Jenna Dewan On Postpartum Life, Pilates, And Why She Follows An 80-20 Diet

Jenna Dewan On Postpartum Life, Pilates, And Why She Follows An 80-20 Diet

by | Feb 26, 2021

While most of us were busy scavenging for toilet paper and swapping sourdough starters, Jenna Dewan was in the middle of more labor-intensive pandemic preparations. Quite literally. The actress gave birth to her second child—a son, Callum Michael Rebel Kazee, with fiancé Steve Kazee—on March 6, 2020, just days before Los Angeles’s stay-at-home order went into effect.

“I was in this postpartum-haze bubble, then a week later, everything just shut down,” Jenna says. “It was new; it was different; it was kind of scary. But we were all in it together.”

Jenna had already planned for a hunkering-down period following Callum’s birth, sticking to the same “First 40 Days” model of postpartum rest and replenishment that she had used after the birth of her daughter, Everly, with ex-husband Channing Tatum in 2013. But what she hadn’t planned for was a months-long isolation—especially considering how alone she had felt the first time around, giving birth to Everly in London, spending the first few weeks in an apartment with no Wi-Fi, then quickly transitioning to 15-hour shoot days on the set of Lifetime’s Witches of East End.

“I had this grand idea that with this baby, I’m going to have friends and family over all the time,” says Jenna. “Talk about expectations and having to surrender.”
Leaning into unexpected curves has helped Jenna navigate a number of detours over the past three years—splitting from Channing in 2018, building a new life as a single mom, reconnecting with Steve (whom she’d met years earlier after one of his performances in the Broadway production of Once), and embracing new love.

“I got here by following the flow,” says Jenna, reflecting on her journey. “I’ve really been big on that. I know when I’m swimming upstream and fighting it.”

Watch Jenna Dewan talk more about finding new love:

And so the self-professed “free spirit” has harnessed that submit-and-sink-into-it approach in pandemic life. Instead of getting bogged down with anxiety or fear, she has constantly looked for ways to swerve and grow through it all.

Most noticeably, the past year finally forced Jenna to take a beat. She’s been hustling since the early 2000s, kicking off her professional dance career on Janet Jackson’s 2001 All for You tour. Film roles followed, including her 2006 breakout, Step Up. And the past five years, which have been especially busy for Jenna, included acting roles (The Resident; Berlin, I Love You; Soundtrack), hosting gigs (Flirty Dancing, World of Dance), and production projects (Step Up: High Water). When Hollywood shut down last year, Jenna was left with a largely open calendar.

“I’ve learned for the very first time what it means to actually be quiet, to be present,” she says. “I’ve never been a homebody, and I love it.”
Without external factors like work projects or lunch dates with friends to fill her up, Jenna turned her attention inward, establishing a new feel-good morning routine. By tending to her self-care early on, Jenna finds that she’s able to give more to others throughout the day. So now, every morning after Callum wakes her (and Steve) up around 6:30 or 7 a.m., she feeds him, then feeds her own soul, starting with a 20-minute meditation session.

Jenna has relied on Vedic meditation—a mantra-based practice similar to transcendental meditation—for years. She’s so serious about it that she has a dedicated nook at home where her kids aren’t allowed. And it’s where she’s seated today as we talk.

“I got here by following the flow. I’ve really been big on that. I know when I’m swimming upstream and fighting it.”

Sunk deep in an overstuffed beige chair, Jenna starts rifling through the belongings on the table behind her, a spiritual grab bag of sorts. She lifts up a fist-size ivory crystal—an aplite, she tells me, which is good for connection and meditation. She shows me her Super Attractor Journal, where she jots down her thoughts; her oracle cards, which she uses to set her intentions for the day; and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, which she’ll open to a random page and read from. Completing the collection is a chunky sage smudge and, of course, a candle. When I ask what scents soothe her, she pauses and laughs, telling me the candle is “This Smells Like My Orgasm” by Gwyneth Paltrow. “It was a gift,” Jenna says with a grin. “It smells good!”

Breath work is another big component of her mindfulness. After meditating, she’ll often cycle through a holotropic breathing routine (two breaths in, one breath out) set to music, which she says has been transformative.

“It’s very effective for stress,” Jenna says. “You’re creating this rush of oxygen to your brain, and it calms your nervous system. It can be a little uncomfortable at first, but once you get past that, you really open yourself up.”

Then, once cantered, Jenna sweats it out. Her exercise of choice right now is Pilates—she logs three or four one-hour Zoom sessions a week with her instructor Kim Carruthers. “It gets you fit so fast, and you just feel stronger,” Jenna says of her practice, which has transferred from the studio’s reformer to a mat at home. “The dancer in me really likes it because it activates the same muscles in my core,” she continues. Especially after recovering from surgery (her C-section), “you feel things just all start to go where they’re meant to go [with Pilates].” She’s also become a fan of Isaac Boots’s Instagram Live workouts, a high-energy combo of cardio and strength, which Jenna calls “dancer wonderfulness.”

As dance studios are closed, Jenna has had to get her groove on in small gasps—an online class here, a TikTok routine there. Through it all, she keeps a perpetual rhythm in her home. “I’m always dancing, even in the kitchen,” she says. “Callum laughs and smiles when I dance, especially when I give him a good hair whip. It’s as if it’s the funniest thing that ever happened. And Evie’s always like, ‘Dance party time!’ ”

When it comes to refuelling, Jenna finds that her body does best with a mostly vegetarian diet. She follows an 80/20 approach—80 percent of the time eating “healthy” and 20 percent of the time indulging. She starts every morning with a green smoothie (emphasis on the “green”), blending spinach, romaine, celery, cilantro, parsley, apple, banana, and lemon. For lunch and dinner, she’s learned to keep it simple. “In the beginning of quarantine, I was trying to cook more,” Jenna says. “But then people in the house were like, ‘You’ve got a lot of strengths. I don’t know if cooking is one of them.…’ ”

“I am not one of those people who thinks change doesn’t happen. Instead, I own it, I’m happy with it, and I’m excited to see what develops from it.”

She’s since pivoted to preparing and refrigerating nutritious meal components—like quinoa, roasted vegetables, and black beans—and letting her family combine them into entrées. She does take pride, however, in a dish her family calls the “Jenna Salad.” It’s a chopped medley of whatever vegetables are in the house—usually carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, avocado, and sometimes even sauerkraut—topped with a veggie burger and dressed with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

“It’s delicious,” says Jenna. “The warm veggie burger makes you feel like you’re eating more than a salad.” As for indulgences, Jenna goes for salty over sweet, with faves like nachos or french fries. “I don’t deprive myself,” she says. “But I try to choose healthy most of the time.”

That balanced approach is just one more example of the laid-back, go-with-the-flow attitude that has seen Jenna through a myriad of milestones, including her most recent biggie in December: turning 40. As Jenna sees it, life has only gotten more fulfilling.

“I feel better in my skin. I feel more grounded in my body,” she says. “I feel excited for this next decade and what is available to create. Even in this crazy year, I still have that feeling.”

As Jenna looks to the future, she’s set a few goals for herself—namely, producing more projects through her company, Everheart Productions, and continuing to grow personally. But, as with all things, she recognises that some of that, ultimately, will be left up to fate.
“You can’t really control how life is going to look—you just know how you want to feel,” says Jenna. “I am in no way at that point where I’m like, ‘I’ve got it all figured out.’ I’m still learning more about myself every single day: what I want, how I want to experience it. All of that is in flux. I am not one of those people who thinks change doesn’t happen. Instead, I own it, I’m happy with it, and I’m excited to see what develops from it.”

Spoken, as ever, like a true free spirit who’s mastered the art of embracing the unknown.

This article appears in the March 2021 issue of Women’s Health.

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8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 

Nagnata

Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

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New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 

Nike

Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 

Tracksmith

Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 

Lululemon

Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?