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It is my absolute pleasure to introduce to you this week’s gorgeous guest: actress and dancer Dena Kaplan. You may recognise her from shows such as Dance Academy and Tricky Business. One of the many things I love about Dena is that she is such a positive, healthy role model for young women. You just have to take one look at her to see that she radiates health and vitality.

On top of acting and dancing, Dena is also an ambassador for the charity Soi Dog, a wonderful organisation that saves hundreds of stray and abused dogs. She also has a fabulous blog which she started with her two sisters http://kaplansisters.blogspot.com/.

I will let Dena share more about herself and her views on health below and make sure you check out her delicious fudge recipe at the end.

Why is eating well and living a healthy lifestyle so important to you?

I feel like what I put in my body dictates so much about the way I feel about myself, the way I respond to others, the way I deal with pressure or stress and life in general. If I am in a healthy headspace the rest of my life seems to follow suit and vice versa. A healthy diet and fitness routine has always been part of my life, career and upbringing and when I don’t treat my body with respect I usually end up feeling very awful, physically and mentally. Basically, when I am healthy, I am happier.

Who are some people who inspire and influence you the most when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle?

I have always been inspired by my grandmother. She is almost 80, does pilates every week and eats a very clean diet, nothing processed and makes all her own meals. It amazes me how well she looks and feels. I have also recently become addicted to Instagram and follow so many inspirational foodies and fitness freaks. I have learnt a lot from them and they keep me motivated, sometimes I will look at it as soon as I wake up to inspire me to go to the gym or start my day off with a brilliantly healthy recipe. I also follow James Duigan’s clean and lean diet; his outlook on healthy living and well being has certainly inspired me a lot. I struggled a lot with certain food allergies and it wasn’t till I really cleaned up my diet that I cured myself of things like nausea, eczema and allergies. It was amazing how many little things I was eating that were really bad for me and I had no idea. I also tend to OVER-DO things; work, stress and pushing yourself too hard all result in injuries, weight gain, sleep deprivation and illness. James’s book helped me to appreciate days off and relaxation.

You always have such beautiful glowing skin! Do you have a strict beauty routine that you follow?

Aww, thank you, that’s a big compliment for me because I can’t say I always have had nice skin. I really struggled with it during high school and was very self conscious about it. I take impeccable care of my skin now though, I never sleep in makeup, ever. I use purity philosophy cleanser to remove all makeup then I use Vanessa Megan Skin care products. Her philosophy is “Only put on your skin what you would eat” which really suits my lifestyle. Her range is amazing, all organic, no chemicals and no testing on animals. I also get monthly facials with a goddess named Monika at Melbourne Laser Skin Care Clinic, she does extractions and peels and we use Rationale products. I have been seeing her monthly for almost 2 years. It’s my one special expense, but with all the makeup I wear for film and TV it’s a necessity that my skin gets a very thorough cleanse, once a month.

What advice would you give to young women who are feeling the pressure to live up to the “Hollywood” body image standards?

I would let them know that we ALL feel the pressure and they are NOT alone. No one feels perfect, and striving for perfection results in heart break and it actually causes you to go backwards when you don’t see results that are impossible to achieve. Striving to be and feel the best you can is my aim. I don’t know one girl whether they are a model/actress or lawyer who doesn’t feel some sort of body image pressure. I know I do. I think if you keep yourself informed about and research what works for your body and what doesn’t you will generally feel better. I have learnt not to compare myself to other girls, what they look like or what they eat, because I am so different to most girls my age and no matter how hard I train or diet I can’t change certain things about myself. I have to learn to love them. That takes time. I also try to draw inspiration from girls who have similar shapes and builds to me whose bodies inspire me, not 6 foot models. There is no point. At the end of the day we should all aim to have bigger focuses than what we look like, if that is taking up 90 percent of your day something is wrong, being a giving and kind person is far more rewarding than being skinny, plus hard work and talent are more important to me than a “Hollywood” body. I just try to do the very best I can, that’s all one can ask for.

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What are 3 ingredients you always have in your fridge or pantry?

Salad/Veggies
Braggs Amino Acids dressing
Quinoa

What are your top ways to stay fit?

Growing up as a dancer I spent my physical life being instructed what to do, and that works for me. I am terrible at motivating myself so I like training in groups or doing personal training or dance classes. I do circuit classes, X training, boxing, pilates, booty barre, ballet and outdoor personal training. I try to do something every day. On my day off I will only do pilates or go for a walk.

How do you maintain your healthy eating habits and exercise routine when you are on set or travelling?

It’s very tough, I won’t lie. Sometimes people think I am crazy but if I don’t maintain it I feel awful so I try to train early before shooting. That usually means getting up at 5am and doing a 6am class or PT session. I also always take my own food on set. I have very severe food allergies and never know what’s in certain things, even dressings so I take my own meals and snacks such as salads, grilled chicken, fish, cottage cheese, quinoa, cut up veggies, nuts, smoothies etc. It can be so hard on set not to indulge and over eat and you are constantly exhausted so finding time to train is really tough. You have to really stay motivated and focused. I guess being on TV is a good motivation!

What is your favourite:

Food: Avocado & chocolate *not together!
City: New York City
Book: I adored both Tina Fey’s & Portia De Rossi’s biographies, also just read Marching Powder which was unbelievably fascinating
Movie: Just saw Silver Linings Playbook and loved it, and will always love “Happy Go Lucky”, a perfect film
Song: Loving Mackelmore and Flume at the moment, aren’t we all? My all time favourite classic song is Etta James “At Last”
Website: Other than this brilliant blog, which I love and follow, I am a big makeup lover and follow the Pixiwoo girls on YouTube, as they are fabulous and do the best makeup tutorials. I also love Body Rock TV, The Healthy Chef & my amazingly stylish cousin’s blog enterthelionsden.tumblr.com

What recipe would you like to share today?

Healthy Fudge

Ingredients

1 cup raw creamy almond butter (unsalted)
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1 1/2 tbsp raw honey*
1/2 tbsp hulled tahini
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1-2 tbsp of cacao powder (to taste depends how chocolatey)
I also sometimes add some natural vanilla
*For a sugar-free option, just use a few drops of liquid stevia instead

Directions

This recipe couldn’t be easier.

Simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, until smooth and creamy.
Then place in a container lined with baking paper and freeze for an hour.

Cut in to pieces and eat. Keep frozen.

Connect with Dena:
Twitter
Blog – Kaplansisters
Charity – Soi Dog

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