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Ten years ago, Laura Prepon was enjoying a hot acting career, starring as the witty neighbor Donna, in the mega-hit “That ’70s Show” —when all of a sudden she started feeling sick.
Symptoms like bloating, exhaustion and stomach pain prompted her to get help. But doctors argued over the source of her discomfort—she was diagnosed with everything from leaky-gut syndrome to hypothyroidism.
Prepon took dozens of vitamins and supplements and tried “every diet on the planet.” She gulped coffee constantly to keep her energy up during long days of filming, but nothing seemed to help.
Finally, the actress found relief with the guidance of an integrative health coach, who helped her take a holistic look at her lifestyle. The coach encouraged Prepon to view food as a source of healing, to follow her body’s cues and to create a diet that made her feel best.
“It took a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked for me, and one of my biggest lessons is that everybody is different,” says Prepon, now 34 and starring in the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.” “I have friends who feel amazing when they eat meat and terrible when they don’t. I’m the opposite.”
Prepon found that her symptoms abated and her energy levels skyrocketed with a diet that was gluten-free and mostly vegan. She frequently enjoys broth made from organic, free-range chicken (without the chicken itself) and occasionally eats sushi. For the most part though, her diet comprises roasted vegetables, fruits and other simple, plant-based foods she cooks at home.
“I cook every day—I have to,” Prepon says. “It’s hard to find food like this in a restaurant. I don’t mind though. I enjoy cooking. It chills me out.”
The actress also revamped her attitude toward exercise. She had been working out two or three times a day in an effort to lose weight and gain energy. “Nothing worked, and nothing made me feel better,” she says. She cut out CrossFit and kept the forms of exercise that nourished her body and calmed her mind: yoga, spinning and running.
Prepon, who started running as a teen growing up in Watchung, N.J., now runs about 45 minutes through her Los Angeles neighborhood every morning. The routine helps her relax and focus—and has been especially helpful since she cut out caffeine.
“I keep my running shoes right by my bed, so the first thing I do when I wake up is to put on my running clothes and go right out the door,” Prepon says. “It wakes me up and puts me in a good headspace to face my day. It’s better than any cup of coffee.”
Laura usually fills her icebox with fresh foods.
Kabocha squash—“Because I don’t eat bread, I like eating a hearty squash like this.”
Iceberg lettuce—“I love making wraps inside iceberg lettuce leaves.”
Fennel—“I love roasted fennel.”
Coconut water—“Anything coconut!”
Carrots—“I’ll mash up an avocado and put it on top of a rice cake. The rice cake can give you the sensation of eating a little bit of bread, but it’s easy to digest.”
Avocados and rice cakes—“I’ll mash up an avocado and put it on top of a rice cake. The rice cake can give you the sensation of eating a little bit of bread, but it’s easy to digest.”
Blueberries and dates—“I eat these for dessert all the time.”
A Day in the Life
Breakfast: I start the day with a bowl of nutritional broth and a plate of roasted vegetables—usually kabocha squash, carrots and Brussels sprouts.
Morning Snack: I’ll eat some blueberries or raspberries with some coconut yogurt—it’s vegan and from coconut, which I love.
Lunch: Pretty much the same as breakfast.
Dinner: I usually add vegetables to my soup—leeks, celery, carrots—and have some sweet potatoes with it.
Snacks: If I get hungry throughout t he day, I’ll have some fruit or a handful of roasted kabocha squash.