Carrie Underwood Used To Wish She Had A Workout And Nutrition Manual. So She Wrote One.

Carrie Underwood

The country star and mom of two opens up to WH about how she thrives on structure—and is completely honest about how hard she hustles to look and feel her absolute best.

Carrie Underwood is hanging off a rock-climbing wall as if she’s auditioning for a role in Free Solo—and totally nailing it.

FWIW, this is not an activity she does often: “I went rappelling once as a kid and freaked out,” she says.

But hesitation is nowhere in sight today as Carrie supports her body in a series of challenging poses without breaking a sweat.

When I first meet Carrie, she’s walking back from brushing her teeth in the bathroom (What can I say, not every moment of a photo shoot is glamorous.) But from the moment she shakes my hand, I can tell—hello, grip strength—that the CALIA by Carrie Underwood designer came ready to put on a show. The 5’3″ singer is strong. The kind of strong that makes dangling from a vertical face seem easy. The kind of strong that makes her look as if she were born singing her heart out while commanding a stage in heels. “I swear I use butt muscles to hit notes sometimes,” she says.

That strength didn’t happen by accident—and for the 36-year-old, it didn’t happen overnight. Carrie, who characterizes herself as a vegetarian and “wannabe vegan,” grew up on a cattle farm in Checotah, Oklahoma, population 3,500. She remembers the exact moment she vowed to stop eating beef: when she was 13 and saw the calves she’d grown up with getting neutered.

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Her initial dedication to a plant-based diet was more about animal welfare than health. Carrie didn’t pay much attention to nutrition or fitness until she encountered online message boards during her winning stint on American Idol in 2005. “Carrie’s getting fat,” read one note.

“I shouldn’t care what other people think about me,” Carrie says. But she also knew that the quesadillas and pasta she’d been living on weren’t making her feel her best. “I was tired, and I kept buying bigger clothes,” she recalls. “I knew I could be better for myself, and I let my haters be my motivators.”

After she won American Idol, Carrie and the other contestants went on tour. She started reading labels, counting calories, and logging time on the elliptical. At first, she felt good. “I was sleeping better, and I had more energy for our grueling schedule,” she says. So she decided to take it further. If this is working, she reasoned, wouldn’t it be better to exercise even more and eat a little less? Some days, she consumed as few as 800 calories.

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Bless Your Heart!