Life & Style caught up with former Baywatch babe Alexandra Paul, who opened up about the days she sported the infamous red one piece, overcoming her own body insecurities and how she maintains a fit figure today.
The TV star is a supporter of the Whole Life Challenge, an online game that challenges participants to make positive life changes in just 56 days. The next challenge begins on January 17. Visit wholelifechallenge.com for more info.
- You look amazing! How do you compare your body now to when you were on Baywatch? Do you weigh the same, more or less? Can we get numbers or your sizes then and now?
My weight fluctuated 5-7 lbs during the 4 years I filmed Baywatch, just like it does now. You can see the second season my body got more defined, as I had started lifting weights. During the fourth season my longtime boyfriend and I split up, so I lost quite a bit of weight from the sadness of that. I am now a size 4 or 6, and my body fat is 13%, which is pretty much the same as back then. The biggest change in my body is probably the tautness of my skin, which is something that happens to all of us.
- Did you go through a period when you were heavier? If so, when and why?
I was about 10 lbs heavier when I was in my early 20s. I was struggling with bulimia and I did not know how to eat in moderation. I was not facing my feelings and being my authentic self, so I binged and purged compulsively. I am proud to say I have been abstinent from that now for 23 years. What I have learned through therapy and a twelve step program is that when I really face my pain, I do not turn to food. In fact, when I allow myself to be full of emotion and really feel, there is no room for food. I eat mindlessly when I am avoiding something. I often lose weight during the hardest times of my life because I am facing my feelings. So when my diet goes to hell, the best way I get back on track is to fearlessly look at what I am afraid to deal with in my life, either feelings or a concrete situation.
- What sort of pressure were you under to be thin during Baywatch? Any anecdotes?
There was a rider in all the actors' contracts that we had to stay within 5 lbs of the weight at which we were cast, because the first season a male cast member had been so happy about being cast on the show, he partied himself 10 lbs heavier by the time shooting began! But that was never an issue for me. I was already working the twelve step program Overeaters Anonymous, and had stopped bingeing and purging the year before I was cast on the show. My weight had stabilized because of this. Also, I was disciplined about working out daily. That meant I got up very early to do my hour of cardio, because we often started our days at 6am. Hasselhoff also came to the set every morning with an hour workout done. We both preferred to work out first thing rather than shooting a 12 hour day and then having to go to the gym.
- Did you binge a bit when the pressure was off after the show?
No, not at all. I do not binge anymore, thanks to the 12 Steps.
- How have you approached your diet to stay in shape? Did you have a nutritionist? A trainer? Explain who and how they helped you.
I am a big proponent of getting support to get healthier and fitter. Most of us cannot do it alone! I check in with a nutritionist, Matt Mahowald of www.newpfc.com, regularly. He looks at my food diary and we discuss how to make it healthier. My weakness is sugar - I eat too much of it and it takes the places of vegetables and fruits, so he steers me back on track.
I also did the Whole Life Challenge online, an 8 week game that gets you out of your health rut to a new level of health. It was awesome for me as I quit sugar completely, along with corn and gluten.
- Do you count calories or use portion control? What is your method to measure how much you are eating?
I write down everything I eat every day, so I can make sure that I am eating enough protein and that my calories stay around 2,000/day. Keeping a food diary keeps me accountable.
- Do you eliminate any food groups? What things are you avoiding eating?
I am an ethical vegan, which means that I do not wear, eat or use products made from or tested on animals. In terms of food, that means no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, gelatin, honey. I am vegan because I do want to exploit animals in any way, but I get added health benefits: really low cholesterol, amazing energy and clean arteries.
- What are your go-to healthy foods/snacks to stave off hunger?
My green protein shake! One scoop of Vega Vanilla Sport protein powder (25 g of plant protein) with 3 ice cubes, 1 cup water and 1 tbsp flaxseed in the blender, then add a handFULL of kale and broccoli. Yum! (And my nutritionist Matt is happy because I am getting my greens in.) This shake fills me up and lessens my craving for sweets.
- Do you have any cheat foods?
I do not consider any food a "cheat food", because that makes us feel bad for eating something that might give us pleasure. Pleasure is good! Guilt just makes us neurotic and self loathing. The key is moderation, which is easier said than done, especially for someone like me who either overate for under ate for years.
- Did you ever get too into certain foods that caused you to gain weight? If so, what? What did you conquer it?
When I eat too much nut butter — the standing-in-the-kitchen-with-a-spoon-in-one-hand-and-an-open-jar-in-the-other-kind-of-eating — I can gain weight. The key for me is to eat at least 100 grams of protein a day and to keep my sugar intake low.
- How many calories do you eat a day?
I average 2,000 calories a day.
- How much do you work out in a week now? What do you do specifically?
My main goal is to avoid the death trap of sitting so much - it is unnatural how sedentary we have become. I "activate" a lot of what is normally done in a chair: I walk at least three times a week for an hour when I am on conference calls or owe people a return call. I am so much more present on the telephone when I am walking, as I am not sneaking looks at my email, I am not sitting and I am moving. It is like a triple win! When friends want to get together, I usually suggest we go for a walk instead of sitting at a restaurant or coffee shop. I also have a treaddesk , so I do most of my computer work walking, which probably averages a couple hours a day. My treaddesk is the best gift I ever gave myself, as I feel energized after being at my desk, not stiff and tired.
For an actual workout, I do at least one hour of cardio 6x week - swimming or the stationary bike. I do yoga for 45 minutes 3x week at home, as I have a bad lower back and it is the only thing that keeps me pain free! I am actually grateful for my bad back, as otherwise I would never take the time to stretch and now I get the added bonus of being even more flexible now than 30 years ago. I also hike for 2 hours once a week with two amazing friends.
To get my workouts in, I get up early, sometimes at 4:30am. I feel better working out at dawn than I do later in the day.
- How do you feel about your body now? Are you at your goal weight?
Any insecure thoughts of how my body looks pale in comparison to how grateful I am for what my body does. My legs are strong enough to wrap around my husband, my arms swam me over 13 ocean miles this past November, my heart is big enough to love my family & friends and run up the beautiful Malibu hills. My most recent annual gave me an excellent bill of health. Those are the things that matter.
- Advice for readers struggling with weight?
If you tend to overeat or eat unhealthily, write down everything you ingest and note what you are feeling each time you eat. What are you avoiding, how is food a distraction for you?
Deal with the situation or the feelings you have been drowning with food. It might be terrifying, but I promise your life will be richer for it. The scary part goes away, the food-numbing leaves you in the same hole, with added self loathing.
Get help! Join an online support group like Whole Life Challenge to get you out of your health/fitness rut.