A Trainer to the Stars Who’s a Star-to-Be

March 22nd, 2013

Emily Berl for The New York Times

Harley Pasternak, personal trainer, nutritionist and author, at his home in Los Angeles.

If there’s a celebrity body you admire (Rihanna? Halle Berry? Ryan Gosling?), there’s a good chance it’s the trainer and nutritionist Harley Pasternak’s work, and it is equally likely that he has appeared in a magazine (ranging from People to Seventeen to Men’s Health) or on television to describe how he does it.

Mr. Pasternak, a 38-year-old Canadian, has undergone a makeover himself. Though he was once a body builder in the model of his hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger, “going on the ‘Today’ show a lot I thought it would be better to have an aesthetic that was more aspirational,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the guy with no neck.” So over the last few years, he has shrunk his 5-foot-10-ish frame from 240 pounds to 210.

The key to his success: Mr. Pasternak’s Five Factor plans: five-minute recipes with five main ingredients and five weekly 25-minute workouts organized in, yes, five-minute increments. And help from the dizzying array of products he endorses, including Ace bandages, Fitbit pedometers and the Coca-Cola Company’s Smartwater. To go with his fourth and latest book, “The Body Reset Diet,” which involves three smoothies a day in the first five days, he is creating his own blender. He may undercut his own business, since he is also developing with Shaklee Corporation, a direct-sales company, a just-add-water powder meal replacement that won’t require any appliances.

“I see myself as a problem solver, creating solutions,” Mr. Pasternak said of his growing empire. With two degrees in nutrition and kinesiology (rare for a celebrity trainer) along with a stint researching caffeine and performance-enhancing supplements for the Canadian military, he said he sees it as his mission to stop what “you’ve been doing from the DVD you bought on TV” (his own, available on QVC, apparently excepted) “to the ridiculous blood typing” and caveman diet.

If his latest offering, an abstemious 1,200 calories a day (most of which come from smoothies) sounds equally crazy to you, Mr. Pasternak pointed to a study that he said showed people who lost the most amount of weight at the start of a weight-loss program are exponentially more successful long term.

Dr. Michael G. Perri, the dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida and an author of the study done in 2010, wrote in an e-mail that the findings were “correlational,” and “cannot allow us to draw a definite conclusion” about what caused success. For example, high motivation, rather than rate of weight loss, could be the reason, he said. (Mr. Pasternak argued that seeing results faster is motivating.)

The diet is partly Mr. Pasternak’s attempt to convert the quick-fix crowd. “The average American wants a book on: ‘How do I lose 10 pounds this week?’ ” he said, insisting the latest studies gave him “permission” to depart from his previous, mostly moderate options. His plan calls for followers to use the Five-Factor approach, which includes 25-minute sweat sessions, 10,000-pedometer-counted steps daily and two “cheat meals” a week.

His own splurges: white pizza at Vito’s in West Hollywood and French fries. He paused when asked the provenance of the latter. “I don’t want to sound too fancy, but Soho House,” he said, the last two words in a near whisper. He paused, searching for a more aw-shucks option. “Gosh, McDonald’s French fries?”

Jordana Brewster, an actress on “Dallas” whose cheats include martinis and Tootsie Rolls, began working with Mr. Pasternak about six years ago.

“I went to all these trainers and nutritionists who would tell me, ‘If it tastes good, get it out of your mouth,’ ” said Ms. Brewster, 32. “I would live on protein bars and shakes, lose a bunch of weight, and then gain it all back when I wasn’t working. Harley is nice and mellow and smart, and what he tells you to do is sustainable.”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.