Kirstie Alley has always lived a large life—and lived it publicly. In recent years, the actress who rose to fame on Cheers waged a highly visible battle with her weight, candidly discussing it in interviews and even creating a TV series loosely based on her struggles, Fat Actress.
But these days, the 62-year-old Alley, who returns to TV on Dec. 4 in TVLand’s Kirstie, takes a more holistic approach to her health, prioritizing nutrition, activity and stress-free living without sweating every small gain.
“I have decided for myself that spiritually, I’m happiest when I’m living a great, raucous life,” she says. “I’ve given myself that leeway.”
Still, Alley, who says she lives for the holidays, has developed some key strategies for the season’s many temptations, which she shares here, along with her fitness epiphanies, beauty secrets and more.
Spry: Do you have a strategy for parties?
Kirstie: I eat before I go. I try to eat the good, healthy food that I know I’m supposed to eat before I ever walk out the door for a party, so that I don’t end up at a party hungry. But I like my cooking. I like home cooking way better than restaurant or party food.
Spry: Some say losing weight is easier than keeping it off. Have you found an answer to that?
Kirstie: Before, I’d think, “Well I’m going to lose 20 pounds before the holiday season so I can eat everything I want to eat.” That attitude is really a recipe for disaster!
I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted in huge quantities, but that all changed about when I turned 53. What works for me now is to eat 90 percent organic. Most days I eat no sugar and very little dairy. If I work out hard for an hour a day, that keeps my metabolism boosted and I can eat more. When I’m filming the show, I don’t always have the opportunity to exercise, but I’d always rather eat more calories and work out harder. That to me is a winning combination!
Spry: How do you gauge when it’s time to cut back on calories or indulgences?
Kirstie: I know I’m not going to live the life I want to live in a three-pound weight range! That’s not real to me. I say my range is a 15-pound range. What I use as a barometer is five dresses I have, in the size I look best at. If those dresses fit me, I’m fine. If they start getting too tight, then I know. But I also don’t freak out about it anymore.
Spry: December’s a busy month—what do you do for quick, healthy meals?
Kirstie: I make a great organic turkey chili. I like casseroles, too. I don’t like a big slab of meat on a plate, so if I’m eating meat, I like bits of it in a casserole form. Even when it’s really cold outside, I love to make fish on the barbecue and then have fish tacos. I love chicken and rice. I also love soups. If I could only have one food for the rest of my life, it would be soup!
Spry: What do people compliment you on most?
Kirstie: My skin. I think part of it is genetic and part is that I don’t use soap or harsh chemicals on my face. I use organic coconut oil to take my makeup off, especially after filming. It’s amazing, cheap and it emulsifies your makeup in two seconds. It doesn’t burn your eyes, either.
Spry: Any other beauty secrets?
Kirstie: One of them is a lot of sleep. I make a concerted effort to have eight hours of sleep every night and, in an ideal world, I have nine. Also, what I’ve learned is if you’re spiritually and mentally happy, you will look awesome no matter what.
Spry: You’ve competed on Dancing With the Stars twice. Are you still dancing?
Kirstie: Yes! My favorite workout is to dance, and even better with a partner. I like Latin dances, so a little cha-cha, or tango, or salsa. I sometimes go to [Dancing With the Stars choreographer] Louis Van Amstel’s class, LaBlas. It’s basically ballroom dancing without a partner. I love Zumba, too—every class I love centers around dancing. I’m sort of lazy at a gym. If you’re in a dance class, you’ve got to keep up, especially if you have a partner!
Spry: What advice would you give someone still struggling with weight and body image?
Kirstie: This is the way I look at it: If I reflect on five years ago, what am I thinking about? Where my kids and I went, what dude I was with. I don’t think, “How much did I weigh?”
I like to encourage people to create the life they want to live, because their life is more important than their weight. And make discoveries. I’ve discovered all kinds of things I like to do. I like to jump on trampolines. I love to dance. I’ve arranged my life around what I like doing.