Q & A with Kris Carr: Crazy Sexy Inspirational Wellness Rock Star
Kris Carr does it all. Best-selling author? Check. Filmmaker? Check. Inspirational speaker? Check again. Guest on Oprah? Been there, done that. Oh -- did I mention that in 2003, at the age of 31, Kris was diagnosed with cancer -- the kind of cancer with no cure and an expiration date. What did Kris do? She made that cancer crazy and sexy in her own brilliant, irreverent, and inspirational way.
Now back to the more formal introduction of Kris Carr.... Kris is a best-selling author, filmmaker, and motivational speaker. She is the subject of the inspirational documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer, which she wrote and directed for TLC and Discovery Health.
Her awarding-winning books, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips (foreword by Sheryl Crow), and Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor (foreword by Marianne Williamson) are must-have manuals for triumphing over disease while shattering stigmas and embracing a holistic approach to recovery.
As an irreverent foot soldier in the fight against disease, Kris has lead health and healing workshops at The Omega Institute, Kripalu, and is on the Advisory Board of Donna Karan's Urban Zen Foundation. She lectures around the country at medical schools, hospitals, wellness centers, corporations and universities such as Boston College and Harvard.
Kris is just one of those people you really can't say enough good things about. She lives by her motto: Make juice not war.
MindBodyGreen: How do you feel today?
Kris Carr: I feel great, life is fantastic! My tumors have shrunk and I attribute this to diet and lifestyle changes plus a whole lot of love. Actually, the biggest change in my health occurred when I stopped trying to cure myself – it was then that I took my physical and spiritual health to the next level. I stopped living in fear and that made all the difference.
MBG: When you were initially diagnosed with cancer and you began your research – where did you go, what did you do
KC: The cancer was diagnosed as incurable: no surgery, no treatment, watch and wait. I was given an expiration date. I left the oncologist’s office and by the grace of god I went straight to Whole Foods Market. When I got there, I just started grabbing vegetables and books, all while I was crying. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing – especially with regard to the food I was buying as I was a fast-food/junk-food junkie at the time.
Looking back, it was a great thing that they told me that there was no cure. I’m the type of person who hates hearing that I can’t do something and will set out to prove that person wrong. The thing that I could control immediately was my diet – and from that day forward I decided that I would become an active participant in my health and healing.
MBG: So you’ve loaded up you shopping cart with veggies – what diet did you turn to first?
KC: Early on I started with a macrobiotic diet. I’m a Type-A Virgo so when I get serious about something, I get certified! After awhile, I felt that my diet was missing something. I read Dr. Robert Young’s Sick and Tired – and actually went out to San Diego to study with him, and also studied at the Hippocrates Health Institute. Basically, I went back to school and I evolved from a macrobiotic diet to eating mostly raw and juicing.
MBG: What did people say when you went on your health and study kick?
KC: Some people thought I was crazy and some people supported me. But what could anyone really say to me as I didn’t have any treatment options? I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for my "expiration date." So I went out and started digging, and one person lead to another, to another. Slowly I created a community of people who became very supportive and important in my healing process.
MBG: What books did you read? I’m a huge Louise Hay fan, did you read Louise Hay?
KC: I wasn’t quite in my Louise Hay phase yet, but more on that later! I read a ton but three books that come to mind are Joan Borysenko’s Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, Loving-Kindness by Sharon Salzberg, and Inner Revolution by Robert Thurman.
MBG: You weren’t in your Louise Hay phase yet?!
KC: Now, I’m actually in my Louise Hay phase. I’m also adoring Cheryl Richardson and of course, Marianne Williamson who has been a wonderful friend to me.
I love and am inspired by all that Louise has accomplished later in her life – becoming a best-selling author, speaker, and publishing mogul. She didn’t even start writing until her 50s. With our current culture so youth-obsessed, especially when it comes to women, I love that Louise completely breaks the mold
MBG: If there’s one message that you’d like to get across to America about the relationship between our health and how we treat our bodies, what would it be?
KC: It might sound cliché, but it’s true that it’s interconnected. You can’t expect to live a vibrant life when you live on twinkie consciousness. Not only does what you put into your mouth effect you, but it also effects the planet. Health is a practice and honoring your body is key. I honor my body by creating a healthy and happy inner environment. If I pollute my body with too much caffeine, booze, animal products, and refined sugars, then I create a lot of undue stress and dis-ease. The same holds true for the outer environment – if we pollute our rivers, streams, soil, and air with toxins and chemicals then the results will be the same.
I talk about pH a lot because it’s so important. Eating an alkaline plant-based diet balances your pH. You can literally lower your pH with what you eat, drink and think. Eating properly is definitely important – but it’s also important to remember that everything is connected between the mind and the body. You can eat all that organic food and do all that yoga but if you’re angry or stressed, much of the goodness goes to waste.
MBG: So how has your yoga and meditation evolved since your diagnosis?
KC: Pre-cancer, everything I did was half-ass. I was a weekend warrior who preferred martinis and take-out. The only time I prayed or turned to spirituality was when the shit hit the fan. After my diagnosis I got the food part right first, then I turned to yoga and meditation as a full-on, full-time practice. I did so because I thought I was going to die, and felt I had to put all of my attention into cleaning my mind along with body.
Now, I’m more balanced in my practice. I meditate in different ways now – from free form dance, to gardening, to hiking with my dog. Though my practice varies, there is some way that I’m able to connect spiritually every single day. I also journal like a mo-fo! In my journal I talk to myself, I talk about my future, I talk to God, and I work out a lot of my problems.
MBG: How has your everyday outlook on being on "purpose" evolved since your diagnosis?
KC: In my past career, even though I had accomplished a lot and was successful, it was actually really hard. I definitely feel now, that when you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, doors open. I didn’t know what my calling was previously, but after my diagnosis it became very clear
MBG: Was there a precise moment?
KC: When I first had the idea to make my film Crazy Sexy Cancer. I spoke to a few people including network executives, people in the entertainment industry and they said that it’d never happen. Not with that title, not with that story, never. I hate no. And this was the moment that I knew this was what I was supposed to do.
MBG: What do you tell someone who’s trying to find their purpose?
KC: Well, within the past year, I had to look inside of myself...
MBG: Wait -- you had to look inside? I thought you had it all figured out?
KC: Ha! I’m just a regular person just like anyone else – reading books, journaling, trying to figure things out, too. It’s a process. Then one morning I was journaling and I felt that I needed to close all the books because I had everything I needed to know within me. It was a nice reminder for me to just get quiet and look within.
Whatever you want to do with your personal life, your career, your brand – it’s all there inside you. You don’t need to ask anyone for permission or approval. You have all the answers. Instead of running to the latest workshop or guru, you need to slow down and tap into your gut wisdom. My gut never leaves me astray.
MBG: I love that "My gut never leaves me astray". Can I borrow that quote? Speaking of quotes – do you have a favorite?
KC: This always changes depending on the mood I’m in or what I’m looking at or thinking. Right now as we’re talking I’m browsing your site and I’m thinking "check out mindbodygreen.com" as a quote!
MBG: I like that quote even better! What about books. What are you reading now? Any favorites?
KC: I read sooo many books. Right now I’m in a bit of a self-help phase and I’m reading Cheryl Richardson’s Art of Extreme Self Care, and also reading my friend Marie Forleo’s new book Make Every Man Want You – it’s all about starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur. Tony Robbins just did this big thing with her and it’s such an awesome book. I also love Michael Pollan – reading his books gives me a female boner! I also read a gazillion cookbooks
MBG: Moving on from your Michael Pollan-induced female boner….. What are some of your favorite diet books?
KC: I love Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis. One of my mentors from Hippocrates is Brian Clement and I love his book, Living Foods for Optimal Health. Also, anything written by my friend Dr. Neal Barnard.
MBG: Favorite healthy food?
KC: Juice! I have a juice every single day. My mantra is "make juice, not war." It’s gotta be green, not too much fruit, not too much sugar.
MBG: So what do you put in your green juice?
KC: Cucumber, celery, romaine, and a little pear. I run it through the juicer and that’s my breakfast and my snack.
MBG: Do you drink coffee?
KC: Occasionally… I’ll have coffee when I’m feeling a little wild. I literally become a wild animal when I have caffeine. So I don’t drink it often. Plus, coffee is wicked acidic, which means it lowers your pH.
MBG: Is coffee your guilty indulgence? Do you have a guilty indulgence?
KC: I don’t think about it that way. I think so many women struggle with eating that when I have a glass of red wine, or a cup of coffee, I bless that cup of coffee, or give thanks to that glass of wine. ‘Thanks, glass of wine, I can wait to dance on the table soon.’ I don’t look at it as a guilty pleasure. As I touched on before, it’s so important to take the fear out of the equation. Why double curse the food or drink. There’s no need to feel guilty. Just savor it and then get back on track!
MBG: Oprah. You were on Oprah, what was that like?
KC: Basically, it was an out-of-body experience. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that I didn’t embarrass my parents, that Oprah had beautiful earrings, and that she’s an amazing hugger. The whole experience was electric. People told me I’d never be on Oprah. But you know, I have the journal entry from years before my appearance and it said, ‘Oprah saved a seat for me, and I’m coming.’
MBG: You've met so many incredible people... anyone you haven't met that you'd like to meet?
KC: Besides Louise Hay, who I want to meet over tea while wearing a matching leisure suit, I’d love to meet Michelle Obama. I’d love to garden with her, go take her veggies and make a green drink and then scoot over to the Oval office and say, ‘By the way, make juice not war.’ I’d also like to meet a unicorn and Yoda.
MBG: What’s next for you?
KC: My new book, Crazy Sexy Diet, comes out in January 2011. I have so many things up in the air right now, but I’ll definitely be very busy! I’m currently doing consultations, workshops and online programs. And there’s always something new happening at CrazySexyLife.com.
For more on Kris Carr:
Trailer for Crazy Sexy Cancer:
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.