Viva interview
by Bonnie Siegler

A passion for horses and nature inspires actress Katharine Isabelle to find balance.

She strides across the field from a nearby barn carrying a shovel and wearing well-worn jeans, a sweater, muddied boots and a beaming smile. Why would actress Katharine Isabelle be so happy after spending six hours shovelling horse manure? “It’s my favourite thing to do besides ride my horses,” says the 29 year-old Canadian actress. Best known for the lead role as Ginger in the Ginger Snaps trilogy, Isabelle has amassed a variety of acting experience including TV’s Heartland and was presented with a Gemini Award for Actress in a Featured Supporting Role for The Englishman’s Boy. Now starring as Danni, a key player in helping solve crimes in Endgame, a new drama on Showcase, Isabelle’s days are long and hectic, but whenever there is downtime, she rides her horses, Sunday and Caleb, while keeping their stalls spick and span.

Isabelle’s lifestyle is quite down-to-earth and she is an avid proponent of alternative medicines including Chinese, acupuncture, homeopathic and herbal remedies. For a chronic shoulder and back condition thanks to her falls from riding, Isabelle has successfully treated the problem using electro-acupuncture. Having suffered acute allergies since early childhood with severe eczema, the single actress now treats these allergy outbreaks with Cell Food, a dietary supplement “that’s dissolved oxygen, amino acids, trace minerals and enzymes. You put it into water and it tastes lemony.” Another remedy for allergy attacks of any kind is taking at least 2000 milligrams of buffered Vitamin C. She also takes concentrated gel caps full of green food due to the lack of vegetables on set. “My mom has been very into alternative medicine since I was a little girl; she did a lot of research and eventually came around to more alternative therapies than just strict western medicine in order to keep me healthy,” says the Vancouver native.

Although Isabelle grew up as a vegan, she gave up this way of eating at age 11 due to peer pressure. “But it was out of pure necessity that my mom regularly fed me wheat grass, rice cakes and all this health store food, cut out wheat and dairy and introduced me to many other Eastern philosophies,” she says. “I am very sensitive and just eating an un-organic strawberry would mean I would burst into hives.”

Today, Isabelle still shuns gluten, sugar, dairy and non-organic foods, yet admits it’s difficult to be strict when working. “I can definitely feel when I’ve eaten something with gluten because I get bloated and the next day, the circles and bags under my eyes are darker and bigger,” says the 49 kilogram (107 pound) actress. “Once you cut out things like sugar, soda, dairy and wheat, when you eat them again, you don’t feel well and notice the difference. But I say in order in order to live a balanced life, you have to take everything in moderation. If I slip up here and there, it’s no big deal.” Instead, Isabelle’s eating plan is full of green vegetables, free-range beef or chicken and rice. “I try to avoid acidic foods and stick to a more alkaline diet – again for overall health balance,” she says. “I live mostly off a nice piece of organic beef, very quickly char-grilled vegetables like a mixture of red peppers, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, kale with some onions and garlic.” In fact, Isabelle prides herself in knowing her way around the kitchen and enjoys preparing dinners for friends. “Cooking is a very Zen thing; you’re in the moment. Just the smells and the chopping are therapeutic activities.” Some signature dishes include Moroccan chickpea stew over rice or a delicious beef bourguignon.

While cooking is one of her pastimes for stress management, Isabelle also likes to sit back and read. “Reading is something I did when I was on location when younger. We didn’t have video games and the Internet. I always had a book or Archie comic so it’s a real comfort for me to hunker down in a corner and read. I never leave home without a book just in case I get stuck somewhere when I have to wait.

While her principal form of exercise is riding, she also hauls wheelbarrows full of manure and hay. “So on my days off, I’m shoveling, hauling water buckets and bales of hay, riding and walking a couple of kilometers. That’s my activity. I would much rather do something active outdoors where you’re not noticing you’re working out, instead of being inside a gym. I tried the gym routine for a week and it bored me to death.” And she credits Sunday and Caleb with maintaining her grounded attitude. “My horses don’t give a crap who I am – just feed me, exercise me, and clean out my stalls. But balance living to me is moderation all the way. Depriving yourself of luxuries, goodies, and treats is just cruel”.

 

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