The Unusual Health Ritual This Supermodel Swears By

Photographed by Peter Ash Lee.
Ganni blouse. For more than a decade, supermodel and actress Carol Alt has been following and promoting a raw-food lifestyle. She says the change in her diet has given her boundless energy and helped clear up chronic health issues such as headaches and stomach problems. Some of her opinions and advice are controversial, to be sure. But, given the 55-year-old's age-defying beauty, it's hard not to wonder if she's on to something. She just published a new book, A Healthy You, and sat down with Refinery29 to talk Photoshopping, stress reduction, and coffee enemas (no, really). You speak about wellness and healthy living all the time, and you’ve written other books. Why this book? Why now? What’s different about A Healthy You? "This book is all about the basics. Why raw food? What does it do? What does the body need? There are tips that only the person who lives this kind of lifestyle can tell you, to make it easier and more accessible for you to do it yourself. On top of that, we’ve included fitness, anti-aging stuff, and more." Early in your book, you talk about how, back in your modeling days, you would try to maintain your thin body by not eating, and then you'd treat yourself to desserts when good things happened. Eating, for you at that time, was tied up in your job and your emotions. For women who struggle with wanting to reward themselves with food, how can they break free of that cycle? "Well, here’s the thing: We have to understand that food is not a luxury. Food is a necessity — without it, the body doesn’t survive — [so we should try to] change how we look at food and not think of it as reward, but a basic necessity for keeping us healthy and young. A lot of people don’t want to give up [certain] food because they’re emotionally attached to it. That’s the silliest [reason] for poisoning yourself." You're famously a huge proponent of a raw-food diet. What advice do you have for beginners who are interested in trying it out? "I tell people to go 75-95% raw. Anybody that tells you they’re fully raw — that they never cheat — is full of garbage. We’re human, and we get tempted, and we want to live and have fun, too. But, we're surrounded by raw food, so it's easier to get started than you might think. Instead of eating the cooked, processed olive oil, eat the cold, fresh olive oil. Instead of eating a baked apple, you eat an apple. Guacamole is raw. If you chop up avocados and put in tomatoes and stuff, it’s raw. Cold doesn’t [necessarily] mean raw. Raw means [someone] chopped it up and made it. I tell people, 'Don’t be fearful of the language. Once you educate yourself and you understand the premise, the freedom and the control you have over your life and your health is without bounds.'"
Photographed by Peter Ash Lee.
Do you have any advice for people who are trying to eat really healthy or raw on a budget? "Absolutely. I mean, one of the things I did was write a book about how to make these foods for yourself at home, cheaply. You don’t need a chef for this; all you need is a dehydrator. It’s easy. If you do it yourself, raw food can cost pennies on the dollar. And, if you buy bulk? Even better." What does your morning routine look like? How do you get off to a healthy start? "Oh my god, if I told everybody exactly everything I did every morning... I mean, I’m a nutcase, because I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so I push myself to break the boundaries of what I do. I’m at the point where I’m doing raw egg in the morning." Wow.

"On the weekend, I treat myself to a sprouted bread and two-minute, soft-boiled egg, but during the week, I suck it right out of the shell. Raw egg. For me, not every meal is about, oh it’s got to taste good. But, I don’t necessarily recommend that for other people. I do that because I’m testing all the time, [experimenting with] theories that I hear. I want to see what it does to my body. I want to see the results. "I also go to Juice Press and get the raw oatmeal and mix it with raisins and throw them in the dehydrator. They’re a little oily, so it takes a little bit longer for the dehydrator to dehydrate them; it takes about a day. And, I’ve got oatmeal cookies. I have an oatmeal cookie with a cup of tea in the morning, and I’m good to go." I know there’s a big section in the book on stretching. Do you have any favorite fitness routines that you try to incorporate every day?

"Yeah, I do a mixture of stuff. My workout is constantly evolving depending on what is falling apart on my body, if that makes sense. Legs are always a really important thing, so I added some leg stuff like squats and lunges into the start of my yoga; then, I do yoga. Then, I do Yogalates, and then afterwards I do 15 minutes on the bike in the sauna. I don’t kill myself; I know I’m 55. "One of the important things I say in the book is to find something you like doing. Something that you know is working for you. I think part of the problem is people don’t like what they do; they’re doing the latest fad, or they are lifting weights because they think they have to do that... I think that if you find something that you really like, you’ll stick to it, and then you’ll start seeing results."
Photographed by Peter Ash Lee.
Something else in your book that I thought was interesting was the concept of doing mirror mantras to help improve your well-being. Do you have any favorite mirror mantras that you say to yourself? "I have a bunch. One is 'Never quit.' That has to do with my business, which is a dog-eat-dog business. You’re turned down all the time; people are constantly bashing you. In the health industry, people are now seeing that what I’ve been saying is the truth, but for 20 years I've been going against the norm, and I was bashed a lot. It's really scary when you go, I’m doing something new and different, and nobody agrees with me, and I’m scared every time I go into a doctor’s office and they look at me like I’m nuts. You just want to curl up into a little ball. My mantra is, if you do what you’re passionate about, and you do it with love, you can’t quit. I say that every day."

You ask photographers not to retouch your photos. It seems like that goes along with really believing in what you’re doing — you want people to see what your lifestyle and diet can do. What led you to start asking photographers not to retouch you, and what has the response been?

"I was just trying to be honest. I was seeing my girlfriends at 34 years old, and they’re getting Botox and cheek implants and face lifts and looking ridiculous — because frankly, they looked older when they came out of the doctor’s office... I just wanted people to see what’s possible with a raw-food diet, and I can’t do that if my pictures are not honest. "I did Playboy without retouching, and believe me, I walked in on them trying to retouch me, trying to make me look like I had a Barbie body. I went ballistic. I had turned Playboy down for like 20 years. It’s easy to look good at 30; the reason I did it at 50 was because I wanted people to see my results. I’m not genetically blessed. I've had all kinds of health issues. But, I found a way to [eat raw] that’s fun and tasty and easy. [You can] eat all you want and save your life by doing it." One other thing that kind of stood out in the book is the chapter on coffee enemas. I felt it was a little unusual. When did you start this practice, and what kind of benefit do you see yourself getting? "I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been doing some of these things for so long that I’m very happy when somebody says, 'I’ve read this, and it was very unusual, and I’ve never heard of this before,' because for me, all this [is] stuff I do all the time. "A coffee enema is something I’ve been doing for the past 15 years. And, by the way, when I was in theater, all the dancers did coffee enemas; they just didn’t know why they were doing them... They were always telling me about coffee enemas, but it wasn’t my thing. Now, I understand the mechanics behind it; it’s probably one of the better detox tools out there in terms of boosting your liver... You have to keep it healthy, because it keeps the whole body clean. "Everybody who starts doing it, if you can get past the first week, it becomes addictive. You have to be careful, because some people like doing it three or four times a day, and you can’t do that; you’ll drain your electrolytes out. The two people who died doing it, one did it six times per day because it was addictive, and she liked it. It makes you feel so amazing afterwards. You know when your cat poops in a box or when your dog poops on the street and then afterwards goes running because it feels so good to let out a lot of garbage? That’s what it does — afterwards, you feel like you want to sing."

Just wondering: Is there a certain kind of coffee that is better to use?

"Yes, there is, believe it or not. Dark-roast organic."

More from Diet & Nutrition

R29 Original Series