Former child star Christopher Knight journeyed later in life to higher ground—
in love, in the limelight and in shape. Find out how good health and nutrition,
and opening up to the unexpected, helped him get there.
When most guys start nearing the big 5-0, they start to get a little, shall we say, settled. Not to say they’re all completely sinking into the couch, remote in hand, with a bag of snack chips—but the great adventures and peak physical prowess of youth is often considered a fond memory of the past.
Christopher Knight wasn’t so different. Years after his early rise to fame as the middle son, Peter, on the ’70s TV hit The Brady Bunch, Knight had developed a successful career in the computer industry—not as glamorous as his first calling, but stable. He continued to act in Brady Bunch reunion movies and the occasional film, and appeared to have combined the best of both worlds. He was, by all accounts, comfortable.
But his increasingly sedentary lifestyle combined with various injuries took its toll on his once rock-hard frame. Two years ago, all of TV land saw Knight work his way back to personal fitness on a cable show, Discovery Health Celebrity Body Challenge.
Once he was all back to being buff, Knight starred last year in the popular VH-1 reality show, The Surreal Life, in which formerly famous celebs live together in an LA mansion and have their every waking moment taped. It was there that Knight met 23-year-old Adrianne Curry, the first winner of the reality show America’s Next Top Model. Exuberant and idealistic, she was “the kite to his rock”—and she was drop-dead gorgeous. Despite his initial trepidation to get romantically involved with a woman more than a few years younger than him, Knight fell madly in love and their relationship—and climactic engagement—was recorded on the VH-1 spin-off show, My Fair Brady. (They plan to be married on the show’s second season.) At 48, Knight is a changed man: romantically, vocationally and physically.
Energy Times: Looking at you, it’s hard to imagine there was a time when you weren’t in shape.
Christopher Knight: I’ve been in various forms throughout my life. At one time in my 20s I was at 5% body fat; I worked at that for two years, and that’s my obsessive side. This is back when Eat to Win (by Robert Haas) came out in the mid-’80s. I was aware of what it took to keep a really lean body mass. I wasn’t thinking straight because I was eating so little, but it was an interesting period of discipline for me.
Then I got involved with business and left the acting field, and I no longer had that free time. I had to sit behind a desk and my schedule wasn’t conducive to working out. I gained weight, went from 5% body fat to about 20%. I had to learn to get lean again. Then I did the Discovery Health Celebrity Body Challenge two years ago and made my comeback from being heavy. I had a trainer and I’d never worked with one before; I scoffed at them because I figured I knew everything I needed to know about working out. But the trainer was also a nutritionist and the show had a nutritionist. They both had the same mantra about small meals, metabolism-inducing eating and a low-carbohydrate diet. I bought in and it worked—really well. That’s when I learned about the importance of diet and nutrition. So much of it isn’t about the workout alone. Now I’m fascinated by the body and how it reacts to food.
ET: What kind of a diet are you following now?
Knight: Well, life intervenes. A lot of this is where I aim to be, but throughout the course of the day you fall away from it. Ideally, I’d be eating six meals a day as part of a moderate fat, high-protein and low- carbohydrate diet. My carbohydrates would almost solely be low-glycemic. I removed all unnecessary calories from drinks like fruit juices from my diet. The only drink I have outside of my coffee in the morning is water or a diet soda. I’m certain that these diet sodas probably aren’t good for me over time, but water gets to be boring after a while and I’m concerned with hydrating myself without adding calories. And I do supplement with whey protein to maintain muscle growth.
ET: Do you make a lot of shakes and smoothies?
Knight: I don’t make smoothies because that suggests adding fruit and some milk. I just get a whey protein, like SPIRU-TEIN Whey, and mix it with water. For me, that’s sufficient for maybe two of the six meals that I’m supposed to have in a day. I’ve had to train myself to eat breakfast. I’m not a traditional breakfast eater, but I’ve learned that it’s the most important meal. I’ve developed a gruel that combines almonds, oats, flax seeds and wheat germ. I mix them together into a dry blend and then add water. It’s an efficient cereal for me in the morning: completely low glycemic and the right energy source to get the body started. Then I’ll have protein right after my workout. I try to limit my calories to no more than 600 per meal. Try to do that four other times a day—it’s tough. When you want to stay in shape, it’s almost a full-time job. There’s no place to eat out correctly without being tempted or tormented. And if you really want to be in shape there’s no alcohol consumption.
ET: Do you find other supplements helpful?
Knight: Yes. I don’t believe that with the diets we have that we can get all of the vitamins that we need. I’ve been taking supplements forever. People laugh at all the supplements I take but believe me, I have friends who take far more than me. I take my omega-3s and -6s, vitamin C, and a multivitamin, like Source of Life. After meals, I take a metabolism-enhancer with chromium picolinate and I take a multi-mineral before I go to bed. I also take MSM, vitamin E, selenium, St. John’s wort, lecithin, and glucosamine and chondroitin. After my workouts my muscles get very sore two days later, so I take HMB for muscle re-growth. When I don’t take it, I hurt a lot more. There are a few I’m forgetting.
ET: Have you tried to influence Adrianne with your healthy lifestyle?
Knight: I’m trying to get her off some things. She loves to drink Coca-Cola and juice. She’s also a fast food junkie. She doesn’t know what fast food does to the body and she’s at that age when the metabolism is going to start changing. Sure enough it started changing as soon as we met. All of a sudden she gained 18 pounds because she wasn’t watching what she was eating. Then she was apt to listen, and now she has gotten a trainer. She’s also taking supplements.
ET: Are you trying to get her to quit smoking?
Knight: That’s one of the things that she needs to do as a promise to me as we move forward because I’m very surprised that I’m with a smoker. It’s a bad habit and when I’m around her I can become a social smoker. It’s not something I’m really pleased with myself. I just want it gone, out of here. It’s so vile. My mom passed away from lung cancer at the time I met Adrianne. She never had a chance to meet my mom.
ET: Being in the entertainment industry, is there a lot of temptation to develop unhealthy habits?
Knight: Well, yes, but I’ve also had another career in a whole other industry and I’m not certain it’s much different. The entertainment industry is so high profile and there are a lot of stresses and excesses. The personalities that are attracted to the industry tend to be more excessive-type individuals. But there’s also a great strain and stress being placed on the individuals to look good, so that can counteract some of those excesses that are unhealthy for us. There are as many obsessions on the healthy side, like going too far with weight loss, for example.
The insidious part of the business world is that it’s hard for anyone who sits behind a desk all day to stay in shape. It gets hard to motivate yourself to get up earlier to get into the health club, get the shower done, get into work on time and do that day after day. At the same time, you can’t give in to all of those social gatherings around tables of food and wine. There’s a tremendous amount of unhealth there.
Another thing is that I found out that I have ADD (attention deficit disorder). I was diagnosed about 10 years ago, but looking back at my life it’s always been with me. My workouts were, all along, and now consciously so, a self-medicating component of ADD. It helps me become centered. Without it, I can become very scattered. So for me, it’s not just a physical health thing, it’s also a mental health thing.
ET: You served as a spokesperson for an ADD campaign, right?
Knight: Yes, I was the spokesperson for the National Consumer League’s AD/HD Campaign to Inform the Nation in 2002 and 2003. It’s such a hot-button issue and a difficult affliction to get a handle on. Part of what you suffer from is what other people suffer from as well, just to a lesser extent. What distinguishes you as being someone who has an affliction as opposed to being someone who is not handling life well? It’s a tough distinction. I always felt like I was never living up to my potential, that everything was a little tougher than it needed to be. Just knowing that this was what I was suffering from helped me focus on ways of dealing with it. I understand me a lot more knowing it. Others need the same freedom from this pain.
ET: Do you feel a lot of pressure to stay young looking now that you’re back in the public eye?
Knight: There’s certainly a great pressure on women to remain youthful, but there’s not as much pressure on men. I also benefit from having a more youthful appearance for my age. It’s gratifying coming back into the industry and hearing people say, “Wow, you don’t look your age at all!” Maybe right now I’m not feeling the pressure because I’m succeeding at something that others want to succeed at themselves. I don’t know what I’ve done to get there, other than try to lead a moderately clean and healthy life.
ET: So tell us about some of your recent projects.
Knight: I’ve gone from being a Brady to doing reality TV, and now that I’m back in the industry I’m getting more offers. Immediately after doing The Surreal Life I was asked to become the spokesperson for the new Ab Lounge (a machine that tones the abdominal muscles). They just saw me on the show and thought, “We want you for these infomercials.” It takes a lot of pain and energy to get into shape, so it’s nice to know that I can be repaid for it.
The Surreal Life also led me to a new sci-fi film, Light Years Away (which should be released later this year and co-stars Eric Roberts and Meadow Williams). The producer/ director/writer, Bryan Michael Stoller, noticed me and cast me as an astronomer who literally finds love through his telescope. Through some magic, a beautiful being from another planet (Williams) uses his telescope to transport herself to his realm. She shows up on his doorstep but he can’t touch her because she doesn’t exist here. Adrianne has a small role in it too. The film is about following your dreams and making them come true.
ET: Are you continuing to work in the business world?
Knight: I have a new company that has been in operation for a little over a year. It’s a tattoo removal company called Dr. Tattoff. We just opened retail locations in Beverly Hills and Irvine. Hopefully if we’re successful it will become a national chain. The laser technologies have existed for the past five years, but not many people have focused on that market segment. It’s a big audience; 22% of America is tattooed.
ET: It sounds like your life has certainly taken some interesting turns this past year.
Knight: I’ve had to take a step back and realize that regardless of what I had assumed in life was right for me, I may not have been right. My relationship with Adrianne is wonderful but it is not in my comfort zone. Doing the show is not in my comfort zone. I prefer being in the shadows and off to the sides. Even being in the entertainment industry really isn’t in my comfort zone. But I’m learning a tremendous amount by allowing myself to be outside of that zone. I’d recommend it to anybody. Shake it up. I was becoming set in my ways right at a time when Adrianne came through and challenged me. If you’re set in your ways long enough it becomes impossible to change. I just hadn’t become hardened yet and she broke through. That’s a blessing. I watch myself grow anew. It’s not totally predictable where I’ll end up—and that’s okay.