In Balance: CSI's Marg Helgenberger On yoga, role models and the joy of the occasional chocolate chip cookie By Bonnie Siegler MediZine's Healthy Living Third Quarter 2008
As CSI: Crime Scenes Investigation’s tough, smart and sassy crime scene investigator Catherine Willows, Marg Helgenberger routinely gets down and dirty. But that’s nothing new to the stunning redhead. “I made some money in agriculture,” she says, referring to her job toiling in the Nebraska cornfields as a teenager. “I worked in my father’s meatpacking plant too.” Working night shoots and some 16-hour days on the set of CSI, the disciplined Midwest native has learned how to juggle career, motherhood (son Hugh is 17) and marriage (to fellow actor Alan Rosenberg). “I do find it easier working on a regular show than to be flying all over to different movie sets in different cities,” she says. “I’m not saying it’s easy working these hours, but our whole crew is awesome.”
And Marg takes time for herself when she can. “I meditate every morning,” says the actress. “I also do yoga two to three times a week if I can fit it in. Yoga is as much for exercise as it is for peace of mind. And good reading material is always important for relaxation. I have a book club with a couple of friends that I have found very enjoyable.”
During the 2007–2008 writers’ strike, Marg took up the guitar. “I like being creative, so picking up my guitar and playing music that I like or am trying to learn puts me in a different mindset,” she says.
Looking at least a decade younger than her 49 years, Marg sounds downright sensible in her approach to beauty. “I certainly want to look the best I possibly can,” she says. “But I keep coming back to this theory that you have to work with what you’ve got and grow older gracefully. I have fair skin and freckles, so I work with that. And I don’t wear some of the clothes I wore 10 years ago, and certainly not the ones I wore 20 years ago. Even if I can pull it off, it’s tacky.”
Five foot six and a healthy weight, the actress includes among her nutritional staples yogurt, fresh berries, fresh papaya, sliced turkey, salad and cheeses. On a typical day, Marg starts off with a smoothie made with yogurt, rice milk and fresh fruit, followed by a lunch that “could be a tuna or turkey sandwich or a salad topped with protein.” Dinner is usually fish or chicken with veggies and salad. “I don’t eat that many soy products, because I don’t handle soy that well. I do eat edamame, but I don’t eat tofu or drink soy milk.”
As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, Marg is keenly aware of risk factors for the condition. “I just do what my doctor recommends, which is a yearly mammogram and regular self-examinations,” she says.
She looks to her mother, Kay Helgenberger, as a role model for strength. “My mother is a breast cancer survivor, yet she has always looked on the bright side of life. I find that kind of person fascinating—someone who has been through a hardship but is able to keep going with a positive attitude.”
Taking a well-balanced approach to her health, Marg does indulge in the occasional guilty pleasure. “I love chocolate chip cookies,” she admits. “And those Girl Scout thin mint cookies are hard to pass up. I love fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, but I don’t eat those too much because of the cholesterol and fat content. And I grew up in Nebraska, where my father was a meat inspector, so I do like a good steak.”
The clock never seems to stop for Marg. “I can never really relax,” she muses. “I can’t let the ball drop for very long, because otherwise it all passes you by. And I enjoy life too much for that.”
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