Kris Carr is feeling “great.”
Not a surprising response from an in-shape, successful author and wellness activist directing the spotlight on a crazy, sexy lifestyle.
Not the answer you might expect from a young woman living with an incurable, stage IV cancer diagnosis. A diagnosis, by the way, that came 12 years ago.
Is that crazy and sexy? YES! Carr glows gorgeously on the outside with increasing inner beauty as she thrives to the max, sharing her plant-based recipes for a healthier, more productive life with individuals throughout the country.
Diagnosed with cancer on Valentine’s Day – how crazy is that? Carr’s first indication of a problem was abdominal pain she associated with digestive or gall bladder issues. It wasn’t until ultrasounds and scans demonstrated lesions on her liver and her lungs that she realized she was dealing with a serious situation. She had just turned 31.
If you have seen Carr on one of her numerous television appearances (she captivated the audience on Oprah) or read one of her best-selling Crazy Sexy books, you already understand her passion for healthy living and her commitment to helping others live healthfully. In a recent interview Carr discussed her journey for Inspire Health readers.
Inspire Health: Kris, how did you decide to pursue a more positive, healthy lifestyle so quickly after your diagnosis?
Kris Carr: An incurable cancer diagnosis can be really disempowering because, like any patient that gets saddled with a diagnosis, you want your life back. You want to believe there is something you can do. I wanted to cut it out, get rid of it, and move on. But because I didn’t have that opportunity, and still don’t, I decided to learn how to love and care for myself, just as I am. To participate in my well-being rather than contribute to my sense of desperation and loss. Thankfully my disease is slow-growing, so I’ve had time process my emotions and learn how to feel better. Cancer aside, I had other health issues at a young age, so rather than sit back and do nothing, cancer motivated me to take action. I decided to eat better, be kinder to myself, and to take care of this precious body I have, for as long as I have it.
Inspire Health: Were you always as determined and optimistic as you are today?
Kris Carr: I think I am a pretty optimistic, glass half-full person. But that’s not to say that I don’t have my down days. When the emotional darkness rolls in, I allow myself to feel my feelings deeply and fully express what’s going on so that I can move through it. In the early days, it was very important to acknowledge my sadness, depression, and even rage at times. Today, the blues don’t last as long, especially when I check in and see what’s really going on. Being compassionate with ourselves is the key to nurturing that optimism and joy. When new issues arise, we can do best to be as supportive and loving as possible.
Inspire Health: Although you recommend a plant-based lifestyle to maintain health, you also acknowledge the role of traditional medicine. How do you balance the two approaches to health?
Kris Carr: I don’t believe that health is an either or approach. It should be “and”. Because there is no treatment for my disease, I don’t really have any traditional options, but I have an incredible doctor who tracks me. If my disease becomes aggressive, and new treatment options become available, I would absolutely consider them. While I think it’s really important to find the best doctor for your particular challenge, don’t stop there. I also have wonderful functional medicine doctors who treat more than the symptom. My oncologist doesn’t know everything about nutrition, healthy lifestyle practices, and acupuncture for example. My integrative team doesn’t know what he knows about oncology. Our bodies are incredibly magnificent, complicated systems and to rely on one method is often short-sighted. We need a holistic way of caring for our bodies as opposed to just looking at one specific problem. We are more connected than we think.
Inspire Health: Have there been any tough choices between holistic and traditional medicine over the years?
Kris Carr: I saw many oncologists in the beginning––which is why I recommend second opinions! Some of the options they presented, such as a triple organ transplant, seemed totally ridiculous. That was just too risky and unproven. In the end, I chose a doctor who I could trust and who had his finger on the pulse of the research that was actually happening with my very rare cancer. If you’re in a similar situation, do your homework. Whether you have cancer or another chronic disease, find a doctor who can be the best captain of your wellness team. But remember to meet him or her half way. It’s easy to get prescriptions, and they often help, but sometimes the changes we need to make happen on our plate, at the gym, and through managing our stress levels. Healthy living is a daily practice.
Inspire Health: Balance is an important aspect of healthy living. You are always on the go from your popular blog to your recipe research. How do you balance the diverse demands of your Crazy Sexy projects?
Kris Carr: I do my best not to take on more than I can handle. Because nobody feels good when they’re stretched too thin. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cancer patient or a mom dealing with a heavy schedule with her children. I’m very aware of what I can do and can’t. Also, I really try to go in the direction of what creates joy and happiness in my life. In my career I have the privilege to be able to decide what fills me up and what drains me. If I’m not creating enough joy and happiness, my health suffers. It’s easy to say, “yes” to all the opportunities and all the obligations in the world. But how often do we stop and ask what makes us happy? What would make us feel good? What makes magic in our life? The more we do that, the more aligned we feel with our careers, our relationships, and even our purpose. When we’re in that state, at least in my experience, work doesn’t feel as difficult; it feels nourishing as opposed to depleting.
Inspire Health: Your Crazy Sexy brand is creative and contemporary. What inspired that association?
Kris Carr: Well, it didn’t start as a brand or a career, it was a way of coping. But when people started to resonate with what I was writing about, it turned into something much bigger and more beautiful. Crazy Sexy Cancer actually began as mass email updates to family and friends when I was newly diagnosed. They were my way of keeping everyone informed and also sharing my sense of humor. Then I made a film with the title. After that, I knew I had a lot of information for young women who were newly diagnosed, so I wrote a couple of books and the Crazy Sexy name just kind of took off. I define “crazy” as an out of the box, forward thinking attitude. And Sexy is empowering.
Today, I write for a wider audience. I’m passionate about teaching people about prevention in a way that is fun, feels light, inspiring, and hopeful as opposed to something that is dreaded and “oh gosh, you’re going to make me eat fiber.” Prevention needs a makeover so Crazy Sexy is a good way to do it.
Inspire Health: Who is your inspiration?
Kris Carr: So many people … I’d say my grandmother. She was an incredible woman––a chef, a carpenter and an entrepreneur. She was big and bright and very loving with an electric personality. She’s always with me, especially when I’m creating recipes in the kitchen. If she were alive today she would probably chuckle because I really didn’t have any skills in the kitchen when I first started this journey. “You have New York Times best-selling books? Incredible!” she would say.
My mom is a huge inspiration to me, too. She had me when she was very young and she and my grandmother raised me together. They deserve the credit for my can-do attitude. Because good or bad, when something went down in my family, we just rolled up our sleeves and took care of business.
Inspire Health: It sounds like you have a lot of positive female role models in your family.
Kris Carr: Absolutely. My mother and grandmother basically gave me everything I needed. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything with these two powerhouse whirlwinds at my side.
Inspire Health: What is the most significant life lesson you have learned in recent years?
Kris Carr: If anything, cancer has taught me not to wait to take care of yourself and pursue your dreams. Do what excites you. Explore what makes you feel well, content and connected. You don’t always have to make huge changes. You can take small steps every single day that bring you closer to your joy. At the end of our lives, all we have are memories. If we can make them heart-centered and joyful we’ve lived a really wonderful life.
Inspire Health: What has been personally exciting and fulfilling for you with Crazy Sexy?
Kris Carr: I’d say all the loving emails from people who have embraced some of the practices I teach and as a result, have had their own powerful shifts in their relationships, work, health, and family dynamics. I feel grateful to be able to reach people and help them. That’s really the most magnificent thing that has happened since all this started.
Inspire Health: What gives you the mental and physical energy to keep going forward?
Kris Carr: The energy continues to stem from the fact that I love what I do and I love the life that I have. It doesn’t feel like I’m fighting, it doesn’t feel like I need extra encouragement or stamina to keep going. This is my life; this is it. I say, “turn s–t into champagne.”
Inspire Health: What do you do to stay healthy when traveling?
Kris Carr: I make sure I care for my body in some way because travel is a big part of my job and it takes its toll on all of us, especially when we’re alternating between time zones on any given day. You have to be flexible, but it’s not a time to just throw every good habit out the window. So I ask myself what can I do? I can do 10 minutes of exercise and get a good night sleep. I have a sound machine so the noisy people down the hall are blocked out and I can really sleep. I also cover all those little electric eyes with towels so my room is pitch black––this helps your sleep big time. And I bring some of my own snacks and my supplements. Certainly you can find restaurants that have healthy food, it’s not impossible.
Inspire Health: What are your top tips for a healthier, happier lifestyle?
Kris Carr: Depending on what’s going on in my personal life I might say sleep is more important because I might not be getting enough sleep at that time, or drink your vegetables because I love juicing and making smoothies. Eating more vegetables is definitely important. Everyone could also benefit from taking stress down a notch. And of course, I suggest exercise. But this sort of advice all becomes a common to-do list you can see in any health magazine, blog or website.
I think the most important thing for people to do is to take an internal inventory––to really check in with themselves. Whether you do that with a journal or a long hike where you can be alone and clear your mind. Ask yourself the question, “What is the one thing I am not doing, that if I did do, would make me feel so much better?” The answer might not have anything to do with food. It might have everything to do with leaving a toxic relationship; changing the dynamics you’re experiencing at work, making peace with your mom or forgiving someone. I am less interested in saying what you should do and more interested in encouraging you to seek your own answers. Give yourself enough time and space to tap in and have that reflective inquiry. I guarantee that when you do, and I know this from my own life, the best answers always come.
Inspire Health: What is your favorite relaxation method?
Kris Carr: I love listening to inspirational talks in a good bath with Epsom salts, lavender, and baking soda. I also love watching documentaries. A good bath and an awesome movie with my dogs surrounding me, everybody on the sofa or the bed–– that’s how I unwind.
Inspire Health: What is your favorite crazy sexy food/juice?
Kris Carr: I make a very simple juice every morning and it usually involves cucumbers, celery, apples, lemon, and ginger. I make enough so I can have another glass later in the day; it really helps me feel refreshed and replenished, kind of like a reboot. And I like chocolate! A good piece of dark chocolate goes a long way with this girl! It’s about balance and what makes you feel good. I think that once we clean up our palates a little bit and get in touch with the garden, it’s easy understand how wonderful real food can actually taste if prepared well. But pursing perfection is a waste of time. Pleasure is important too. Thus, the chocolate.
Kris Carr’s newest book, Crazy Sexy Juice, will be available October with more than 100 juice, smoothie and nut milk recipes and an easy three-day cleanse. You can find out more at crazysexyjuice.com. Her books are on kriscarr.com, Amazon.com and at major retailers. The best places to connect with Kris Carr are in the comments of her blog or video posts or on Facebook and Twitter. She loves Instagram. Pinterest is her dreaming space.
By Patricia Danflous and Michelle Esneault