When actress Tia Mowry landed her first major role on "Sister, Sister," it was like she was living in a dream world: working on a hit TV show, surrounded by tables upon tables of craft service snacks? Yes, please! Except all that junk food started to take a toll on the star's health.
From her unhealthy eating habits to experimenting with diet pills as a teen to being diagnosed with a chronic condition, Mowry's revealing all in her first cookbook, Whole New You: How Real Food Transforms Your Life, for a Healthier, More Gorgeous You, including the details on how her clean eating habits changed her life.
Her Junk Food Obsession Began as a Child Actor
In an excerpt of her cookbook published by People, Mowry explains that the constantly catered TV sets she worked on as a kid meant she was "surrounded by junk food 24/7." She was in "a Willy Wonka's chocolate factory."
"Everything I wanted was at my fingertips: Twizzlers, M&M's, Starbursts, potato chips, you name it," she wrote. "And if something I craved wasn't there, all I had to do was ask: 'Chocolate chip cookies, please?' And they simply appeared. It was heaven."
She Turned to Diet Pills to Counteract the Junk Food
Being thrust into the spotlight at such a young age, Mowry definitely felt the pressure to be thinner. So she says she tried diet pills to balance out her indulgences.
"I didn't feel fat, but the pressure of being on television and wanting to look sexy and beautiful took over," she wrote. "I'm not proud of it. I got skinny, true, but the pills caused my heart to race, and I knew in my gut that I was hurting myself."
During college at Pepperdine University, Mowry took a psychology class and confided in her professor about taking the diet pills. Her professor suggested that she write down "give up diet pills" on a piece of paper and throw it into a fire. Sure enough, she says something switched inside of her.
"As I watched the paper crackle and burn, something in me released," she added. "I haven't touched diet pills since that day, and thankfully, I haven't wanted to."
Her Endometriosis Diagnosis Changed Everything
It was also in college when Mowry started to experience severe abdominal pain, which her OB-GYN diagnosed as endometriosis — a common (it affects 1 in 10 women around the world) and chronic condition that causes tissue similar to the uterine lining to grow outside of the uterus. The condition can also affect a woman's ability to get pregnant, which worried Mowry because she wanted to have kids.
After two surgeries to help ease her pain, Mowry's doctor recommended a new plan: Change her diet and cut out dairy, which helps reduce inflammation.
"It had never even occurred to me that something I had always eaten (so innocently) could be causing me such harm," Mowry wrote. "Now here was a well-respected doctor telling me that my problem — my big, you-may-never-get-pregnant problem — came down to my favorite foods: butter, cheese, and gelato. It was like a slap in the face."
Her Dairy-Free Diet Helped Her in Many Ways
After six months on her new dairy-free diet, Mowry noticed her health had improved across the board: Her eczema cleared up, her migraines stopped, and she lost weight easily. She says the new diet also helped her "find natural foods delicious and truly satisfying."
"As if that wasn't enough, I got a bigger surprise about a year after I began eating this way: I started to feel deeply, thrillingly alive," she wrote. "I had more energy than I remember ever having."
But the best part? She was finally able to get pregnant and give birth to her son, Cree, who is now 5 years old!
She Suggests We All Climb Aboard the Clean-Eating Train
In addition to getting rid of dairy, Mowry also cut out refined sugars and processed foods (no more snack binges on set), and now sticks to a vegan diet. She told People that her plan is to follow "a diet I do when I want to just clean myself out and get rid of inflammation in my body."
"I wanted to do this cookbook because I suffer from eczema and endometriosis, which both cause inflammation in the body. A lot of times what we eat can either exacerbate conditions we have or make certain conditions dormant," she told Parade. "So, a lot of the meals I have in my cookbook are made with ingredients that do not cause inflammation in the body."
Her cookbook includes over 100 healthy versions of her favorite comfort foods, which she says are just as satisfying as the originals.
"If I were going to sum up all of the recipes, I'd say these recipes are substitutions for comfort foods, so you're not missing out," she said. "Instead of having pizza, I would have cauliflower crust pizza, but it was still incredibly good."