Get Inspired: More with Molly Ringwald

Interview by Lauren Piscopo

Molly Ringwald may always be remembered as the angst-filled adolescents she portrayed in the ’80s teen films Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. But at age 42, she’s now the mom on TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, as well as a real-life parent to three daughters (1-year-old twins and a 6-year-old). The actress tells Natural Solutions how she embraces middle age, stays in shape despite hating the gym, and deals with a picky kid who used to eat only Pirate’s Booty.

On loving her age
Getting older is something we all have to accept. Aging is natural—the worst thing you can do is to try to look an age you’re not. I feel really great about my 40s because I’m in better shape than I was in my 20s. I hope that my new book, Getting the Pretty Back (HarperCollins, 2010), encourages other women to feel good about themselves—at any age. The book starts out with my angst leading up to turning 40, which was really far worse than when the birthday actually happened. Now I feel like I’m embarking on this great new decade and a whole new range of possibilities.

On warming up to exercise
I don’t get excited about working out. Some days you feel like you just can’t face the gym anymore, you can’t hear that awful music again, and you can’t be around those big steroid-taking testosterone types. But the only way I can continue indulging in food is to work out—and pretend I like it. A few months after giving birth, I started getting outside and running with my husband. I had never been a runner before and always hated it—the whole runner’s high had completely eluded me. So it was really exciting to find out for the first time that, at age 41, I could actually run. Who knew?

On eating like the French
I was always a foodie, but I think I became an über-foodie when I moved to France in my 20s. You really get spoiled there. Once you know what food can taste like when it’s prepared in this miraculous way with fresh, quality ingredients, it makes eating at a diner difficult.

On eating like an American
I ate all this incredible food in France but didn’t gain weight until I returned to the US and started eating processed food again. It’s impossible to ignore the obesity epidemic, but I think it’s turning around. People are getting back to community gardens, organic cooking, and the Slow Food movement. Experts like Michael Pollan are educating us [about packaged food] and making food less abstract, so that kids are starting to realize that meat and vegetables actually come from somewhere—they don’t just show up wrapped in plastic in the supermarket. Alice Waters has been saying the same thing [about fresh, seasonal ingredients] for so long, but now everybody’s catching up.

On winning the food war at home
I’ve always tried to feed my eldest daughter, Mathilda, nutritious food, but she’s a very picky eater. For one year, it seemed, she wouldn’t eat anything but Pirate’s Booty. Parents are afraid that their kids are going to starve, so they end up feeding their children unhealthy stuff just to get them to eat something. Instead, I constantly introduce healthy food. Never say, “Oh, my child won’t eat that.” Your child may turn down a food nine times, but the tenth time, she might like it. Mathilda now eats a lot of different fruits and vegetables—and she still loves Pirate’s Booty.

On the challenge of meditating
I always feel like I want to jump up and do something else. One of the things I really like about yoga is that it prepares the mind to meditate by getting it into that quiet place. But just sitting down and meditating? It’s something I aspire to do, but I’ve always found it really hard.

On Ashtanga yoga
My introduction to yoga was at a place called Jivamukti in New York City. I love Ashtanga’s flow because I’m not totally crazy about getting into a really uncomfortable position and seeing how long I can stay there. And I really don’t believe in Bikram yoga at all because I feel that heat should be generated from within, rather than from without.

On finding nature in a city
My mom was a really big gardener. And when I moved to New York, I became one, too. It doesn’t seem like you would learn how to be a great gardener in New York City, but I installed this incredible rooftop terrace, and it was my oasis. This was before I had children, so all my maternal energy went into this luscious, beautiful garden. It was very meditative. When I had my hands in the dirt, I felt very connected to something other than my career, my relationships, my schedule. It helped keep me in the present.

On encouraging her daughter to feel good about her body
I was horrified when my 5-year-old daughter asked me if she was fat because we never use terms like that in our house. So it was something she picked up from somewhere else. It made my husband and me realize we have to talk to her about how important it is to be healthy and the fact that there are different kinds of bodies.