Tia Mowry and her sister, Tamera, together comprised a lovable duo on the hit ’90s sitcom Sister, Sister. The pair navigated puberty onscreen as gracefully as anyone, albeit with a bit more Hollywood-manufactured grace.
But behind the scenes, the pair battled the same pressures, without the Hollywood gloss-over, that all teenage girls do: Body insecurities, awkward growth spurts, and demanding schedules took a toll on Tia, especially. So she turned to diet pills for help.
Today Mowry has tossed the unhealthy supplements in favor of a much healthier lifestyle. In fact, she’s made a business of her health habits, most recently documented in her latest book, Whole New You, a cookbook with more than 100 recipes Tia created with collaborator Jessica Porter to transform comfort food into health food.
Mowry sat down with Yahoo Style + Beauty to discuss her health journey, battles with chronic illness, and difficulty becoming pregnant (she’s now mom to 5-year-old Cree) — wearing a Marc Jacobs dessert print dress, no less. This interview has been edited for length.
Yahoo Style + Beauty: Everyone’s talking about the diet pills now. Tell me about how that started.
Tia Mowry: I was in my maybe late teens, into my early 20s. When you’re a teenager, that’s when peer pressure starts to expose its ugly self. Being in the business, being an actress, the reality of it all is it’s all about what you look like.
What was the turning point? When did you stop?
I had so much on my plate. It was a vicious cycle, or a bad habit I created. I remember my chest started to hurt. I had chest pains. That’s when I told my mom.
My sister was also taking them, and I continued to take them until I was in college. It wasn’t until I took a psychology course from my favorite professor, Dr. Banks. He told us about ways we could get rid of the things we were struggling with, and one of the options was to write it down on a piece of paper, throw it in a fire, and let it go. So I did that.
I will say, things started to turn for me when I met my husband, Cory. He’s all about the holistic route. He’s the inspiration.
Did Cory’s eating habits rub off on you?
To keep it real, he was the holistic guy, and I’m like, “What are you talking about, coconut oil? You’re cooking with coconut oil? What even, agh, that’s gross.” He would eat lotus roots, or what is that, daikon root? He was eating that and raw garlic. I only started to take it seriously when I saw I had an existing condition, endometriosis.
My doctor told me, after two surgeries that were successful for a minute, that the scar tissue would always come back. After the second surgery, I’m in my mid-20s, and she’s telling me, “Tia, if you want to have a child, you are going to have to change your diet.” The first thing she told me to stay away from was dairy. Her exact words were, “sugar and dairy are poison.”
It was at that moment it became personal to me, and maybe, I thought, what Cory was saying was right.
What’s your favorite recipe in the book?
This is a tough one. The chickpea burger. Number one, because when people think chickpeas, they think hummus, and they think, “How can something like chickpeas have the consistency or be a burger?” But you’re not missing out on that burger.
What’s your advice to those who say eating healthy is too expensive — both financially and by time spent?
I think that’s the stigma about eating healthy. But there are ways of getting around that. Your local farmer’s market is cheap. Not only that, but you’re giving back to your community, you’re helping the local farmers.
Another thing is using something like Amazon to buy in bulk. They have great prices. That’s what I do. I tend to shop at different stores too.
About it being time-consuming, not this book! When I was on my journey, I read loads of books, I bought so many cookbooks, and I was extremely disappointed because it was loaded with ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce, and then, the recipes were like three hours. Ain’t nobody got time for that! My main thing about this book is, it’s all about practicality. I wanted to make sure people didn’t feel overwhelmed making this transition. Because in the beginning, it was for me.
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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style & Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.