Stefanie PowersMay 2015
By Donna Caruso
A Balanced Life
Acclaimed television and film actress Stefanie Powers began her devotion to a healthy lifestyle at a very young age. Today, at 72, Powers remains vibrant and energetic, and she continues to travel the world on behalf of wildlife preservation, appear on stage and television, create projects for her production company, and speak up for the many causes that are of vital importance to her. A Life Extension® member, Powers talked to us about her healthy lifestyle in a recent exclusive interview.
The Early Years: Supplements And Vegetables
Growing up in California, Powers’ idyllic childhood on a ranch with horses and other animals instilled a lifelong love for nature. “Before it became chic,” she recalls, “my mother believed in healthy foods. We were semi-vegetarians growing up and took those funny things called vitamin pills.” Her mother Julie patronized a health food store in Toluca Lake whose owner was the former assistant to well-known actor Robert Cummings, an early advocate of supplements and healthy eating. The store owner gave Julie all the latest information about natural healing.
“We got all our vitamins from [my mother’s business partner],” explains Powers, “various potions and bee pollen. We never ate sugar; we didn’t drink soda pop; we did everything healthy without actually recognizing it or being eccentric about it.” Powers adds that her mother died at age 96 with a history of very few health problems.
Early Career And Successes
From an early age, Powers studied ballet with other young hopefuls, including Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. Auditioning for movies at 15, she was later signed to a seven-year studio contract, and appeared in films like McLintock! with John Wayne. She found consistent work and was soon friends with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, traveling the world (she speaks seven languages) and working regularly in film. But it was her co-starring role in the television series “Hart To Hart” (1979-1984 with eight subsequent specials from 1993-1996) with Robert Wagner that finally made Powers a huge star.
An early marriage to actor Gary Lockwood lasted eight years, and a second marriage in the 1990s also ended in divorce, but in between the two was a nine-year life-changing relationship with actor William Holden (1918-1981), which led to Powers founding the William Holden Wildlife Foundation in Kenya following his death.
A Careful Diet
“At this moment, which is probably going to continue for the foreseeable future, I eat no bread—well, maybe I have one piece a week—but certainly no pasta, no rice, no potatoes. I eat sweet potatoes or have a glass of wine, but only once a week. Other than that, it’s mainly proteins and vegetables, green vegetables, and very few tubers. I do have tomatoes.”
In Kenya, where Powers lives part of the year, she grows her own vegetables and is currently building a greenhouse to grow tomatoes. “I do have to buy fruit,” she says, “because of the high altitude, but I raise my own chickens and do my own composting.” Powers’ crops are grown organically with seeds she brings from outside. Using nontoxic herbal sprays, she tries to grow as much as possible under netting or in a greenhouse to avoid the pollen of GM modified plants from nearby farms. “I feel a little bit healthier in Kenya,” she adds, “because I’m more in control of the food I eat. I get my dairy products from my neighbor’s cow. I trade some of my vegetables and eggs for her fresh milk, and then we make butter and yogurt. I’m back to the old frontier!”
Powers is particular wary of all forms of sugar. “Anything that transports sugar into the system transports too many opportunities for all the modern maladies people suffer from. We consume a lot of sugar in manufactured foods, so I try to eat as few of those as possible.”
She explains that she “wants to lead a balanced life” and believes the elimination of unhealthy food from our diet, especially sugar and anything that turns to sugar, is crucial in reaching that goal.
Supplements, HRT, And HGH
As a lifetime consumer of nutritional supplements, Powers is aware that the body’s needs change over time and she is careful to consult specialists and have all necessary tests done to maintain optimal health. Currently working with two cellular biologists, one of whom is also a nutritional counselor, Powers tries to ensure she is getting everything she requires to maintain her health and youthfulness.
Powers was on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for 15 years using bioidentical hormones. “They served me tremendously,” she says. “Science has discovered that there are nine elements that are either hormones or hormone enablers. It is crucial before taking HRT that all these are tested in order to show the levels that might need to be raised, and then to keep track of the effects of any use of HRT with frequent blood tests.”
Powers has also taken human growth hormone (HGH) in very small amounts and credits it with providing “an incredible sense of well-being and energy.” But once again, she mentions the importance of monitoring the body through regular blood tests. “It’s constant vigilance,” she explains, “because our bodies change. Sometimes emotional issues in our lives can cause physical and chemical changes in our bodies, so we have to be mindful.”
The Exercise Enthusiast
“I am really an exercise fiend,” Powers admits. “Because I was a dancer from a very early age, Pilates came into my life when I was just a teenager.” The fitness method devised by Joseph Pilates was quickly recognized as particularly effective with dancers by such noted choreographers as George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, and Martha Graham, and his exercises changed the lives of dancers.
“Every Broadway doctor, every doctor in New York, every dancer knew of Pilates, because you couldn’t stop dancing,” Powers recalls. “If you pulled a muscle and couldn’t dance, they would hire somebody else, so you had to rehab on the job.” The Pilates system permitted dancers to work while they were healing, using techniques that Powers calls “absolutely extraordinary.” In 2005, Powers published the book Powers Pilates: Stefanie Powers’ Guide to Longevity and Well-Being Through Pilates (Gaia Books Ltd.). “I was made aware of him in the very early days and I have done body control and Pilates throughout my life,” she adds.
Powers has never stopped taking dance classes and is now actively involved with a group called Dancers Over 40, as well as another group that holds classes a few days a week for older people who had made their living dancing. “We’re all slightly over the hill,” she says, “but we look pretty good and we can still get our legs up! Dancing has always remained a part of my life.”
A former competitive polo player, Powers still plays friendly games in England and Kenya and has also begun competing in a new sport, Extreme Cowboy Racing, with her quarter horse. She also regularly works out with weights in a gym.
“Cross training is about the best thing you can do,” she comments, “and there’s another exercise method called CrossFit, which is the most interesting, demanding, and unusual pursuit. It’s like none of the disciplines I’ve ever used before and it was rather challenging when I did it.” According to the actress, “the most beneficial addiction that anybody can have in their life is endorphins [from exercise].”
Keeping Your Brain And Emotions Healthy
Powers’ efforts to remain youthful and vibrant go way beyond keeping her body fit. “It’s very important to be cheerful, to look at each day as a new challenge,” she advises. “I think learning new things, the pursuit of knowledge, information, and increasing one’s understanding of things are very essential.”
Extremely articulate, Powers is largely self-educated. Many years ago, she felt embarrassed by her lack of a college education and asked the UCLA English Department what books students were required to read in order to earn a degree. Armed with a list of over 200 titles, Powers says, “I read many more than [those] and wound up reading the bulk of many authors who were on that list. I think in doing that, I accomplished something for myself that was a challenge. Challenging yourself is crucial in life and that was my personal education.”
Powers continues to study, to learn new words and new facts and pursue in depth any subject that interests her. She is a very lively conversationalist.
“I have the Oxford English Dictionary in my library and on my devices,” she says. “Wherever I go, I’m always pursuing the enlargement of my vocabulary with the use of better forms of expression.” Powers says she doesn’t read nonfiction often, but describes herself as “a devotee of history,” always eager to learn more about almost everything.
Living a long, healthy, active life is of primary concern to Powers, who looks and sounds far younger than her chronological age.
“I think of the wonderful interview Alice Roosevelt Longworth gave to a young cub reporter on the occasion of her 90th birthday,” Powers says. “When he asked her what she owed her longevity to, she replied ‘Arrested development.’” Powers laughs and says that at the very least, cheerfulness and a hopeful attitude about living a long life are very helpful.
Strong relationships are also key, she says, adding that her mother was her best friend. “We had to recognize each other as individuals,” she explains, “and that was the beginning of a very supportive friendship between us.”
And, of course, it is Powers’ belief that her lifetime of healthy eating, supplements, exercise, challenging herself, and following her curiosity to learn new things will all contribute to an extended life span.
William Holden Wildlife Foundation
It was movie star William Holden who introduced Powers to Africa and the critical need to take strong action to preserve wild animals and their habitat before they became extinct. Many would say this is a losing battle, but Powers and her associates are doing a remarkable job in educating both the local population and students and visitors from other countries about animal conservation.
Their education program teaches over 10,000 students a year about the benefits of biodiversity and the importance of preserving the local flora and fauna. They work in conjunction with the William Holden Wildlife Foundation, which was founded to conserve rare and endangered species.
The Foundation is asking readers to visit their website www.whwf.org and sign a petition promising not to buy products from China until the Chinese government agrees to take strong action to stop the importation of elephant ivory, which has led to the mass slaughter of elephants by poachers.
In addition to her wildlife conservation work, Powers remains very active in the entertainment field. She has toured with the show “Hart of My Heart,” a cabaret tribute to renowned Broadway lyricist Lorenz Hart, which Powers has performed in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, and London and may revive.
Powers also has her own production company and is currently trying to put together a historical miniseries that she isn’t ready to discuss publicly. “It’s along the lines of the Borgias or the Tudors,” she hints.
She has strong hopes that the Jaguar Conservation Trust, with which she was formerly associated, will be revived. The activities of the Trust have been in abeyance since 2008, when Jaguar was purchased by Tata Motors, the Indian conglomerate. It is Powers’ hope that the Trust’s work to help preserve the lives and habitat of wild jaguars in Belize, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, will soon be resumed.
Finally, Powers is seriously concerned about recycling and the fate of the planet. She highly recommends the 2002 book Cradle To Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things, by William McDonough and Michael Braungat, which advocates making products out of materials that can be recycled to nourish the earth and environment.
Stefanie’s Ideas About Living Well And Long
To summarize Powers’ convictions, the following may be seen as her keys to lifelong health and longevity:
- Eat a wholesome, sensible diet with lots of vegetables and protein. Avoid sugar, foods that contain sugars, and all processed foods.
- Make a lifelong study of supplements and, with the help of professionals and regular testing, take what is recommended to stay healthy. The sooner you begin, the better. Make changes as needed as you grow older or have specific health issues.
- Challenge your mind and keep learning new things. Work to attain greater knowledge of the world. Never lose your curiosity about life.
- Participate in the world through activism connected to issues that mean something to you. Be passionate in your pursuit to make the world a better place for everyone. Find what resonates with you.
- Never give up your fight, even when the odds aren’t in your favor.
- Cherish the people you love and keep close bonds with all who hold special meaning for you throughout your life.
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