Wearing her blond hair in sexy waves and simple white skinny jeans that show off her toned legs, Chelsea Handler looks much younger-and slimmer- then she does on her talk show, Chelsea Lately. Did she lose weight, or is she a victim of the dreaded camera-adds-10-pounds syndrome? "Well, TV does make you look 10 times fatter, you know," she says over a lunch of sushi, steamed clams, and a cucumber salad. "I went home to visit my family after my show first started, and my sister said tome, 'Oh you look good! We were going to say something about your weight because you look so big on TV! And then I looked at their TV, and I realized they had it on wide-screen! I'm like, 'Oh of course I look big! Take it off wide-screen, you losers.'"
Still, it could have easily gone the other way. To get her fit, healthy body, the New Jersey-born comedian overcame bad family health history (after a long battle with cancer, her mom died four years ago, her dad has had quadruple-bypass surgery); a deep affection for high-calorie cocktails, fast food, and salty snacks; and a longtime inability to stick to an exercise routine.
Chelsea knew she needed to make some lifestyle changes. So she hired a nutritionist and revved up her workout plan-and is in better shape now than she was when she was a teenager. "I just turned 35, and it feels like a brand-new year for me," says Chelsea, whose third book, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, was just released. "Not only am I fitter, I feel more energized and focused too."
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"My parents were not the healthiest eaters." Says Chelsea, who, growing up, was allowed to nibble on Yodels and Doritos between meals. "My mom was a great cook, but her idea of light after-school snack was mac' and cheese and brownies. So of course I was like, 'Why am I 15 and struggling with my weight?' It took me a long time to deprogram myself after I moved to L.A." For eight years, she went from one extreme to another, eating junk food and then starving herself to lose the weight. "Even when I thought I was making healthy choices, I wasn't." she says. "I didn't know, for example, that a salad with 3 pounds of dressing isn't a good thing!" When she got fed up with yo-yo dieting, she found a nutritionist who taught her to make healthier food choices and to eat more often during the day. "I love food," says Chelsea, as she digs into a bowl of edamame. "I need to eat! I could never do juice cleanses or not cheat once in a while!"
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While Chelsea was ready to commit to a new health plan, there was one thing she wasn't willing to give up. "I told my nutritionist, 'I'm not going to quit drinking. I love to hang out with my girlfriends and have cocktails and dinner, it's how I relax,'" she says. "He explained that calorie-wise vodka isn't so bad, as long as you drink it with soda. Knowing I could have drink made it easier to stick to the program."
For the most part, Chelsea eats fresh wholesome foods-avoiding anything processed-whenever possible. Her day typically begins with a bowl of oatmeal mixed with a scoop of protein powder and a spoonful of ground flax seeds. Turkey and an arugula salad with shaved Parmesan-no dressing-is always her midmorning snack, and for lunch, she usually has sushi. Her brother, who's a chef, often cooks for her-favorites include grilled sea bass, chicken, and green salad with turkey meat loaf. Even her indulgences make sense: For a quick on-set snack, she'll open a small bag of Doritos (old habits die hard!), have two or three, and throw the rest away. But her all-time favorite splurge is, luckily 3,000 miles from home. "There's a diner in New Jersey that makes steak fries with melted mozzarella that you dip in gravy," she says, eyes glazing over at the memory. "Every time I eat there, I'm like, "Can I move in here, please?' Seriously, why would I ever leave?"
"I was a fitness fiasco—until I found Pilates"
Although she's always been active, Chelsea says finding a workout she loves-and can commit to-has been a huge challenge. "I've tried them all," she admits. "But I'd usually end up quitting because I'd get bored. Or, as with yoga, after months of doing it, I'd still have belly flab.
"And doing cardio at the gym can be so annoying! I hate it when there are 50 treadmills and I'm the only one there, but then someone just hops on the machine right next to me! Hello!"
Pilates, however, is just the right fit. "It's been the most gentle on my body," says Chelsea. "I'm longer and leaner and much more graceful. I can honestly say it's changed my body-and my life."