A few things strike you when you first meet Jewel in person. The 35-year-old singer/songwriter is a natural beauty, with sparkling green eyes, glowing skin, a sincere, open smile—and an amazing body. It's a very different woman from the 19-year-old girl who became an overnight success in the mid-nineties with her first album, Pieces of You. Back then, the Alaskan singer was not only dealing with frequent kidney infections, but also struggling with her weight. "I've always had to strive for balance when it comes to my health," says Jewel. Here, Jewel reveals how she found her "internal compass" and how she's navigated toward a secure, successful, and happy life.
1. I CUT MYSELF A LOT OF SLACK
When she was just getting famous, Jewel was labeled the "chubby Renée Zellweger" in a newspaper article. "My feelings were so hurt by that story, I ended up bingeing on an entire cake," she says. "Afterward, I actually tried to throw it all up, but thankfully I couldn't do it. It made me think, ‘I can't go down this road.' I had seen so many performers develop eating disorders or try to control their weight with drugs, and I decided I would do no harm to my body." Still, for years she was caught in a self-defeating cycle of hating the way she looked and then soothing herself with food. "It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The worse I felt about myself, the more I overate."
But rather than resort to drastic diets, cosmetic dentistry (she's been teased for her crooked teeth), or plastic surgery (she thinks her nose is "fantastically large"), Jewel says: "I had to remind myself that standards of beauty are very fickle. One minute J. Lo's body is considered beautiful, and the next everyone wants to look like Kate Moss. I'm all for people wanting to feel more confident, but altering your body to fit a current trend is serious stuff." The singer pauses, then says with a laugh, "We should be more like men, God bless 'em. They can take their shirts off and show their man boobs, and they don't give a hoot. But women are so critical of themselves. We can be gorgeous and hot and still be embarrassed to wear a tank top. So if you can't stop looking in the mirror, at least try to not think badly about yourself when you do."
2. I LISTEN TO MY BODY
About a year ago, Jewel started suffering from strange symptoms, including constant fatigue. "I just didn't feel right," she says. "My energy was low and my weight was up— and no matter what I did, I couldn't change either. Every doctor I saw said there was nothing wrong with me, but I was pretty sure there was." Finally she found Body Logic, a medical group that deals with hormonal imbalances in women. "They figured out that my thyroid was functioning low, which was one of my issues with trying to lose weight," she says. "They put me on something called ArmourThyroid and helped me adjust my diet. But what I really liked about this group is that they listened to me. As a result, I changed my lifestyle and stress levels and started really paying attention to what I eat."
3. I GIVE IN TO MY CRAVINGS
Changing her diet helped Jewel get her body back on track. "I try to stay away from an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to food," she says. "It's like a pendulum: The more extreme I am—like saying, ‘I'm not going to eat any carbs'—the further it's going to swing to the other side and I'm going to binge." These days, Jewel limits processed foods whenever possible and sticks to a very simple, balanced diet. She likes high-fiber cereal or steel-cut oats in the morning, and a big lunch filled with protein and brightly colored vegetables. "My dad sends me fresh salmon and halibut from Alaska as well as dried nettles, which I like to put into soups," she says. "I also eat a lot of raw vegetables or bitter greens, like kale and dandelion greens, lightly sautéed in olive oil. People are so fat-phobic these days, but eating good fats is important, which is why I always try to get some olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado into whatever I'm making." When she does want a splurge, she indulges, saying, "I love a vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting!"
Who doesn't love a cupcake? But another one of Jewel's fave foods is...brussels sprouts! See what else she can't live without.
Jewel's stay-slim secret may surprise you. Find out what it is and try her do-anywhere ab routine.
To find out how Jewel stays fit on tour, deals with her hubby's poor eating habits, and strikes a work-life balance, pick up the July issue of Shape, on newsstands June 21.