Life StoryFeb/Mar 2009 Issue

Marilu Henner: Her Healthiest Role

Marilu Henner

Actress, author and wellness advocate Marilu Henner is vibrant and energized. She says 2009 could be her busiest year yet, with three major books in the works, two TV shows in development, a Broadway workshop scheduled, and the launch of a new section on where she teaches classes espousing her health program. She is also updating her bestseller, Total Health Makeover. It takes a lot of stamina to maintain such a hectic schedule but the 57-year-old redhead says she may have more energy now than she did in her 20s when she played a lead role in the television sitcom, Taxi. How does she do it? Henner talks exclusively to Living Without about the link between diet and general well-being.

LW When did you first start thinking that dietary changes could improve
your health?  

Henner My father died from a heart attack when I was 17. He was only 52. After that, I ate my feelings and put on a lot of weight. When my mother died at 58 from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, I ate up information instead of food. I became a real student of health and started exploring different foods. I call August 15, 1979, my “health birthday” because that August marked a real change in my life. I made this surreal connection that if I did something good for my body, it would respond in a good way. That was the start of my journey.  

LW So your mother’s death was a catalyst for you?
Henner Yes. Her arthritis really kicked in after my father died. Looking back, I can see that her arthritis was the perfect manifestation of all that stress but it also had to do with how she ate. She had followed an anti-arthritis diet for a while and was looking so youthful— but she just couldn’t keep it up. That was the first time I made the connection between food and good health. I decided that what happened to my mother was not going to happen to me or my brothers or sisters…or anyone else I know. So I learned everything I could about the human body, going to doctors, medical libraries, health food stores, nutritionists. Over time, I completely changed my lifestyle and I continue on my well-being journey today.  

LW Do you avoid foods specificallylinked to rheumatoid arthritis?  
Henner Yes. The nightshade family of foods, which includes peppers, potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes, can be very inflammatory for sensitive people. There are certain benefits in the lycopene in tomatoes but in terms of arthritis, I stay away from the nightshade family.

LW Do you stay away from any other foods?  
Henner  I don’t eat refined sugars or caffeine. They give me a false sense of energy. No meat, no dairy and no white flour. I don’t consume artificial sweeteners or preservatives because our bodies weren’t built to digest these chemicals. I drink eight glasses of water a day to help rid my body of toxins and flush out my system. And I eat as organically as possible, as does my family. But I’m still fun. I’ll have the occasional Japanese sake.

LW Do you avoid gluten?
I believe that gluten and dairy foods are some of the worst foods for arthritis. I actually rotate my gluten intake. Sometimes I go off all gluten products completely for a period of
time. I’ve been doing this for years.

LW Do your children, Joey (13) and Nicky (14½), eat this way?
Henner Joey has a sensitivity to wheat and Nicky is sensitive to dairy. If there’s one thing I’ve done well as a mother it’s that my kids have a natural food palate. They don’t enjoy fake foods. I believe parents should try to break their children’s craving for unnatural foods. We have completely messed ourselves up in this country with our poor eating habits.

LW Can you specifically address the direct link between changing your diet and a healthier body?  

Henner Oh, my gosh! Where do I start? The broad strokes of it are that I lost 54 pounds, lowered my cholesterol by over 100 points, changed the shape of my body, eliminated the puffiness and bloating, and slowed down my breathing. I felt calmer, I slept better and I didn’t need as much sleep.  

When I hit the  pillow now, I’m sound asleep. Six hours later, I wake up and I’m ready to go. As a kid and an adult, I used to get colds, swollen glands and the flu every year in November and March. I haven’t been sick since 1979.  

LW You're inspiring people around the world through your books and interactive website.  
I have dedicated my entire adult life to educating people about the importance of healthy living. People always tell me I look so much better than I did when I was on Taxi—and I think I do because of the lifestyle changes I’ve made. I try to set an example for my family and everyone else that total health is key for overall balance and well-being. I can take any dish and give it a THM—a total health makeover. The secret to a healthier diet is this: Learn to love the food that loves you. LW

For more about Marilu Henner’s healthy lifestyle program, visit

Marilu Henner

Marilu's Corn Chowder


“I modified this recipe to remove the dairy and keep all the flavor,” says Henner.

2 medium onions, chopped

1½ cups chopped celery

6½ cups water, divided

6 potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 cups frozen corn

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon each dried basil, dried rosemary and

dried savory

1 cup soy or rice milk

1. Place onions, celery and ½ cup water in soup pot over medium heat. Saute and stir for about 10 minutes.

2. Add all other ingredients except herbs and milk. Cover and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Remove one cup of soup and put it in food processor, along

with herbs. Puree and put mixture back into soup.

4. Add milk, stirring over medium heat until combined. Serve hot.

Each serving contains 284 calories, 2g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 65g carbohydrate, 51mg sodium, 7g fiber, 8g protein.

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