An Interview With Fitness and Healthy Eating Expert Tosca Reno

Tosca Reno is renowned in the fitness and health industry having written numerous very successful “eat clean” cookbooks. She is also a columnist for “Oxygen Magazine” and “Eatting Cean” as well as a contributor to “Reps”magazine. Tosca has been seen on several TV shows including “Good Morning America”,”The Marilyn Denis Show”, “Entertainment Tonight”, “The Montel Williams Show”and the “Doctors”. In addition, Tosca is also a motivational speaker, wellness consultant, media personality and model.


 Interview by Donna Spangler


D: You’re an amazing lady, by the way. You are an inspiration, especially for women that are more mature, like myself.


T: That’s the whole point right?


D: These days women are a lot younger physically inside than they used to be, say way back when.


T: There are probably a lot of women who see the light, right?


D: When did you start to live by your eat clean diet?

T: 13 years ago. I was 39.


D: What inspired you to create your first book?



T: The first book wasn’t specifically a cook book, though every book does have a recipe. The original, Eat Clean Diet, was simply a way for me to tell my story. I had made such powerful changes in my physique, my emotional well being, and in my weight, that people began to ask questions all the time. I had to repeat the story so many times, I thought, “Enough of that, I’m going to tell my story in a book,” and so the book was born. No one foresaw that this would become as big as it has become, so obviously it is helpful for a lot of us to find.”


D: You know, what I really liked reading, was at 42 you went out there and did your physique contest and you took 5th place! I thought that was awesome!


T: Yeah, you know the funny thing is, I wasn’t even intending on placing. To me it was just the journey. I was standing backstage, they called my name five times, and finally somebody had to come get me, because it really wasn’t sinking in. You know? It wasn’t about winning at all.


D: Did you do anymore contests after that?


T: Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ve done several. Two of them were televised on a TV show called “Tosco Flexing at 49,” which was like a docu-soap. That was two years ago.


D: Wow, congrats on that! I’m going to google that and find it. So, you would encourage women over 40 to go out and do these contests?


T: Well, I do. I think you have to set goals for yourself, especially when you’re really making the big physical changes in your life. You have to set goals, and competing is a great way to do it. Through the process of competing, you truly have to face yourself, and a lot of the journey is about learning who you are.


D: That's great, and I agree with you, you have to set goals. Goals are important, and I’m glad that you put that message out there for females. Without goals, you know, it’s kind of like existing without dreams... you can’t get anywhere.


T: I know, it’s a wonderful thing, really.


D: Back to the book, how did you come up with the recipes?


T: Always in my kitchen, born out of love. I practice on my kids and my family regularly, whether they like it or not. I first look at the power of the nutrition, then I look at how I can combine flavors to create the ideal in macro nutrient ratio in a meal and go from there. I want things to be easy too. They have to taste good and be easy.


D: Yeah that’s important, being easy. Which one of the books is your favorite, as far as cook books?


T: Well, it’s hard to pick a favorite…


D: Well, as far as the recipes, maybe you have one that you are more passionate about?


T: Well I’m fond of the first book simply because no one saw that coming at all. We did our very first print run in January 2007, and we thought, "Okay, well we’ll start with 5,000 copies and see how we do." We blew thru those copies in two week’s time. We never looked back after that. It’s what started everything in the crazy madness,with the Eat Clean Diet, and it helped me find my a voice. So, there will always be a fondness for that. I’m particularly proud of every single book because each is a different expression of various aspects of an Eat Clean lifestyle. I just see people responding so positively. Recharge has been a powerful book.


D: Did you meet your husband before all of this?


T: No.


D: During?


T: It was during. The time when I was beginning to make changes in my own body I was a real neophyte, an amateur, I had no idea what to do, so I did what everybody else did. You know, you strap on the running shoes, you get on the treadmill, and make a fool of yourself. I had no idea how to nourish myself. But at the same time I was also cleaning out my personal health. I decided to go back to school and become a teacher. I met Robert on the playground where his daughter attended school. It was grade one, and the day is etched in my mind forever. That’s when I met him and it certainly wasn’t because I was looking. I was so busy thinking of how I was going to support my three daughters, that meeting a man was the last thing on my list, yet that’s what happened. We stayed in contact for various reasons. I was doing interior design work and was working on a project that was close to him. About a year later he just said, “I want you to accept this challenge from me, because I think you can do this...” the challenge was to compete in the Body Lean Contest at age 42. As we began the process of preparing for that, I learned how to eat clean. That was the magic switch, it was like the light finally went on. It was incredible.


D: Did he have the magazine then?


T: Oh yeah. He is an icon in the industry (Robert Kennedy). He’s been publishing Muscle Mag for sixty odd years. He brought his best friend and manager, Gino Edwards over from England and they sit here, practically every day, working together on the magazine. But you know, it’s a full-fledged monster industry. Muscle Mag was the first one, then came Reps and we have Oxygen Magazine, which originated about seventeen years ago. That was basically to fill a niche for women that Bob felt was there, for women athletes who wanted to take it to the next level. We’re not Shape and we’re not Women’s Health. We’re on the next level. We recognize that we are a bit of a niche magazine in the sense that these women do have muscle. But, this was Robert’s goal and passion: to glorify women and the female physique that was slightly more muscular, healthy and muscular.


D: It’s a great magazine. I love Oxygen, by the way!


T: Thank you!


D: When you were competing, did you ever join any teams for support?


T: No, I didn’t. Bob was, he’s so iconic in the industry, that when he said, “Look, I’ll train you and you just have to do what I say and eat what I tell you to eat,” I just thought, “Well ok!” People would kill to be trained by Bob Kennedy, right? So I knew I had something very special happening. I just went for it. These things don’t drop out of the sky every day, it just dropped out of the sky for me, I’m going to scoop this one right up and I’m going to go for the whole run. I’m going to do the whole distance on this and it changed my life forever.


D: Wow, that’s great. How do you feel about teams and having that kind of support and girls getting involved with that?


T: I think you need support to go through contests. I think it’s kind of a silly idea to think that you can prepare yourself alone unless you have somebody absolutely on target to coach and guide you. So, if you’re thinking about competing and you don’t know what you’re doing, definitely join up with a team. And I also think it’s a bit individual. It depends on the competitor. If you’re a Jenny Hendershott, you don’t need a team. But if you’re brand new to the game, then, absolutely, you need to get in there and you need to learn from a group and have them help support you and especially when you compete, it can be nice to have a bit of camraderie backstage.


D: That can be quite scary.


T: Yeah. I’ve seen terrible things happen back there.


D When you go into unchartered territory, it is nerve racking, that’s for sure.


T: So, a team, in that case, can be very helpful.


D: So, your husband came up with Oxygen Magazine?


T: Yes, seventeen years ago to celebrate a beautiful, muscular woman.


D: I can tell that you have put much of your love into it. He’s lucky to have you as his other half an extra pair of eyes and all that kind of thing. Is there any particular area that you concentrate on?


T: Well, I know that I’m an advocate for the fit and fabulous 40-something woman, because my column is the most popular segment of the magazine. I sit on the board, I contribute ideas for new trends to follow, things to do, things not to do, the Clean Eating, obviously because that’s so important to what all of us do and I work with a team to do that too, because the editors there, you know, Stacy Kennedy, we’re friends as well as co-workers.


D: Were there ever any hurdles that you both had to overcome, because I know how the magazine industry is…any hurdles that you want to talk about?


T: Well the biggest hurdle is trying to get more mainstream advertisements to jump in our publications in general, but particularly Oxygen, because all of us eat oatmeal, but it’s pretty tough to get Quaker Oats on board because you know, muscle feels very different than fat as far as a flavor for an advertiser to join in on. So we feel we work very hard at that. We set the bar high for ourselves to work hard towards getting mainstream advertising. We always work hard on developing an enthusiastic team. As soon as we have concerns or issues with any one individual, we work to boost that person up, or if they don’t work out, we can’t have somebody taking the team down, we have to stay strong together and that’s how we look at everything, it has to be a collaborative, positive, effort, or why bother?


D: Oh Yes! I know you're in Canada right?


T: Yes we're in North Toronto. We have offices. We’re either in the office working together, or we go to expos and work together. We get on the phone, we  skype, we email. We do whatever we have to do, but we stay in contact all the time and work very collaboratively. A magazine is like telling a story. Especially if you’re doing a publication like Oxygen…It’s very image hungry. We need a lot of photographic support. We need a lot of consistency in storytelling. And so, you can’t do it alone, it’s really hard and we’re gaining with every issue we put out. We have to do this with a team of experts otherwise it wouldn’t work.


D: How do you choose your Oxygen cover girls?


T: Ok this is really important because I want to put it out there that we literally get thousands of women on a regular basis saying to us, “I think I should be on the cover. I have what it takes.” We cannot just choose an ordinary person. That person has to be an advocate for Oxygen Magazine. They need to look the part. They need to be the part. They need to be friendly, accessible, obtainable and they need to support what we do. So we have requirements like, obligation to post tweets and to post to your blog and support Oxygen. So, it’s a whole package thing. It’s not just, “Wow, look at me, I have great quads.”

D: I get it.


T: Do you know what I mean?


D: Oh God, yes.

T: It’s the whole thing. It must be an ambassador for health so all women have an equal opportunity to become the best we can be, reading Oxygen Magazine. That’s the key and that’s how we choose models.


D: Great and then you have some nice contributors too as far as their little input.


T: Yep, we need…it has to be a two way street…we always say that a woman has to earn her place on the cover by being an advocate for Oxygen.


D: You know who I actually met, and she said she was going to be shooting for is Elaine Goodwin, she did my makeup!


T: She’s fantastic! She did shoot her cover and she looks great.


D: How do you decide what topics? Do you get emails from people?


T: We watch the trends. Do we get emails? Oh my gosh, yes! And so obviously, that is we harvest emails for content, we harvest emails for trends, we watch what is going on around us, we try to predict what is going to happen and we look outside of the fitness industry too. Currently we have been experimenting with brain plasticity and how exercise helps to keep us not only young, but also the thinking brain working proper, so, you know, it’s fitness, but it’s fitness with an eye to creating that beautiful woman on the cover and leading other women to want to look and feel the same.


D: When I started working out again hard, I feel so much better and the endorphins kick in, it’s like addictive.


T: It is a mental…I don’t know, there is nothing that compares to what you feel when you have this ability to just put it all out there at the gym. I’m going through some really difficult times right now emotionally, hell of a crisis in our family, we’re spending every day at the hospital. It is terrible. I come home, I don’t care what time of day it is, I’m in the gym, I have to do it. I don’t feel right. I feel like I have to get this sick off of me somehow and I always feel better after I train. It’s my confidence. It’s the one thing I have control over when everything else feels like hell.


D: Wow. Well you know whatever it is; I hope it’s something that can be resolved.


T: Thank you. I hope so too. We do have to work hard, but to some extent it is also your attitude right? 50% of it, to be honest.


D: I think 90 % is your attitude because I’ve seen people that don’t have a positive attitude, they can’t make it through, but if they do, it makes it a lot easier.


T: Right…and who knows what you’ll get out of that? I feel like a health challenge, it sounds terrible for me to say this, right? But, it’s a gift, a learning opportunity; it’s your wakeup call.


D: It’s good that you look at it like that because then, it will make it a lot easier to get through.


T: Exactly.


D: Do you have any hopes or plans? You know, obviously health is the most important thing and that’s what you want, I can tell…but besides that, do you have any hopes or dreams or plans in the future?


T: Yeah. As the business of “Eating Clean” developed, I have a great goal to have my daughters, although they currently do participate as much as they can, they’re all still in school, so I’d love to turn it into a family business and have each of the girls, four daughters, take their place in the business. I think “Eating Clean” is a diamond in the rough. I really think there is so much good potential there and I want to take it to the next level and this is my hope for 2012, that we can find our footing on that next level and bring “Eating Clean” to a bigger stage with more product and more development so that others can see how simple it is to take your life and your health back.


D: That’s awesome! That’s really awesome. I think we’ve covered pretty much everything and if there is anything that you would like to add, just tell me!


T: All right, so, I would say, one of the things I think women are putting their excuses in front of their potential and that really worries me, so I want everyone to feel that all opportunities are available for each and every one of us to put you in the possibility. You have to open your mind and open your heart and feel that potential. I remember when I started this, thirteen years ago, I didn’t feel the possibilities. I didn’t feel like there were any options for me at all and once I began to embrace the discipline of training and eating clean, I realized that was very short-sided thinking on my part and there was a world of possibilities available. So, I would say, don’t hesitate. Start today. Begin. Look. Reach out for support. Lean on other powerful women. Lean on Oxygen Magazine, lean on “Eating Clean,” and really, just fly.


D: Wow, that pretty much says it all! I really really thank you for this interview, Tosca and it’s so nice meeting you and maybe if you, I live in Los Angeles, so if you ever come to LA, let me know!


T: I do come to LA! Of course.


D: Do you have any video clips?


T: The most current video clip I have is me accepting my husband’s lifetime achievement award at The Arnold.


D: How was that?


T: It was fabulous. It was just astounding. It was great! The event was very surreal and obviously I would have wanted Robert to receive the award, but he wasn’t well and of course that sort of implies that he is our health crisis, which he is and it was wonderful to be standing there and Arnold was lovely.


D: Wow, well I well use that video because it’s special. Thank you thank you Tosca! God bless you and I’ll do a prayer for your husband and look on the website to hear some positive news about that.


T: You will because our website has everything.


D: Great! Bye now

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