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Life StoryDec/Jan 2012 Issue

Actress Leslie Bibb

The star of Good Christian Belles is gluten free

Leslie Bibb is one busy lady these days. Besides a key role in this past summer’s movie, Zookeeper, the Virginia native now stars in ABC’s new comedy-drama sitcom, Good Christian Belles.

The 36-year-old actress has had a lot to smile about ever since winning a modeling contest at age 16 on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She came to the attention of a wider TV audience in WB network’s show, Popular, playing beautiful, straight-A student and cheerleader Brooke McQueen.

When it comes to her health, the stunning, statuesque blonde is dedicated and disciplined. Here, she discusses the changes surrounding removing gluten from her diet.

LivingWithout So you’re avoiding gluten?

Bibb Yes. I go gluten free. Gluten doesn’t sit well with me.

Have you been diagnosed with celiac disease?

No. I don’t have celiac disease but I definitely have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten. My bad reaction to gluten is something that’s been happening over many years. I finally found out it’s what’s made me sick my whole life. In the last two years, I’ve given it up. Being gluten free has changed my life.

How did you discover you were gluten sensitive?

I can eat a lot of food and I’ve loved bread and pasta my whole life. By the end of the night, as far back as I can remember, my stomach would always be distended. Sometimes if I’d had bread and pasta for dinner, I would come home and throw up. I was getting sick four times a week. It got progressively worse until two years ago when I was in Boston filming Zookeeper, Sam (Rockwell, actor/boyfriend) said, “Enough.”

What kinds of foods were you eating on a typical day?

I would start the morning off with a bagel. Then I’d have a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. After I ate, my stomach would swell and I’d have nausea. I felt these foods were sapping me of energy versus energizing me, which is what food is supposed to do. Food shouldn’t make you feel like you’re in a coma. I would say, “Oh, it’s the acid from the tomatoes,” or “It’s the coffee,” or “It’s nightshades like potatoes”...or whatever. I got home to Los Angeles last December and my girlfriend who has been diagnosed with a wheat/gluten intolerance, said, “Will you do me a favor? Will you just cut wheat and gluten from your system and see?” I was sure wheat and gluten were not the problem but, okay, I cut them out and it was instantaneous relief.

Instantaneous? What do you mean?

I remember I ate gluten-free pasta, thinking this would be the test because I always got sick after eating pasta. So I ate it and was like, Oh my God, I didn’t get sick. I haven’t gone back to eating regular pasta since. I don’t get sick anymore and my stomach doesn’t distend.

Do you ever cheat?

It was a bit of a drag because I love beer—so sometimes I’d cheat and have a beer. Or I’d go to my favorite noodle bar in New York and the soy sauce contains wheat, as do the noodles. I would cheat and then get a distended stomach and the nausea…that’s what happens when I eat a little wheat. These days, I only eat food that makes me feel good.

If I opened the refrigerator in your house—whether in New York or Los Angeles—what staples would I find there?

My nutritional staples would be Kombucha tea—I love it. I’m really into juicing and try to juice every day when I’m home. So you’d find fresh kale, fresh spinach, cucumbers, green apples, ginger…anything that I can put into an all-green juice. I go to the farmers’ market and I always have a lot of vegetables in my fridge. Eggs. Gluten-free tortillas. Avocadoes. I like whole foods. I love to cook simple whole foods. This morning, I made myself some scrambled eggs with a piece of gluten-free bread.

 

In addition to your special diet, how do you round out your health odyssey?

Right now, I’m obsessed with working out with a Los Angeles trainer. She’s the woman who taught me the dance in Zookeeper. She’s a great trainer and kicks my butt. I’ll be jumping rope, then hoola-hooping, then doing push-ups. She just keeps me moving and going through all these crazy routines and on this equipment. It’s dance-based because she’s a dancer and we work out in a dance studio. She has really helped me change my body. Working out is a form of therapy for me.

In three words, how would you describe yourself?

It’s a really good time in my life now. I’d describe myself as grateful, comfortable in my skin and happy.

Editor’s note: Medical experts strongly advise that people be screened for celiac disease before embarking on a gluten-free diet. People who have celiac disease should never “cheat.” Even small amounts of gluten can damage the small intestine.

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