I’m a little lazy and have time management issues, so I rarely make it to the gym. So when I’m asked occasionally how I stay in shape, I usually attribute my no-sweat fitness to genetics, explaining how my father’s abs were about as hard as his partying.
I also eat healthy food. I’m not one of those skinny bitches who swears to eat deep fried bacon-stuffed donuts for breakfast.
For years of my childhood, the only foods I was allowed to eat were raw fruits and vegetables (and on occasion, soy, millet, baked potatoes and yams). My mom took your average vegetarian or macrobiotic diet waaay further. It wasn’t enough to simply shop at health food stores (or “hell food” stores as I called them back then). Her motto: “You name it – we can’t eat it.”
This manic/organic lifestyle was especially difficult because I had come from the great culinary center of the South, and food was central to everything.
Both sides of my family were in the food and restaurant business. In 1912 my great grandfather, Guiseppe Uddo, emigrated from Sicily with his bride and her $30 dowry, bought a horse and buggy and started a small food-import trade in the French Quarter of New Orleans. His Progresso products eventually progressed into every major American supermarket.
My maternal grandparents, Joe and Josie Riccobono, at one time owned five restaurants, specializing in celebrated Italian family recipes.
And in the late 1970s my father, Peter Uddo, owned the Riverbend, “The busiest restaurant in New Orleans,” according to Gambit newspaper.
The bottom line: the only vegetables my family eats are creamed. They’re Italian and they live in the murder and obesity capital of the United States.
One night, I recall overhearing a loud argument between my Uncle Paul and my Aunt Gina about not enough raisins in the bread pudding. Point is, I’d not be shocked if some murders down there are actually committed over food.
But once my mother left The Big Easy for rural redwoods, she was, in her own words, committed to raising “warriors”. Sure enough, life often felt like boot camp. We actually spent a Christmas holiday at a health institute in San Diego where they specialize in wheat-grass “cleansing” – fo real. Wheat-grass colonics and ear flushes were available, but some folks simply prefer to snort the stuff. There was even an option to douche – for those warriors who really want to smell as fresh as a summer’s day. Needless to say, three days of having every orifice of my body flushed with chlorophyll was not the kind of gift from Santa I was hoping for.
As a kid I wanted nothing more than to return to my family in New Orleans and all the delicious excess. I craved high-cholesterol, gluten-filled, preservative-laden foods – anything but live enzymes! Yet once I began modeling, for a time my mother’s low-food diet came in handy. And now, after years of flip-flopping and experimentation, I feel I’ve found some balance midst the culinary polarities of my past. I still occasionally question what’s ultimately “healthy”, and that answer, like me, continues to change and evolve… I believe every body is unique, and therefore it should be up to the individual to discover and choose what to eat…or where to pray, whom to love, how to dress…you get the point.