James Bond’s Guide To Getting Fitter, Healthier, And Happier
Let the king of good taste and optimization guide you to become your best self.
Following through with healthy habits is tough. You’re tired. You want to eat the foods you want to eat. Sometimes, you want to live in your sweatpants. And, as one year ends and another one begins, we’re all looking for advice for becoming the person we want to be. So, where can you look for inspiration to be your better self? The answer might be found in the antics and exploits of hard-drinking secret agent James Bond. If we ditch the assassinations and promiscuity, the core of James Bond’s habits, may, upon closer examination provide a lot of insight into how to look better, feel better, and embody a sense of purpose in life, even when all you’re doing is making breakfast or taking a shower.
To that end, we combed the various 007 novels and films for clues as to the positive wellness lessons we could glean from this remarkable fictional man. Here’s the intelligence we gathered, presented humbly, for everyone’s eyes only.
Do One Thing At A Time
One of the most soothing things about reading a James Bond novel — from the Ian Fleming classics to the John Gardner books, to Kim Sherwood’s recent entries — is experiencing the quotidian process of James Bond doing stuff. Checking into a hotel. Unpacking a suitcase. Driving a car. Ordering drinks with precision. These are the hallmarks of wealth and luxury, right?
Wrong. In the books, James Bond usually just wants to have eggs for breakfast and black coffee. He’s fussy about what he eats and drinks not because he’s a rich guy, but because being specific and doing one thing at a time makes him feel good and keeps his head clear. Ian Fleming was fully aware that he had made James Bond a creature of habit, which might not make you a good secret agent, but doing the things you like, with precision, can make you happy.
“Can tying a bow tie save your life?” David Lowbridge-Ellis asks Fatherly. Lowbridge-Ellis is a podcaster and Bond expert who runs the excellent publication and podcast Licence to Queer. In his Bond scholarship, Lowbridge-Ellis looks at LGBTQ themes in the work of Ian Fleming, but also, always has an eye for the slow and deliberate details of Bond’s routines.
“What if, instead of slapping on a pre-tied bow tie, we took the time to knot a real one?” Lowbridge-Ellis continues. “We could all do with being a bit more mindful from time to time. Much misunderstood, mindfulness merely means staying in the present moment as much as possible, rather than rushing around. Single-tasking is the order of the day: devoting our full thoughts and feelings to one thing at a time.”
Adopt The James Bond Shower
In all the books, even the books that were written after Ian Fleming’s passing, when 007 takes a shower, he begins by making the water very hot but then switches to ice cold to finish it off. As John Gardner describes it in the 1981 Bond novel License Renewed, “First under a scalding spray, and then with ice-cold water that cut into him like needles.” Here’s the thing: This affectation is good for you. Health experts all over the world endorse ice plunges and cold showers to improve blood circulation, bolster skin health, help aching muscles, and even mitigate stress and depression.
So, instead of doing an ice plunge, the James Bond shower is a perfectly reasonable way to get those health benefits. Starting hot, and then going cold might be some kind of Bondian metaphor, but we don’t really need to think about that too hard when the impact of the James Bond shower is both cozy and invigorating.
Get A Bond Body The Simple Way
Some might scoff at the idea that someone who drinks and smokes as much as James Bond could ever be a wellness or fitness icon. And yet, when you read Thunderball, you’ll learn that Bond’s boss M sends him to a health spa called Shrublands for a mandatory detox. By the ’80s and ’90s books (most by John Garnder and Raymond Benson), Bond drank far less than he did in the original novels, and by the era of Pierce Brosnan, James Bond had sworn off cigarettes altogether. (He even punches a baddie out in the opening of Tomorrow Never Dies by saying “filthy habit.”)
The point is, our overall idea of Bond is that of a man who knows how to cut back on vices, partly because he’s taken those vices to hedonistic levels. That said, the Bond who gets things done isn’t wasted or out of shape. In fact, the entire first act of Skyfall focuses on the idea that Bond can’t be Bond if he’s gone soft.
Turns out, most of Bond’s daily fitness exercises are pretty straightforward and easy for anyone to incorporate into their lives right now. As Bond expert Mark Edlitz puts it: “As we know from Ian Fleming, Bond starts each day with exercise, slow push-ups, stretches, and straight leg lifts. He combines that with deep breathing exercises. Bond also keeps fit by swimming, skiing, and golfing.”
David Zaritsky, a 007 influencer and the man behind The Bond Experience thinks that the escapism of Bond and physical fitness don’t have to be mutually exclusive. “Being in good physical shape and ready to be on the move is a requirement in his job but it also acts as a therapeutic release,” Zaritsky tells Fatherly. “But, Bond also enjoys the more tangible pleasures of life like traveling, cars, style, food, and sensuality. Bond typically leans into these as an escape from the stresses and rigor of his demanding and often risky job. Finding escapism in our daily grind is at the core of what Bond as a character and fictional hero brings to the table.”
Wear Fun Clothes
From Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig, to the pages of Ian Fleming, Bond’s clothes are part of why so many people have loved the character for over 60 years. Bond’s great style isn’t just limited to suits and tuxes; if anything James Bond helped pioneer the short-sleeved button-up as a way to look casual and cool at the same time. And, in terms of dressing well, or at least making an effort, Bond’s style, even when it's business casual, reminds us that part of feeling good can be a case of dressing the part. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your clothes.
Some of the over-the-top camp aspects of James Bond’s style can, and maybe should be incorporated into your own sartorial choices. As tailor and style expert Natty Adams tells us: “Now, I’m not saying you should go out and immediately buy yourself a safari suit with flared trousers — although they are fun — but I am advocating for adding some element of silliness, even self-deprecation, into your wardrobe to take the edge off. Wear an unusual color, add an unnecessarily gaudy accessory, get a bigger bow tie. Nothing says true confidence like being a little bit silly.”
Treat Sleep Like A Job
One wonderful feature of several James Bond novels is the moment when Bond goes to sleep. It’s always right away and one of the coziest things about reading any of the books. Bond doesn’t look at his phone or stay up late worrying about stuff, even when there’s a lot to worry about. He knows that if he doesn’t get enough sleep, the world will not be enough for him in the morning. So, the next time you’re staying up too late, or getting up too early, just remember: James Bond has defined masculine coolness for generations. Do you think not getting sleep will make you cooler than Bond? That’s what we thought.
When The Time Is Right, Enjoy Yourself
James Bond stories are absurd, but one of the reasons the character has endured for so long is that the original aim of these tales was to entertain. Nobody should be a hedonist, and if you look closely at the James Bond adventures, in print or in cinema, Bond has just as many bad times as he does good. Metaphorically, we can all relate. Some days you’re feeling great, other days, your car needs a new radiator and you have to get a rental to pick up your kid from school — 007 might be dealing with diamond smugglers rather than diaper bags, but in terms of friction and unpredictability, we can relate to Bond because fortune is unpredictable.
So by creating rituals that you look forward to, you can, in a sense, make your own luck. Set time aside to mix up fancy cocktails with your significant other. Plan that golf day with your friends. Put it on the calendar. Be deliberate about it, because in that deliberateness, you can become more of yourself.
“An over-triggered fight or flight response over a prolonged period can do us more harm than good,” Lowbridge-Ellis explains. “It's at the root of anxiety disorders. And while we rarely find ourselves in Bondian survival situations, our brains can't distinguish between real threats and perceived ones. So, slow down and enjoy that Martini completely. Savor the flavor. It's medicinal.”