Sarah Chalke: The Comedy TV Actress Takes Health Seriously


man on a ledge premiere 2 240112 Actress Sarah Chalke: The TV Comedian Takes Health Seriously

TV actress Sarah Chalke may be best known as the self-conscious Dr. Reid on Scrubs, or perhaps Stella on How I Met Your Mother, or perhaps Kate in Mad Love, but she is also now known as Polly in How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life). 

Sarah keeps reinventing herself within each TV series. But there are a few priorities in her own life that don’t change — health and wellness, for example, were important to her long before she began playing a doctor’s character on Scrubs. 

I spoke with Sarah Chalke about her lifestyle. 

CAROL: You were Dr. Elliot Reid on Scrubs for eight years. Did you learn about medical science from being on the show? 

SARAH CHALKE: I’ve always been a hypochondriac; I think I got what some medical students have — they diagnose themselves having everything that they study. I was convinced that I had half a dozen diseases over the years.

The medical jargon was more like speaking another language; I just memorized it. We had a doctor on set to make sure we pronounced terms correctly, and that surgery procedures were done accurately. That said, we still got calls because the opening credits show backward x-rays. 

CAROL: Are you vegetarian? 

SARAH CHALKE: I was, but not now. I read Diet for a New America when I was 12 years old and it was so painful to read that, though I loved meat at the time, I became vegetarian overnight. I grew up in a household that half of the people were vegetarian anyway – my sister, my grandmother, and my father after he was diagnosed with arthritis. 

But I gave up all protein at that age, not knowing what to substitute meat with, and I think it stunted my growth. I was the shortest person in my class until I started eating fish again. When Scrubs started I began eating chicken and now I also eat red meat once in a while.


SARAH CHALKE: My diet has evolved; I think you have to go with what you feel your body needs. For me it was difficult working on a set for 12 to 14 hours a day and still get enough energy from the right foods. I also only had access to what was available. At first I tried to prepare my own and bring it, but trying to make something at 4 a.m. for the next day became ridiculous. 

CAROL: You’re still a healthy eater. 

ScrubsSARAH CHALKE: We grew up eating healthy food finished with decadent dessert so that’s still what I crave — it’s all about balance. I eat lots of veggies and fruit… and dark chocolate. I read Fit for Life 10 years ago and began proper food combining, which I found very helpful, and following it gave me a lot of energy.

Eventually at work, we found a healthy caterer that allowed me to specifically order what I wanted to get all of the nutrients that I need. They deliver three meals and two snacks per day which keeps my energy high. Of course it’s difficult to eat five times a day if you’re busy and don’t have someone delivering it! 

CAROL: Do you take any supplements or do alternative therapies? 

SARAH CHALKE: I get acupuncture on a weekly basis, and take traditional Chinese herbs. It’s been for great for stress relief since I had been working very long hours. My mother and a couple of friends had incredible results with acupuncture, and I have noticed such a difference; you go in for one ailment and it ends up curing three others. 

Sometimes I’m so relaxed afterwards I feel like I shouldn’t be driving home. I take supplements including an omega-3, -6 and -9 combination, and a multivitamin every day, and I pour flax oil right onto grainy artisan toast instead of butter; it tastes great!

CAROL: You were very active when you lived in Canada: you skied, snowboarded and kayaked. What do you do now to keep in shape?

 SARAH CHALKE: I take my dog hiking at least four times a week. I love yoga and do it when I can squeeze it in, and a class that combines yoga, kickboxing, rope jumping and other cardio. I got very spoiled growing up in Vancouver close to hiking trails and ski hills. 

CAROL: What do you do to unwind?

SARAH CHALKE: Going for hike or having friends over and cooking dinner are my favourite ways. After completing each series, I have had some time off to do those things. The time in between has made me appreciate balance; it’s as important to not do work as it is to do work.

In order to really unwind you have to take a substantial amount of time physically getting away with cell phone turned off. 

CAROL: You have been on talk shows including David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O’Brien. Do you get nervous? 

SARAH CHALKE: It’s different than acting, and a very unique experience. I do get nervous. It has to do with loss of control; the interview can go in any direction that the interviewer wants to take it. It’s becoming easier, but I still get that feeling in my stomach before I walk on set and think, “Why am I doing this? Was this a good idea?” 

They brief you beforehand, but sometimes they spontaneously steer you in a completely different direction. I think interviews are the most fun for people to watch on TV when not pre-determined or rehearsed.

CAROL: Do you think about aging, living in LA as a TV celebrity?

sarah chalke 1SARAH CHALKE: Yes, of course. It’s an industry that keeps a lot of pressure on women. I feel lucky that I’ve been on Scrubs for all of these years but I look back on the first episodes and say, “We were babies! What happened?!”

It’s important to keep it in perspective, enjoy the ride while it’s happening, and try not to get too attached, though I would be lying if I said aging never crosses my mind. I don’t know whether I will ever get facial surgery, but I do know that my grandmother was the most beautiful looking woman until the day she died and did nothing but put a little cream on her face.

Aging is part of life so we shouldn’t fight it too much.

CAROL: You played Becky on Roseanne for a long time. Was it difficult breaking free from the teen image in TV roles? 

SARAH CHALKE: I was on it when I was 17, and it was an incredible learning experience, but I didn’t have enough of a part to become well identified with that.

CAROL: Before that you played an environmental reporter on Kids Zone at age 12. Does environmental preservation still interest you? 

SARAH CHALKE: Absolutely. It’s important to my entire family. My parents wanted us to grow up aware and eco-conscious so we recycled and had a compost system. 

CAROL: Why do you focus on giving to children’s charities? 

SARAH CHALKE: My parents own an adoption agency in Vancouver and I’ve traveled around the world to orphanages with them, the first time when I was three. I accompanied them to China to coordinate the adoption of several orphans there.

You learn firsthand how the majority of the world lives so it has become a huge priority to help. I work with a charity called Half the Sky that helps orphans in China and with a charity in South Africa. 

CAROL: You played a self-conscious, slightly clumsy character on Scrubs, and in real life you have sprained your ankle four times…

SARAH CHALKE: I’ve actually sprained my ankle seven times. I did it four times while working on Scrubs, for example. I’ve sprained it doing everything from walking my dog to getting up from a chair — my foot fell asleep and I fell flat on my face when I tried to get up. 

CAROL: Do you believe that your body is trying to tell you something? It’s thought to spiritually mean “not knowing confidently which direction to turn in your life.”  

SARAH CHALKE: That is very interesting.



Sarah Richardson: TV’s Renovating Expert on Life At Her Home

 Sarah Richardson 1

Sarah Richardson: TV’s Renovating Expert on Life At Her Home          

By Carol Crenna

Sarah Richardson started her career 18 years ago and within a year, was on screen, sharing her practical approach to interior design. With her shows on HGTV Canada and US: Sarah’s House, Room Service, Design Inc., Sarah’s Cottage, her new show launching in Fall 2013, and her furniture and paint lines, her consulting firm, and her family, she doesn’t stay still for long.

During our interview, she was also baking, serving snacks, and supervising four children who played with caterpillars and frogs at her cottage. Here, Sarah talks about life at home. 

CAROL: Why do you live off-the-grid at your cottage? 

SARAH RICHARDSON: My husband built it, and being off the grid was a necessity more than a choice. It would have cost $100,000 to receive hydro electricity on the island. But by embracing it, it became a fantastic way to live. The island’s views are spectacular with its rugged, natural beauty, rocks and water and sky.

The lifestyle offers everything that you need and nothing that you don’t. It’s not about accessibility to manufactured entertainment; it’s about enjoying the company of family and friends, and truly enjoying the weather, whatever it brings. 

CAROL:  How do you generate energy in the house?

SARAH RICHARDSON: Solar electricity powers the stereo, phones and computers, and propane runs the stove, fridge and lights. We renovated and updated the solar panels two years ago for Sarah’s Cottage HGTV show. We did that because our shared office in downtown Toronto also has solar panels, generating enough energy to run all of its technology.

My husband is very interested in environmental conservation. We had the best intentions in composting, but it attracted foreign animals to the island including raccoons and bears. We decided that we didn’t want to share it so stopped. 

CAROL:  How do you make time for husband, kids, friends? 

sarah_richardson 3SARAH RICHARDSON: By prioritizing and focusing. When at work, I’m intently working, and when at home, I focus on kids and husband, and don’t mix the two. I have easy hair so don’t spend weekends getting beauty treatments like others — I’m with the kids! 

I‘ve learned to delegate, and have realized that the only successful way to delegate is to not worry about whether I could have done something better myself — just let it go and be happy with the results. 

CAROL: How do you relax?

SARAH RICHARDSON: I love cooking. I come home and cook with my kids I’m immediately able to focus on what’s most important in my world. It was my husband’s birthday recently, and so I had 37 people for lunch and 19 for dinner and I cooked both meals. And after a nice dinner and glass of wine, all things are good! 

CAROL: You enjoy entertaining then? 

SARAH RICHARDSON: Yes. My advice to others is to not even hesitate about your decision to have a party — just do it! Don’t worry whether everything will be perfect. Do what you can do, even if it means buying store bought pre-made appetizers. People come to a party to spend time with you and your guests so don’t be so worried about food or decor. The most important things: a good group of people, good wine, and to relax and enjoy yourself.

CAROL: Are your kids picky eaters? 

SARAH RICHARDSON: There are lots of things that they won’t eat, but I don’t find that surprising because most kids don’t have adventurous tastes. I sneak in good, healthy stuff by hiding it in the recipe. 

CAROL: Do you have a healthy diet? Do you worry about weight gain? 

Sarah Richardson 4SARAH RICHARDSON: My job is very active; I often carry around my two little kids; and I have a fast metabolism so don’t have to worry about it. There is a lot of ice cream in my life. One of our favourite destinations while at the cottage is to go for a boat ride to another little island for an ice cream run. 

That said, I‘ve had two children during my time on a camera so had to be okay with major weight fluctuations! I eat very healthily and take care of myself. But I don’t go overboard. 

CAROL: Do you get much exercise?

SARAH RICHARDSON: I downhill ski and I water ski.

CAROL: Why did you choose the house where you live in Toronto? 

SARAH RICHARDSON: I was drawn to it as soon as I walked in the door. Built in 1966, it has giant window walls on two sides, one rising from the basement to the top of the first floor ceiling. It was a cold February day when I first saw it but the sun was beaming in. It has incredible light, and its open-plan flows with no wasted space — we don’t have hallways. 

We gutted most rooms and I’ve experimented a lot, but now its needs the basics that cost, like new windows and a new roof. I like soulful objects so choose my furniture carefully, including my favourite daybed in the living room. Daybeds are underappreciated. When entertaining, they provide extra seating since guests can perch themselves on both sides; they’re great on a Saturday afternoon when you can steal 20 minutes to put your feet up with a magazine; they’re comfortable for kids to hang onto as you sit to read books; and they have sculptural beauty.

CAROL: Do you take your decorating advice when renovating your own home?

SARAH RICHARDSON: Yes, 100 percent. My home is my laboratory where I test and experiment with every idea to make sure it works to avoid having to try hard to convince a client or redo a job. 

CAROL: Don’t you find renovating stressful?

SARAH RICHARDSON: No, because I focus on the transformation itself. It only becomes stressful if you worry about whether you’ve made or are making the right decisions. I go with my gut, and if I make a mistake, so be it. 

I’ve made lots of mistakes, but you can only do your best, and appreciate that everyone working on a project is doing their best. Renovating is a product of human time and creative effort, not done by robots, so it must take as long as it takes and cost as much as it costs. 

CAROL: How long does it take to transform a home from fixer-upper to TV camera-perfect?

SARAH RICHARDSON: My timelines are shorter than most: five months from breaking ground to completion. To shoot Sarah 101, a new show launching in January 2011, we completed 13 rooms in 13 different homes over five months.

CAROL: Do you always test a decorating look in your own home? 

Sarah at HomeSARAH RICHARDSON: Yes. It’s my laboratory where I experiment with 100 percent of what is eventually done to see if it works. This is so I don’t have to try hard to convince a client or redo something. 

CAROL: What was your dumbest furniture buy? 

SARAH RICHARDSON: I’ve had my share of furniture that had to be rebuilt because it didn’t fit. For a spacious, open loft, I chose a nine-foot sofa, but we couldn’t get it in the door – access in most condos is for six-foot sofas – so I cut it into two pieces. I had to cut a two-piece sectional into three pieces for the same reason… and I’ve blocked from memory all other instances.