out because I don’t want to get my hair done;” it’s always easier to come up with excuses not to work out than to work out. So if I can help people and get people out there to decide to start running; and African-American women, hopefully the fellas will take heed and say “wait a minute, Black Girls Run!? You mean it’s going to be a lot of Black girls out there? Let me gone out there and see if I can meet me somebody!” We have to get the fellas out there to, you know what I’m saying? [laughs] so we’re trying to come at everybody from a lot of different angles.

BFT: What’s your advice to people looking to begin living a healthier lifestyle? What’s the best way to begin the transition and how do you stay on track after you begin?

MC: That’s a great question. The best with for people to start living a healthy lifestyle is in my opinion, first of all you must have the motivation to do it because with health and wellness it always starts with your diet and if you can get the diet together and have a combination of diet and exercise, you can get the optimum effect that you want but it really starts with the right mindset.  You have to really want to do it because like I said it’s always easier to find excuses not to do it than find reasons to do it, and people always fall back on that. So if you just start with your diet; I used to like to eat sweets like every day, then when I start dieting for movie or TV show I would have to cut it back a little bit and not eat it five days a week, then eat four days out of the week, then eat it three days out the week and then eat it one day out the week – but just take the first step, then be patient because people often look for a magic pill or a great piece of exercise equipment that they see on TV and the person demonstrating didn’t even use it to get in that type of shape. There is no magic pill, there’s no magic piece of exercise equipment; just get your diet together and start exercising – even when I say exercising, walking is a great exercise! So get your diet together and exercise and that would be a great way for them to start to a healthier lifestyle.

BFT: Getting in the best shape of your life for Best Man Holiday – what obstacles did you have to overcome?

Morris Chestnut - Best Man Holiday
Photo courtesy of theybf

MC: Well I’m a pretty disciplined person when I put my mind to something so the only obstacle I really had to overcome was sweets. I had to really cut down of my sweets because I do eat healthy but when I don’t have to be in front of the camera, when I’m not doing movies or a television show I tend to fall back and my diet isn’t as strict. So the main obstacle for me was my diet and eating sweets, and bread! You know black people love bread [laughs] I go to a restaurant and I eat so much bread that they keep bringing out – the waiter always gets mad at me and says “dude you got to pull back on the bread, man” [laughs] the chef is getting mad because no one else can get bread – but yeah I had to cut the bread and the sweets out and those were my main obstacles.

BFT: Now here’s a reality question and it has to do with nutrition: many people believe in the 80:20 rule; eat healthy 80% of the time and 20% have some balance. How important is it to have balance?

MC: The balance is very important and what I like to tell people is that the my 80/20 is 80% of being in great physical condition is your diet and 20% is exercise and that’s just me, I’m not a trainer, I didn’t study this but that’s kind of what I like to do. I really like to emphasize the diet because I see people in the gym all the time who work out so hard – they do cardio for an hour to an hour and a half a day but they really don’t see any changes and I don’t say anything because it’s their business but I already know that it’s their diet. If people would change their diet and then really put the emphasis on the diet because you can honestly eat right and still be in some pretty good shape depending on your diet. So if you put the emphasis of 80% on your diet and 20% on your exercise I think you’ll be in great shape.

BFT: Now on the other side, what is one of your favorite healthy meals, and one of your favorite cheat meals?

MC: With me I’m very fortunate because I’m a creature of habit and I don’t really like a lot of different foods so a standard meal for me is chicken breast and some greens, maybe broccoli or some green beans and that’s pretty standard – even sometimes when I go to a restaurant I’ll eat grill chicken; I’m just a creature of habit, I don’t really desire a lot of different foods but one of my favorite cheat meals is fried chicken and people always look at me crazy when order it in restaurants. I don’t [get a chance to] eat fried chicken and my wife never fries fried chicken in our house so when I go to a restaurant and I’m ordering fried chicken people look at me like “well you can make that at home, man!,” and it’s like I don’t eat that at home so that’s why I like to eat fried chicken along with the bread and sweets.

BFT: Lastly, many celebrities have gone on to create fitness books and DVDs, such as Kelly Rowland, Nelly, LL Cool J and 50cent – when can we expect a Morris Chestnut fitness product?

MC: [Laughs] I definitely would like to be involved with something like that in the future – that’s definitely something I would love to be involved with because to me it’s a gradual thing; I just want to show people what I do by example and I don’t just want to do movie one day and all of a sudden they see me on an infomercial “Hey, this is Morris Chestnut, AND YOU can have abs!” you know what I’m saying? So I want to show them by example that it’s more than just a piece of exercise equipment or a diet pill that everyone’s talking about now; it’s more than that. So I want to show them by example first and get out here with the run/walk event and they can come see how I live my life and then whatever piece of exercise equipment it is [that I might endorse] it’s kind of like the icing on the cake, so to speak.

BFT: Awesome! Well it’s been a pleasure speaking with you and picking your brain about health and fitness and we wish you luck with the project with Verizon and maybe next time we can link up.

MC: Thank you. Most definitely, I thank you for the conversation.

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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