How Evangeline Lilly got in superhero shape for Ant-Man and the Wasp

Fans of actress and author Evangeline Lilly know that staying fit is more than just part of her job—it's the basis of her lifestyle, and one that's certainly helped her land athletic roles like Kate Austen in ABC's long-running primetime series Lost, Bailey Tallet in Real Steel, the elven orc-slayer Tauriel in The Hobbit series, and Hope van Dyne (also known as the Wasp) in Marvel's Ant-Man movies.

But how, exactly, does the Wasp stay in superhero shape? We're here to find out.

She's committed to eating 'real' food

First and foremost, Evangeline Lilly knows that—when it comes to your body—you are what you eat.

Before Lilly entered adulthood, she wasn't so discerning. She claims she was a slow eater as a child, but exploded into a "Bacon Monster" once she reached puberty and became active in sports. "I'd eat half a pound [of bacon] each Saturday," she told The Guardian—something most of us heart-attack-conscious adults can only dream of now.

Lilly then spent much of her early twenties battling a form of depression—something she managed to conquer by focusing on what she was putting into her body. "Working on Lost, I had more disposable income than before," she explained, "and thought I'd spend it wisely and I committed to an organic diet. After a while, the mental fog—how I'd describe depression—that I'd lived in since becoming an adult began to lift. I felt my emotions sharpen, I could see and taste more clearly and I correlated that most to the organic food."

Lilly still eats junk food, but when buying unhealthy snacks, her guidelines are simple: "If I can't pronounce it, likely I don't want to be ingesting it," she explained on Instagram. "Less is more. If there are 17 ingredients in a pack of chips I would bet my life they are not as good for me as the ones made with potatoes, oil, salt, and pepper."

...But she doesn't keep a strict diet

Even though Lilly accurately claims that most processed foods have been carefully designed by food scientists in an effort to maximize addictive flavor while also leaving the consumer unsatisfied in an attempt to sell more product, she admits that avoiding these tasty treats is no easy feat. "I don't like to get played," she explained on Instagram, "so I try to avoid those carefully designed, food-like substances. 'Cause, I'm no super hero…I'm not immune to that irresistible blend of delicious and NOT satisfying. Just like you, once I pop, sometimes I just can't stop."

Just because Lilly watches what she ingests doesn't mean she subscribes to any one of the multitudes of popular diets out there. "I don't 'diet,'" she explained. "I strongly dislike the notions of total deprivation that it connotes. I'm a believer in discipline and indulgence in equal measure." She also told Women's Health that "diets are a fool's errand. I eat something sweet every day, whether it's chocolate or a cookie. If I don't, I guarantee you that there's going to be a day every week when I'm going to stuff myself, especially if it's PMS time." Ultimately, Lilly believes it's all about eating real food—not counting calories.

She eats vegetables with EVERY meal

When Evangeline Lilly wants to trim down, she actually adds food to her daily intake.

"I carry on eating the things I want to eat, in moderation, and simply ADD vegetables…to every meal," she explained on Instagram. "That's right EVERY: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'm not talking about ONE leaf of lettuce on a mayo, chicken, aioli, cheese sandwich. I mean a full portion of vegetables kept relatively clean and not cooked to within an inch of recognition. Real veggies. Lightly stir-fried veggies. Steamed veggies. LIGHTLY dressed raw veggies. Or, gasp! Raw, bare veggies. Happy veggies. But I DON'T eat them IN PLACE if the naughty foods, I eat them along WITH the naughty foods. And this keeps ME happy."

Eating your veggies, unsurprisingly, yields a multitude of benefits. "Not only will the vegetables fill my belly with fiber, thus making it too full to stuff in the same quantities of bread and chocolate," Lilly says, "but also the vegetables satiate my biological cravings for nutrients, helping to prevent 'munchies' that are nutritionally driven and, as such, insatiable by a pack of Red Vines. Also, there's the added benefit of the fiber stimulating my metabolism and helping me to digest that bowl of mesquite BBQ chips more efficiently. The vegetables help to give me energy, the get-up-and-go I need to get on with a busy day."

She gets plenty of sleep

In addition to primarily eating organic, moderating unhealthy foods, and making sure to eat plenty of veggies, Evangeline Lilly maintains a high level of fitness by doing another thing most of us should do, but don't: she gets plenty of sleep. "Sleep is the number one thing," Lilly told Women's Health. "I think you need between 8 and 10 hours a night. When I don't sleep enough, I look bloated, my hair gets flat and my skin goes to pot."

In addition to helping you not look bloated and helping your hair and skin look fresh, getting enough sleep has largely been proven to boost your immune system, lower your risk for all sorts of health problems, reduce stress, improve mood, promote normal mental functioning, and helps in maintaining a healthy body weight. So stop staying up all night browsing Facebook on your smartphone or binging on Netflix and catch some Zs!

She works out six days a week

Of course, eating right and getting enough sleep isn't enough to keep Evangeline Lilly in superhero shape. The third component—regular exercise—is just as important.

If you want to look like the Wasp, you'll probably want to work out six days a week, but you don't need any fancy plans. Simply targeting certain muscle groups on certain days will help you develop your tone. According to Healthy Celeb, Lilly generally utilizes a weeklong training plan, with Mondays dedicated to chest and back exercises, Tuesdays for arms and legs, Wednesdays dedicated to cardio, Thursdays returning to chest and back exercises, and Fridays also for arms and legs, with another round of cardio rounding it all out on Saturday. Since your body also needs rest, Sunday is all about total relaxation.

As you can see, there's nothing fancy about Lilly's workout plan. Actually, there's nothing fancy about anything Lilly does to stay fit. As is the case with her lifestyle in general, it's all about moderation and keeping it simple—so that also doesn't mean this weeklong schedule is set in stone. As Lilly will tell you, it's mostly about simply being active and doing exercises you enjoy.

She exercises however she wants

Though Evangeline Lilly frequently utilizes her yoga mat, she doesn't really do yoga. Nor does she do pilates, or foundation training, or any other specific set of exercises from any given brand. Instead, she just does whatever feels good.

"I don't do 'yoga,'" she wrote in an Instagram post. "I stretch. I do squats, crunches, arm curls and push-ups…not pilates. I don't have a fancy routine or sneaky tricks. Let me be a living reminder that we don't need all that modern jazz to be fit and healthy. If you love that stuff, excellent! Enjoy it! BUT.. in a pinch, if life gets complicated and you feel #health and #fitness has just become one more complication…remember, it can be as simple as an after-dinner walk and some crunches before bed every night."

As is the case with her diet and lifestyle, Lilly takes an easy, common-sense approach to physical fitness, reminding us all that we're not all on some two-month training regimen to play Thor. "Let's not get crazy, kids," she says, "it's health, not rocket science."

How to get ripped like the Wasp

Want to get ripped like The Wasp—or any of your favorite Evangeline Lilly characters—but don't exactly have a gym membership? Not interested in having weights lying around your apartment? No worries! According to Women's Health and Jessica Matthews, a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise, all you need to get cut like Lilly is… well… your body! (A yoga mat won't hurt, though.) 

Whether from the comfort of your own home or on a grassy space outside in the open air, doing one circuit of the following exercises two to three times per week for two months will have you looking significantly more cut.

Matthews' recommended circuit consists of seven exercises. First, start out with 8-12 forward lunges per leg. Next, hold the classic yoga pose downward facing dog for 1-2 minutes. Thirdly, you'll want to do 8-12 reps of pushups, followed by 15-30 seconds of forearm side planks. Next, you'll continue to burn your core with 8-12 reps of limb raises, followed by 30-60 seconds of the abdomen-shredding yoga-burner 'boat pose.' Finally, wrap it all up with 8-12 reps of plank ups, and you've just had yourself a wicked Wasp-like workout you can literally complete anywhere. No excuses.

Her five-minute abs routine

Between filming Ant-Man and the Wasp and being a full-time mom, Evangeline Lilly has kept quite the busy schedule. But that doesn't stop her from getting in quick workouts, like the five-minute abs routine she posted on Instagram.

When doing abdominal workouts like crunches, Lilly notes that: "My preferred rep number is 25 for most of these, but as with arms, reps should be personal. I find the number that's hard, that makes me 'feel the burn,' but then I stop when I can no longer hold the proper form. I try to always keep my butt tucked up, my lower back to the floor and always concentrate on contracting the muscles in my abs, trying to keep my NECK LOOSE."

Of course, nobody likes working on their abs, and Lilly's no exception. "Abs are not really 'my thing,'" she writes. "I don't aspire to have a six-pack, I like toned but not 'ripped' abs. So, I am no authority on this muscle group." Nevertheless, she recognizes the importance one's abdomen plays in their overall health: "I've had enough back injuries in my life to have learned how crucial a good core is to…so many things, namely the integrity of my spine. So, next to stretching, a simple, quick, mini-core routine takes priority in my busy days. In a perfect world, I do something like this in the morning and before bed as many days a week as I can."

She dances to relieve stress

Stress has been repeatedly linked to all sorts of health problems. Thus, as a proponent of wellness, Evangeline Lilly does whatever she needs to do in order eliminate IT from her life.

While eating clean foods, getting enough sleep and regularly exercising goes a long way toward eliminating anxiety, unexpected events will always pop up and pile on the stress. When the pressure of work or unexpected problems start getting the best of us, Lilly thinks it's important to let loose—and one way she likes to let go is to simply dance. "I'm really into this type of expression where you put on music and literally feel it," she told Women's Health. "I will go crazy—dancing like a little girl who's pretending to be a ballerina. A lot of it for me is releasing pent-up energy when you have a lot of stress in your life."

So the next time you're feeling blue put on some tunes and dance like it's the Eurovision Song Contest. (Or like no one's watching. Whichever you prefer.)

It's not just about genetics

Genetics undoubtedly play their part in everyone's life, defining how we look and how predisposed to athleticism we are, but Evangeline Lilly doesn't attribute her superhero bod to her genes. Rather, she credits her "base."

"I have been active since about [8 years old]," she explained in an Instagram post, "and then I went through a 5-year stage in my twenties where I was HARD CORE into eating clean and lean, and going to the gym for 2-4 hours, 3-5 days a week. So, I have a long, deep base that allows me to do MUCH less today to stay in good shape and doesn't allow me to stray too far in the wrong direction."

Having a solid base also helps keep Lilly on the right track. "If I ever get lazy or indulgent," she says, "my whole being is constantly nudging me back to that blueprint: 'Hey, this isn't 'us,' what are you doing?? And whatever it is, stop it!' And when I listen, and I snap back to my healthier lifestyle, my body pops back in a jiffy…it knows where we're going before we even begin."

That all sounds well and good, but what if you weren't hardcore into eating clean and hitting the gym in your twenties? Even if you haven't been building a base since early adulthood, Lilly thinks you can still re-write your blueprint.

It's never too late to change your life

If there's one thing Evangeline Lilly wants you to know, it's that it's never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle.

"I have a particular curiosity toward this rewriting of one's blueprint," she wrote on Instagram, "so I really pay close attention when people I meet or know decide to get fit and healthy…with no base at all. What I find incredible is observing that once they've built a base, and then consistently maintained and reinforced it for a few years, it's as if the ground zero that their body wants to rest at, their base, can transform."

You may have heard it a million times before, but it's never too late to change. "We are adaptable beings," says Lilly. "Mom and Dad can hardwire us with a certain health and fitness potential but I believe we can rewrite that script…in either direction, for the better or for the worse. So, if you are in the midst of trying to rewrite your own blueprint for the healthier, I applaud you, and I want to encourage you—it WILL get easier in time, if you stay with it!"

'Best. Butt. Ever.'

Evangeline Lilly may be proud of the way she looks—and she should be, given all the work she puts in while maintaining her superhero physique—but that doesn't mean she likes it when the media sexualizes her image. After appearing on the cover of Women's Health, Lilly went on Conan to discuss, among other things, the magazine's emphasis on her rear end.

"You're such a beautiful woman and been in so many great films and they go 'best butt ever' and have an arrow going to your butt," O'Brien pointed out. "Is that something they tell you before the shoot?" Lilly answered with an emphatic "no," saying: "Do you think I would have done the shoot if they said 'oh, by the way we're going to say best butt ever and put a big arrow to your behind?' No. Every woman is after a classy image. I didn't want T and A on my cover. It's a women's magazine, not Maxim."

She apparently called up Women's Magazine and gave them a piece of her mind in a manner which, according to the show's host, sounded an awful lot like a pirate. But, as we well know, Lilly's a much more fearsome opponent than a mere swashbuckler. She's the Wasp.