Carolyn Murphy on the Joys of Doing Nothing

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Carolyn Murphy Photo: Max Lakner/BFA.com

If you've thumbed past an Estée Lauder ad within the past decade, then you've likely locked eyes with Carolyn Murphy, who's been the face of the makeup giant for over 13 years. Carolyn first made a splash as a model in the late '90s, and her portfolio keeps expanding — she recently became the face of UGG's Classic Luxe CollectionAlways open to discuss wellness, Carolyn talked to the Cut about meditating at the crack of dawn, avoiding the gym, and eating fermented food before it became trendy.

How I start my day: I automatically wake up anywhere between 6 and 6:30 a.m. I have to meditate within the first ten or 15 minutes or I know I'm not going to do it. After that I wash my face, have a shower, and let my dogs out. I try to get all of that done before 7, and then I'm into mommy mode. I make breakfast and wake up my teenage daughter, which sometimes isn't easy. 

I'm trying not to drink coffee right now, which is a little bit difficult, but I'll usually have some hot lemon water with a probiotic, and then I'll have green tea and avocado. I love, love, love avocados. I love avocado spread on rye toast — you know that kind of weird, brown square one that you get at the health-food store? It has a German name. It has sunflower and flax in it. Sometimes I'll put smoked salmon on it. Other mornings I'll do some organic berries with sheep's milk yogurt. I save the weekends for my indulgences and my indulging other people. That's when I do like turkey bacon, and a buckwheat pound cake. 

How I like to sweat: I hate working out. If I could just be like the Europeans and drink wine, coffee, and smoke, I would, but I can't. I like to do yoga because it's just easier for me to travel with that. I can do it in any hotel room. I don't go hard-core, I'll do like 20 minutes of stretching and yoga and some sun salutations and downward dogs.

If I do work out, I prefer to be outside. I love surfing, I love hiking. Clearly living in New York has posed a problem with that, so sometimes I'll run on the West Side Highway. Actually, I shouldn't use the word “run.” I do what I like to call a very “light jog.” I try to avoid the gym just because I feel like a hamster in a cage.

Swimming is great because I did it competitively for 11, 12 years. But to get up to the 92nd Street Y is really hard sometimes. I try to work out at least three days a week. I feel like a failure if I don't get at least get three to four days in.

I also love sitting in Japanese bath houses. I love infrared saunas, steam rooms, and just sweating it out. I think body work is huge. I'm a glutton for acupuncture. I get a massage at least once a week, if not more. Oh, I go for it.

What wellness means to me: Wellness is such a personal interpretation for everybody. I feel the difference when I'm not making a concerted effort to eat whole foods, but wellness can also mean seeing a great movie that makes you laugh, or having a moment in nature. If you're living your life the best that you can for you and it's making you happy, then it's not for others to judge. For me, wellness is when I am eating right and exercising, but when I also have other wonderful influences, like riding my horse, making sure that I travel, or having adventures. Or it's lying in bed and reading books with my daughter all day. Doing nothing can be a form of wellness. 

My biggest wellness struggle is: When I was growing up in the '70s, I was really fortunate because my mom had already been following Muktananda. We were meditating and doing yoga when we were quite young. We were seeing an Iridologist, so organic foods and that whole thing was not a novelty. I always giggle when people start talking about fermented foods, or alkaline, because we were raised on that. I think that my greatest struggle has been living in New York City because all of a sudden I'm drinking coffee or going out for drinks. Those are two things that were never really a part of my lifestyle before I moved back. Exercise can also be a big challenge, especially in the winter because I just want to stay inside like a hermit.

How I eat when I'm alone: I probably eat more healthily when I'm alone, when I don't have the influence of children wanting to order pizza. Last night I was alone and I made steamed broccoli, kale, and tofu, and that's so boring, but I love eating stuff like that. And then I'll have almond butter on rice crackers. If I'm on a road trip or driving, I might end up with a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips. I'm not always healthy. When I was in London the other night I was feeling so cranky and tired, I just wanted spaghetti Bolognese.

This interview has been edited and condensed.