Q&A With Alicia Silverstone

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on March 15, 2014

For a certain generation of fans, Alicia Silverstone, 37, will forever be Cher from the 1995 classic Clueless. She's also a producer, Broadway star, blogger, and New York Times best-selling author of the 2009 ode to veganism, The Kind Diet -- plus a devoted mother to Bear Blu, 3, with husband Christopher Jarecki. Her son serves as inspiration for her latest book, The Kind Mama, a nutrition-and-lifestyle guide for women who want to get pregnant, who have a baby on the way, or who just want to eat more healthfully now. 

Q: Has motherhood changed you?

"You have to be in the moment. When you have a baby, it prioritizes everything. You have to cut out anything that doesn't work; there's no fluff time. All the fluff time you want to spend savoring your child. Time just goes."

Q: What is a "kind mama"?

"It's not just about being kind to your baby, although of course there's that, too. It's about being kind to yourself. Getting yourself as healthy as possible, to fortify you and make you available for every precious moment."

Q: Why do you think a vegan diet is so beneficial for pregnant women, and everyone?

"I want to be the most nourished, the healthiest, and strongest I can be. During my pregnancy and birth I was reminded every day about how 'hard' pregnancy is. With this lifestyle, and these kind recipes, my pregnancy was easier. When I eat the way I eat, I sleep better, which makes me more patient, more present. I want to provide for women a place to learn about all the thing things we're told are unavoidable during pregnancy but are not -- bloating, fatigue, etc. -- to know their options, and to empower them."

Q: Saying no to "empty" foods is a challenge because they taste good, or serve as quick pick-me-ups. What's your advice?

"Set a date. Tell yourself, 'I'm trying for 30 days, or even just a week, to see how I feel.' Not forever, just a trial period. Do a science experiment on yourself. If you can't have ice cream, you might instead turn to [my recipe for] Chocolate Coconut Delight made with maple syrup. That's not a healing choice, but it's a kinder choice. At the core, once you start incorporating kind foods into your diet, you're adding so much good stuff, your body is so nourished and balanced, you don't crave the bad stuff anymore."

Q: You write about how your own labor didn't go as planned. How did you feel about it?

"I labored at home but had to go to the hospital at the very last minute. My feelings around that are complicated. I had some sad feelings, but I was also thrilled because I did have a natural birth. But you can't help but feel: 'What went wrong?' My friend saw a pregnancy chiropractor the day before her birth, and I thought, 'I should have done that, too.' Then I thought maybe I'd been working too much. Ultimately, it's hard to know."

Q: Why should a new family embrace "lying-in" in those early weeks and months?

"I treated it like the most amazing vacation of my life, a time for mamas and their husbands or partners and the precious baby they just made to fall in love and focus on each other. When you bounce right back to work, you might be missing the point of the entire experience. You're taking the focus and energy away from being a present mama -- not just for the baby, but for you."

Q: Are you still breastfeeding? If so, how long will you continue?

"I'm still breastfeeding. I don't have a plan for that. Nature will take its course. That's something we'll decide together, as every mom and baby does together. It's not like planning when you'll get your haircut! When he's done or when I'm done, then we'll deal with that. Now it's something we both love and enjoy so much."

Q: Do you ever indulge in "bad" foods?

"I'm human! I might make sourdough toast with almond butter, or get really good bread from the farmers' market with 28-year-aged balsamic vinegar. If someone sends me stuff to test, I can't refuse! Beautiful dark organic chocolate? I love amazing chocolate. I love to go out to eat and have a glass of wine. That happens rarely, but if I do, I don't feel bad about it."

Q: How about exercise? What's your routine?

"I love to walk in the [Hollywood] Hills. I love my yoga class. The amazing thing about this [vegan] lifestyle -- and exercise is so good for your health, your heart, and gets your blood moving -- but following this kind diet, even when I can't exercise, I'm still good. I'm not getting up at 4 a.m. before a 15-hour day to go to the gym. There are actresses who will do that but I'm not one of them! But I don't have to worry too much because I'm healthy, and my body looks great because of the way I eat."

Q: What do you think Americans -- and Westerners, in general -- do wrong?

"We're eating empty foods that leave us sick and tired, food that causes illness and disease -- pregnant or not. We might not realize we're unhealthy; our expectations of how we should feel are so low … you might feel swollen, bloated, uncomfortable, exhausted. When you clean yourself out and feel that vibrating buzz of good health, you feel what it's like not to need any of that. It's inspiring and exciting."

Q: What is "super-charged fertility"?

"It's the same principle: it's about getting healthy. When you heal yourself, everything gets cleaned up and in working order so you can carry a baby. You might not be broken, just out of balance. It's the safer, cheaper, healthier approach to take."

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Alicia Silverstone, actress; author, "The Kind Diet," Rodale, 2009; and The Kind Mama, Rodale, 2014.

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