Two Sports Illustrated covers, lucrative contracts with Cover Girl Cosmetics and Hanes, countless fashion magazine covers... Carol Alt was flying high as one of the most famous faces and bodies on the planet throughout the eighties and early nineties. Playboy Magazine called Carol "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World," and Life Magazine dubbed her "The Next Million Dollar Face." She played Howard Stern's fantasy woman in 1997's hit biopic chronicling Stern's life and career, Private Parts.
Carol Alt also found herself in the same precarious situation as most models, having to maintain an impossible body weight (125 lbs. on her 5'10 ½ frame) and eating very little, for years, as a result. During our conversation, Carol also shared with me her past lack of education about food and nutrition and how years of poor eating habits came to a head at the age of 34, when she found herself rundown and not feeling well on a regular basis. After a serendipitous phone call with an old friend and encounter with a holistic physician, Carol Alt explains how she became educated in nutrition and what the body needs to function at an optimum level of health and well being. She learned about the immense benefits of raw organic eating and started on a new path toward a lifestyle that would become her life's passion. Now, at the age of 45 she says she feels better than she did in her twenties. Since embarking on this journey more than ten years ago, Carol has written the book, Eating in the Raw, in which she shares her own personal experiences and provides a "how to" guide that anyone can follow, for finding and preparing raw foods.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): In your early thirties you were experiencing some chronic health problems?
Carol Alt: Here's the thing I guess because I'm surrounded by young people all the time in the [modeling and entertainment] industry there's always somebody coming up behind you. I got a chance on a trip to Venezuela to work with a nineteen-year-old girl and I was about 34 years old at the time. I saw this girl happy, fun, full of energy. She was jumping on tables. Now I'm the name on the project, technically the big star there, but the entire crew was drawn to her because she had energy and she was jumping and she was laughing and everybody was having a good time with her. And I was kind of tired and sitting on the side. They were putting her in g-strings and I was hiding myself behind rocks, because the flight had made me bloat. I only had the one day [down there] and I was literally hiding behind rocks. As I got on the plane to go home I was sitting there thinking, "What happened to me as a body, as a person between, say, 25 and 34?" At 34 years old I was on allergy medicines for my sinuses, I was taking eight Tums a night for acid stomach, and I was really, really tired. My body was starting to change. I was eating less food. I was already eating no food to maintain my weight at 125 lbs. at 5'10 ½" as a model. Now at 34, even starving myself for two days wasn't getting me down to my fighting weight. It didn't matter how much I worked out. I was up to 135 lbs. at that point and just couldn't get it off, and I just couldn't eat any less food. It took me Nyquil to fall asleep, it took me coffee to wake up. And it wasn't like, "Oh my god, I have to have it!" It was just something I did. It was just my routine.
PR.com: It sounds kind of extreme though. It sounds like, maybe you were doing the opposite of what you're doing right now, and sort of really letting yourself go.
Carol Alt: But here's the thing, Allison it wasn't extreme! It was pretty normal. Look what people take! I wasn't feeling extreme. I was just like, "Everybody takes Nyquil when they have the flu." It just makes me fall asleep so much faster. It gets into your veins. You can feel it going in you know what I mean? It's a drug, even though it's over the counter. My point is, at 34 years old, I was experiencing those things that everybody was calling "aging." You're just getting older. All my girlfriends say, "Oh, I hit the wall. I just started gaining weight. All of a sudden I got wrinkles. All of a sudden this. All of a sudden that." My point to you is it wasn't all of a sudden.
PR.com: When did you first start to feel your body not cooperating?
Carol Alt: It was this trip (her trip to Venezuela) because I got to see somebody in front of me who was like I was at nineteen. And my question was, "How did I get where I was at 34?" My acid stomach I looked at as a badge of courage. I'm stressed, I'm the highest paid model in the world, I'm doing four films a year I wore it as a red badge of courage. But truthfully, I'm just as stressed now. I probably work harder and I do more diverse things, and I haven't taken a Tums in ten or eleven years.
PR.com: How did you learn about raw eating? Because you're saying, I was not liking the state of my mind and my body. How did you find the solution?
Carol Alt: Coming back from that trip made me very depressed. And I thought, "You know, I just don't feel like working anymore. I don't feel like being in L.A. I don't feel like pounding down people's doors for parts." So I took off to the desert. I went to my mother-in-law's house. Nobody had the number there. And I just remember being there and trying to relax, but just tired and not feeling like doing anything. I thought, "What's happening to me?" And I remembered my father saying to me, and my father died of Liver Cancer in 1983 on Christmas morning, my father said to me just before he died, he said "Carol Ann, I should've known there was something wrong with me when I didn't feel like working." And my father and I are exactly alike. I am my father's daughter. I love to work, I love my job, I love the people that I meet and I didn't feel like working anymore. Something in my head said there's something seriously wrong. This is not aging. And certainly if I was aging at this rate, what am I going to be like at 45, 55, or 65?
PR.com: Yeah, because 34 is not all that old
Carol Alt: Exactly. But people were saying, "Oh don't worry about it. That's just aging. Oh yeah, I get headaches too. Oh yes, I have acid stomach." I was experiencing the things that are actually normal for most people. Depression here and there, bloat at their period, moodiness, tired those were the things that normal 34 year olds were experiencing. But my mind was going analytical. If I want to keep a career, if I want to I can't believe life is supposed to be like this at 34, because they're saying our lives are longer and more productive and I'm thinking, "This is 34!" So I just remember being in the desert and thinking, "God, please! There's got to be something more than this. You've made me somewhat famous. Allow me to do something with this fame. I want to do charity work. I want to do things to help people, and I feel like I'm dying and I need your help." And I swear to God that he answers whenever you do that. I got a phone call from a friend of mine, and I write about it in my book (Eating in the Raw), at my mother-in-law's house. Now how many friends of yours have your mother-in-law's number? None! I Go, "How did you get this number?" and he said, "I have no clue. I just have this number for you." He goes, "I have to tell you this you're the healthiest person I know, so you'll appreciate this " And I'm thinking, "Holy cow, if I'm the healthiest person this guy knows my PR is doing a very good job, because I personally am feeling like garbage." He goes, "My girlfriend is 22 years old and they wanted to do a radical hysterectomy on her. She was full of cancer. I took her to this doctor. Everybody was saying [we were] crazy. We went against every doctor, but I'm telling you, he will make you look at food like you've never looked at food before. He will change your life! You will not be able to eat with friends and watch what they put in their mouth, because you will know they are poisoning themselves. In six months, he cured my girlfriend of cancer. She just got a negative biopsy."
PR.com: This is an alternative doctor he took her to?
Carol Alt: This was an M.D. in Los Angeles. I write about it in the book. His name is Dr. Timothy Brantley. Dr. Brantley doesn't say he cured her. It's not a word he's allowed to use. Just so you understand the technical problems with using that language
PR.com: No, I'm sure. I understand
Carol Alt: That was the word that my friend said to me. Now that girl, who they wanted to do a radical hysterectomy on, that meant take everything out, just had a baby two years ago. So you tell me what's cured.
PR.com: This was from putting her on a raw diet?
Carol Alt: He put her on a raw diet, juiced her, did high colonics, clean outs. Put her on his herbs, enzymes and supplements. Just basically taught her how to re-build her body, which at 22 she could do really easily because she was 22! She had a lot of reserves and she was able to do that. At that point I just thought, "If that [doctor] could do that with that girl with cancer, could you imagine what he could do for me with all the stupid little aging things that are making me crazy?" I don't want to be like everybody else. I want to be happy. I see all my friends on Prozac and Zoloft and all this kind of stuff. I don't want that for my life. I don't want to be on all these OTCs (over the counter medications). I just thought, "What the heck?" And I gave the guy a call, putting all ego aside, because believe me, I rolled my eyes when Steve told me about this. I don't know man. Just a voice inside of me said, "Don't be an idiot! You need something. Check it out." I called the doctor and left a message. He called me back and we started chatting. He asked me what I eat. I said, "Well I love turkey heroes, I eat pasta for dinner but with tomato sauce, not cream sauce, because I'm watching my weight. I have my coffee in the morning. If I'm not working, I'll put a little scotch in it and whip cream and make it my only drink. I only drink once a day, that's it." I'm making all these excuses for my diet. He just listened and finally he said, "Do you eat any vegetables?" I said, "If I eat a salad it just doesn't fill me up," and he said "That's because you eat iceberg lettuce." He starts talking about the food and he goes, "I'm surprised that with your food, you don't have sinus problems, trouble falling asleep, colds and flues.
(Carol suffered chronically from all of these conditions).
I got colds and flues all the time, after every movie [I did]. Ten days. As soon as the movie [wrapped], I'd land in New York and I'd be sick in bed for ten days
PR.com: Just from being on set and being in close proximity to other people?
Carol Alt: Allison, they would say, "Oh my god! Cough cough cough, Carol Alt! I've always wanted to meet you!" And then extend their hand to me. Three months on a movie and so many people come in and out of my space.
PR.com: Right, and the long hours
Carol Alt: Yeah, long hours and tired. People wanting to meet you, and coughing in their hand and then sticking their hand out to you. I got to the point where people thought I was such a diva because I'm like, "I have to have my own hair and makeup!"
PR.com: I'm not a shaking hands kind of a person, so I don't blame you. I don't like that.
Carol Alt: Yeah, I mean, I would rather chest to chest hug
PR.com: Yeah, I am not a fan of shaking hands.
Carol Alt: Yeah and when they kiss, I just kind of do ear to ear
Carol Alt: Yeah. So, then Dr. Brantley asked, "Are you depressed?" And I said, "Yeah. I go through mood swings." Then he asked about PMS problems and I said, "Yeah, they just started." And I had a rash and the doctor told me it was Poison Sumac! It turned out to be the yeast was coming through my skin. And I went, "Oh my god! That's what that rash is! It's not gone away for three months!" I said to [Dr. Brantley], "Ok, I'm coming to see you." I got in the car and drove up to L.A. the first moment he had free. And he diagnosed me, literally, right in the pharmacy in Santa Monica [California]. He looked at my feet, he looked at my hands, he looked at my eyes, he looked at my tongue. He sat me down in a restaurant and he started to teach me about food. And in that moment you know when you so profoundly know you were given a gift?
Carol Alt: There has been three times in my life when that's happened to me. Once was when I walked into the agency and the entire agency just stopped dead and I knew I was where I was supposed to be
PR.com: You're talking about your modeling career
Carol Alt: For my modeling career. This was the second. I just knew my life, in that moment, was never going to be the same. He talked to me and I put my finger up and said, "Wait a second." I ran out to my car and got my date book, came back and I said, "I don't want to forget anything." He said, "You're my first patient that's ever written anything down." I said, "Doctor, this is so speaking to me. I just know this is the right thing."
PR.com: How did you make, not just the intellectual connection, but the emotional connection? Because it's one thing to say that you know your not eating well and this is the right way to eat, but now [you] have to have the discipline and the follow through
Carol Alt: It was no discipline. You have to understand something. I was starving myself (referring to the eating habits she maintained to stay at 125 lbs.). That was discipline. I was trying to maintain weight. I was not eating what I wanted to eat, and that's the mistake that everybody makes when they think, "Eww, raw food. Oh my god, I can't have the discipline!" I eat everything that a football player would eat! I just eat it prepared differently. That's the end. I'm not Vegan. I eat raw milk and cheeses. They're unpasturized. I eat meat if I want to; carpaccio, tartar, or even a seared steak.
PR.com: Ok, I have to ask you about that. Most people who are raw foodists, by definition, they are Vegan
Carol Alt: That's not true. It's just that Vegans are more verbal about being Vegan.
PR.com: So there are plenty of raw foodists who eat animal products?
Carol Alt: Absolutely. Vegan and Raw Food are not hand in hand in my book. And if you've read my first book, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez he wrote the foreword to my book and now he's written the foreword to my second book this is a man who has studied this. My whole thing is about health and what's right for each and every individual body. We have to go back to what our ancestors ate because each body is different. For example, the Eskimos only ate fat. They ate no grains at all. They lived on ice. They were very capable and they had no cancer, nothing. No high blood pressure, no problems. They got everything they needed.
PR.com: Here's why I get confused. I've been to the restaurant, Raw, in Santa Monica [CA]. Their chef, Juliano, and all of those other raw chefs they will look at you and say that animal products are the reason why people get sick. The reason people have heart problems, cancer you name it. If you eat a plant based diet you will be
Carol Alt: Are they a doctor?
PR.com: No, but this is why I'm confused.
Carol Alt: They're giving you an opinion
PR.com: It's confusing!
Carol Alt: They're giving you an opinion, as I am giving you an opinion. But I am basing my opinion on a doctor's research, and the research that's in books. There was a man Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez [who] put his name in my book. This guy researched the world over. He spent two or three years traveling the world and he went to every remote place. He went to Alaska and saw them eating fat; he went to The Amazon and saw them eating only grains and no animals at all; he went to the valleys of Switzerland; He went to Africa. Every diet was different. But the people there had been adapted to that diet since the very beginning. So how I found out what to eat for me is I actually went to Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez and had him do a hair test on me. He told me I'm a moderate vegetarian, which means, and here's the difference, if I don't have fish I don't feel good. If I have too much meat, it's too acid for me. My boyfriend, he can't survive without meat. He gets literally pale and sick without meat. So I'm sitting here looking at different people and I'm saying, "What's good for one is not good for another." We are not one blanket, one person in this entire world. We're trying to homogenize the world today. But we're not. Everybody comes from a different stock. You can't take an Eskimo, and they did this the Eskimos came down and they started eating the western diet, and they're now full of cancer and everything. You've gotta understand where cancer is coming from. Cancer is an acid reaction. We're cooking food. That's acid.
PR.com: What is this concept of alkaline versus acid?
(Carol prefaces her next comment by stating that she is not a doctor and is simply relaying information that she has been educated with.)
Carol Alt: This is just based on the research that I've found and what I found with my own body and from the doctors that I've worked with. I was taught by Dr. Timothy Brantley that the body is acid by nature but alkaline by necessity. That means when we work out, when we stress, when we digest food whatever we do, we make eight different kinds of acids. Hydrochloric Acid, Lactic Acid you name it, we make it. We don't make anything alkaline. But our organs like to sit in a neutral PH. Well how do we do that? If our bodies are only producing acid, how do we get our organs to sit in a neutral PH? Well, if you pull spinach out of the ground and it's on the alkaline side, but you cook that spinach and now it becomes a tub of acid, what do you do? Do you cook it?
PR.com: Ok, so by cooking food you're making it acidic?
Carol Alt: You change the PH as well as the molecular structure, as well as de-naturing the vitamins and minerals, as well as killing the enzymes. Here's the problem. People are like, "Well they ate wheat way back when and they made bread." Yeah, they germinated their grains. They ate the whole grain. They put them into patty cakes and they laid them in the sun. What is that? That's dehydration. When we started creating ovens, we started dehydrating things faster and at a higher heat. The trade off was, at the higher heat we killed the enzymes and de-natured the vitamins and minerals. Those four things are the most important things the body needs. And when you give the body everything it needs it can cure itself, in my opinion, from anything. Because every disease we have is from de-generation; from the body breaking down. Well don't you think acid breaks down the body? It destroys cars; rusts them right out! Molecular structure. Do you put tea in your car? Why not? It looks like gas. It's liquid like gas. It's the same color as gas. Why don't you put tea in your car? The molecular structure is different. The car can't read the molecular structure of tea. Well, our body is brilliant and it can read the molecular structure of a lot of things, but when you change the molecular structure to the point where it looks like a toxin to the body, it's going to react to the food like a toxin. We call that allergies.
PR.com: So when food is in its natural state, it's alkaline.
Carol Alt: Your body's 5.5 and you put an 8.0 alkaline in it you get a neutral PH. It's that simple.
PR.com: And the enzymes in food, when food is in its natural state or when food is alive most of us are missing these vital enzymes?
Carol Alt: Here's what happens. Your body's brilliant. And we stress it out completely all the time. And when disease starts to happen it's just because the body got to the point where it's so stressed and it's so not getting what it needs that it just starts breaking down. So when you eat a food and it has its own enzymes and vitamins and minerals, that food goes into your mouth and you start to break it down, and it activates the enzymes in the food. It goes down into your stomach. Your stomach doesn't have to do anything. The enzymes in the food break it down. The hydrochloric acid helps, and it gets digested. Out of that food comes the natural vitamins and minerals, because they've not been cooked. So for example, when you take Calcium, you don't just take Calcium. Look at every Calcium there is. It says Calcium with Magnesium and Vitamin D. Why is that? Because Calcium can't be absorbed unless it's in the presence of Magnesium and Vitamin D. Some vitamins are not bothered by heat but some are. You de-nature their natural [state]. So all of a sudden, these de-natured vitamins and minerals no longer react the same. And their partners no longer react to them the same. So now the body doesn't absorb them the same. If you're eating raw food and you get these vitamins and minerals in a little compact perfect state, your body goes, "Oh yummy!" and absorbs it. Out of those vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids your body is building itself. It builds its immune system, it rebuilds your hair, your skin, your nails, because your body is shedding its stuff all the time and it needs something to rebuild from. It's keeping the integrity of the organs. It's creating enzymes in the blood from the protein.
PR.com: Going back to the raw fishes, meats and cheeses, everything you're getting you can get at your local Whole Foods Market?
Carol Alt: A lot of things you can. A lot of things you go on websites. I go to my butcher. He orders our meat for us. I go all the places you go. I eat all the foods you eat. I just ask for different things. I go to a restaurant and if they won't cook my fish seared, I know it's not fresh fish. Why would I even want to eat that cooked? Let's get real! I want the best for me. Now, here's the other thing, Allison; there are people out there who are enzyme deficient, who have no reserves left, who already have health problems. Raw foods can be hard to eat when you're not used to it. That's why I say, you work with a doctor on your diet. Find out what type of body you are. Like I said, I'm a moderate Vegetarian. I need fish. Some people don't. Some people are Vegans, and it's good for them. Some people eat meat and it's good for them. [Go to] a physician who is versed in raw food, who is not a quack, who is a real genuine doctor. Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez is an M.D., but he also reaches out into alternatives because he's looking at what we're doing as a society and wondering what's happening. Well you know the definition of insanity, right?
PR.com: Doing the same thing over and over and
Carol Alt: And expecting to get different results
PR.com: Yes! (Laughs)
Carol Alt: Well people are eating these foods and they're breathing in this pollution and they're not eating organic stuff and they're not eating what their body needs and they're getting sick, but they're still continuing that and then taking a pill. I'm just thinking, "That's not the way God created us, is it?"
PR.com: Well it breaks my heart when I see my parents and my grandparents being put on more and more medication as they get older.
Carol Alt: Yeah, because they have this problem and then they take a pill and that pill causes this reaction
Carol Alt: Listen, I've got friends who are my age, I've got friends who are younger I've got friends in their twenties on anti depression pills. What's happening? I'm just looking at what's happening and saying, "I don't want to do the insanity."
PR.com: Do you believe that a condition like depression can be, and I'm not asking you to testify to it, but
Carol Alt: What do you think was happening to me? I was depressed, I was tired, I was moody! I was so unhappy. And hey, people are calling me the most beautiful woman in the world! And I'm going like, "Why am I so depressed?!"
PR.com: Do you think [depression] is from malnutrition?
Carol Alt: If depression is a chemical imbalance in the body, which is, I believe what the doctors are saying. Correct?
Carol At: Okay. How do we get chemically imbalanced? Something in our bodies are going wrong or something in our bodies are not able to fend off whatever is assaulting that body; pollution or whatever. I believe God is brilliant and he's created a body and thought in the future about what we were going to be doing to ourselves and he's created a body that can deal with all that if we feed it correctly. Bottom line. So yes, I believe that just about anything can be taken care of with proper diet. The problem is, nobody teaches you what a proper diet is. And nobody teaches you what the proper diet is for you. Now I can't tell you, "Allison, you are a moderate vegetarian metabolizer." So how can Juliano (famous raw vegan chef from the Los Angeles restaurant, "Raw") or anybody else say, "You're Vegan."
PR.com: Well, I'll tell you something, there have been three times in my life that I attempted a vegan diet. And all three times I felt a little bit weak until I started to incorporate some animal protein back into my diet.
Carol Alt: You're probably a moderate vegetarian metabolizer, because I get the same way.
PR.com: Yeah, and I said "What's up?!" This is supposed to be the healthiest diet in the world.
Carol Alt: It's not healthy if it's not right for you. Go to a doctor. Find out what you are.
PR.com: In your book, Eating in the Raw, what exactly is the book comprised of besides your personal story?
Carol Alt: [The book] is a beginner's guide. It's a resource book. There's just so much stuff out there now. There are so many things you can eat and so many people experimenting with fabulous stuff that you can buy just about anywhere. And the big argument is that it's so expensive. Here's the thing. If I'm being nutritioned first you have to build your body to the point where you are nutritioned. That took me two or three months. If you're nutritioned and your eating food that nutritions you: a) you'll eat way less food; b) you don't snack because you don't need it; c) anything that you buy out there can be made by yourself cheaper. A dehydrator costs fifty bucks an oven costs hundreds of dollars. You know what I'm saying? Most important, I don't take any over-the-counter drugs. It was forty bucks every week and a half for whatever I was taking.
PR.com: So you're probably going to make less trips to the doctor, less trips to the pharmacy, less trips to the dentist and so on
Carol Alt: I don't advocate that. I go check with my doctor all the time
PR.com: But I mean as far as having a million different ailments that need to be looked into
Carol Alt: Yeah. I don't have all those ailments anymore. I know they went away for me, and I know I'm no different than you. I just know that the difference between me and you is I don't want to be 60 in a bed somewhere with my arm paralyzed because I had a freakin' stroke!
PR.com: What's happening to me right now is, I just turned 32 a few weeks ago, and all of a sudden
Carol Alt: All of a sudden! See, you said it!
PR.com: Yeah. All of a sudden I'm like, "Aging, aging oh my God. Oh my God."
Carol Alt: Wait till you hit 40! See how you age at 40. That's just it. It doesn't get better unless you do something different. That's my point. I'm just saying, raw food is all around you. It's there more and more. And it's great. It tastes good. Not only that, it tastes better than cooked food. When you find the things that you like you won't be able to, literally, live without it. What can be a better gift from God, to you as a child of God, than that? The only gift we have is health. I don't care how much money you have. I don't care what Mercedes you are driving. When you get sick, there is nothing in the world that is more precious to you than getting healthy.
PR.com: I'm glad that you said that. I think it's so important for people who are perceived to have so many material things to say something like that, because the majority of people out there don't have an overabundance of material things so they are almost more fixated on that then on their physical well being and their emotional well being.
Carol Alt: You know what, if you're not healthy, I don't care if you're Donald Trump. If you're not healthy, how long do you think you're going to be around to enjoy those things that you've earned. There's nothing more fabulous than having healthy, happy family around you. And there's nothing more depressing than having family around you and they're dying young. My brother died last year. Fifty years old. He wanted to live fast, live hard, die young. Well he got his wish, but look what happens to the people around you. So when you eat crappy like that, your health affects everybody around you. My brother left three kids at fifty years old. My father left me. Do you think everyday I don't think about the fact that if I would have known then what I know now that I could have saved my father's life?! I think about it every day.
PR.com: In body, mind and spirit, how old do you feel?
Carol Alt: I feel better than I did in my twenties.
For more information on Carol Alt's raw eating lifestyle,
go to www.CarolAlt.com.