In the Raw
Carol Alt, a supermodel for more than 20 years, bares all about the
food revolution that revitalized her life.
Since she first became a “supermodel” in the early ’80s, Carol Alt has served as the quintessential picture of beauty and vitality on countless magazine covers, including the 1982 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. But behind her cover girl image, Alt often felt anything but radiant. Her career need to stay extremely thin, coupled with chronic conditions like sinusitis, acid reflux, hypoglycemia and PMS, were taking a serious toll on her health. As the years progressed and Alt launched into an acting career, her energy and well-being continued to decline. But in 1996 she made a radical lifestyle change and began eating raw foods—only raw foods. Nine years later, Alt has written a best-selling book, Eating in the Raw (Clarkson Potter), and here she passionately relates the details of her nutritional transformation.
Energy Times: How were you feeling before adopting the raw foods diet?
Carol Alt: I was having the kind of problems that people tell you are due to getting older and I was miserable. It’s not easy being 5-foot-10 ½ and 120 pounds. When I first got discovered, I went from a size 12/14 to a size 4/6. It was so hard staying there, and any time I ate I would feel guilty. Before I started the diet, I was taking aspirin when I never took aspirin before. I was taking eight Tums a night, using NyQuil to fall asleep and a coffee to wake up. I was doing four movies a year and working 24/7. I only had 10 days off and on those days I never got out of bed.
ET: How did you learn about the raw foods diet?
Alt: A good friend had called me during a time when I just didn’t feel like working. He said, “You’ve got to talk to this doctor [Dr. Timothy Brantley in Santa Monica, California]. He’s amazing. You’ll never be able to eat food again without thinking that you’re poisoning yourself. It’s going to blow your mind. My girlfriend’s 22 years old and they wanted to do a radical hysterectomy on her, but he cured her.” I said, if he can cure somebody that ill, imagine what he could do for me.
ET: How soon did you notice a difference in how you felt after starting the diet?
Alt: Like that [snaps her fingers]. I was drinking a scotch and coffee with whipped cream when I had my first phone conversation with Dr. Brantley. I would always start my morning with it. It made me feel like I could do what I had to do. Well, Dr. Brantley could guess what all my health problems were just from finding out what I ate. When I heard that, I poured that drink out. I haven’t touched a scotch and coffee since—I haven’t even touched a coffee. When you start cleaning out your body, it instinctively knows what’s not good for it.
Now I eat whenever I want, whatever I want—without guilt—and I’m never hungry. Sometimes I even forget to eat because I’m so nourished. The truth is, I have worked harder in the last 10 years than I did in the 10 years before that and I feel way better. My spirits picked up, I’m more even-keeled and my skin has never looked better. I’m better in my body now than I was when I was 23 or 24. I was always embarrassed to show my body. Modeling for Sports Illustrated was horrifying to me all the time. Now, every chance I get the clothes come off. I don’t even have to work out that much. I used to force myself to work out after 18 hours on the set. And I’d drink a coffee to get the energy to go work out. It was ridiculous.
ET: Why does eating raw food give you such great nutritional results?
Alt: It nourishes your body. When you eat cooked food, it has no enzymes, no vitamins, no minerals. It has nothing in it; it’s basically dead. When you eat a raw food, the enzymes break down the food itself—no work, clean burning, nothing left over. When you cook food, those enzymes are gone so to get what’s in that food I have to make my own enzymes. Since vitamins and minerals make the enzymes, they have to be pulled from the body: Vitamin E is pulled from collagen, so you get wrinkles; tin comes from hair, so you go grey; calcium comes from bones and teeth, so you become brittle and get osteoporosis; and on and on. It’s like taking out of the bank, but not putting anything back in. Sooner or later, you’ll go bankrupt.
ET: How many calories do you eat in a typical day?
Alt: Calories don’t matter because they are clean-burning calories as opposed to inefficient ones. It’s like the difference between using premium and regular gas. When you burn the premium gas, your car runs really well. When you get the low-grade gas, it leaves residue and your car knocks. I eat as much as I want until my body just says, “enough.”
ET: Do you take any supplements?
Alt: We have not paid attention to God’s seven-year rule. Every seven years we’re supposed to let the land lie fallow so it can build itself back up again. We are overworking our earth and all foods—raw and cooked—are already depleted. If this were a perfect world and we were re-feeding the earth, I could eat raw foods and not have to take supplements. You’d have to take supplements because you’d be getting nothing from your cooked food. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so I have to take supplements, too. I look for the most natural supplements I can find.
ET: Why did you decide now to write a book about raw foods?
Alt: So many people were asking me, “How do you look so good? How do you stay so skinny? I noticed you were eating this…” Then I’d mention raw foods and they would all ask the same question: “Isn’t it dangerous?” Well, I’ve been eating this way for nearly nine years and I’ve never gotten sick. However, I’ve had friends who have gotten sick on cooked food. Food is dangerous if you’re not careful with it—cooked or uncooked. If it goes bad, swallow the three bucks and toss it out. Everybody’s so fearful of unpasteurized milk: the bacteria, the bacteria! Do you think a farmer gives up all his milk and then goes and buys it from the store after it’s been pasteurized? He keeps the raw milk for himself and his family. That’s why you have these robust farm people, because they’re drinking their milk, eating their butter—all raw.
ET: How do you recommend someone get into a raw food diet?
Alt: It’s not as hard as it looks. It’s very simple once the ego gets out of the way, because your ego’s not out for your best interest. Once you open your eyes and look—it’s whole foods, for heaven’s sake. Really, it’s all about labels. Raw, cooked—they’re side by side on the shelves and they have the same labels. Go to the store and read carefully what you’re buying.
ET: Do you ever fall off the raw foods wagon?
Alt: I decide to go off the wagon if I want to. There are things you can do to cheat properly. Choose your one thing you can’t live without. I like popcorn at hockey games. [Alt’s boyfriend, Alexei Yashin, is a professional hockey player, most recently with the New York Islanders.] So when I know I’m going to eat popcorn, I take my enzymes. That way, at least, if I’m not making enzymes to digest that food and I’m getting nothing out of it, I’m taking a very strong pancreatic or plant enzyme to digest this food.
ET: Do you feel differently after you cheat?
Alt: Yeah, I know immediately [laughs]. I feel fat, I feel guilty and I’ve got heartburn.