As trusty sidekick to designer Jeff Lewis, Jenni Pulos is best known for her upbeat attitude that shines onscreen in the Bravo series Flipping Out. From freestyle rapping to out-there dance moves, Pulos knows how to take the edge off in a stressful office environment. But two years ago, a near-tragedy made the sometimes-silly star get serious about her diet.
When Pulos’ sister, Kristann, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the two siblings made it their mission to eat healthier. “Watching her go through that and the changes she made in her own diet really inspired me,” says Pulos, 40, of Studio City, Calif. “For her, it was an empowering thing—it was how she fought the cancer.”
Pulos in turn cleaned up her act, eliminating most refined sugar, adding more greens, focusing on buying organic and becoming a self-described “juice fanatic.”
Kristann had a double mastectomy, underwent chemotherapy and radiation and is now, fortunately, in remission. But both women strive to keep up with their healthy ways ever since the diagnosis.
“I wasn’t even that conscious about how important it is to get greens into your diet, or why it’s important not to drink diet soda or eat a lot of white flour or refined sugar,” says Pulos, who admits the lifestyle change wasn’t easy.
“I stocked up on tuna packets and hard-boiled eggs. When I’d get home at night, I’d use them to make a quick salad with spinach, olive oil, capers and vinegar,” Pulos says. “At first, I was like, Ugh, this is so boring. All I want to do is order thin-crust Domino’s! But after a few days, I started craving it. You really can reprogram your body and mind.”
Now, Pulos says she starts each day with some greens in her daily juice cocktail—usually a combination of kale leaves, a pear, carrots, a banana and celery. “I just feel good after I have it,” she says. “I actually feel like my brain works better when I start my day that way.”
The star’s healthy eating kick paid off last spring when she felt healthier and stronger than ever, just in time for her May 2012 marriage to husband Jonathan Nassos. For Pulos, the wedding was both a commemoration of her love for her husband and a celebration of her sister’s health. “It was this wonderful event that brought my family together and let us celebrate the fact that a few hard years were over.”
Jenni Pulos started running as a student at UCLA after her planned stint on the collegiate tennis team didn’t work out. “My sister was a big runner, and has always been really competitive, and I found that I definitely enjoyed it,” Pulos says. “Usually, I’d just do a four-mile loop around UCLA.” To stay healthy as she’s aged, Pulos now mixes up her regimen with Bikram yoga, Pilates, hiking and interval training. She stays young at heart by creating raps for children with fun songs like “Brush Your Teeth” and “Bullies Aren’t Cool.”