Sitting in a jam-packed coffeehouse in Nashville, sipping her favorite chai tea, Connie Britton — she of the famous tawny hair that has launched Tumblr pages — radiates good health. You'd never know that 2012 was one of the most challenging and chaotic years of her life.
The four-time Emmy-nominated actress, who had recently become a single mom after adopting a baby boy, Eyobe ("Yoby"), who turns 3 in January, from Ethiopia, had packed her bags (and her two dogs) and relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville to begin production on the TV show Nashville. New starring role, new home, new baby. She was run-down and constantly sick. The stresses were huge, but the yoga-practicing actress even stopped exercising. "... I didn't have enough time," Britton says. "The thing that I found was it was like my body was on my side. It might have been the stress that I was under, but my body sort of stayed lean and stayed in shape," she says with wonder.
Consider it payback for years of healthy living. Britton's inside-out Zen is hard won, especially in an industry that chronicles every bump and bulge. "It is tougher in our 40s because your body doesn't just change," she says, "But it's easier because we have a well-earned self respect and wisdom that allows us to say, 'I am not going to drive myself crazy with this because life is too short!'" Now, with the second season of the show underway, saner work hours and her son happily ensconced in preschool, Britton is the healthiest she has been in her life.
Her feel-good philosophy is simple: Listen to your body. It's about "what is going to make me feel good? What is going to make me feel healthy? And that is going to be different than your best girlfriend. That is going to be different than Angelina Jolie. So it is really about knowing yourself."
For Britton, that has meant working with nutritionists, doing cleanses and noting how different foods affect react with her body. "Raw foods, and in particular, juicing, has a positive impact on my body and my skin, so I try to do that as much as I can." She also totes her lunch to the set, and steers clear of the "gnarly-delicious snack food" on the ever-present craft services table. "Last year, because the hours were so long, I made a rule for myself that after 13 or 14 hours [on the set] all bets are off," she says. "I can go for the M&Ms and the almonds if I want to!"
After teaching aerobics during her early years pounding the pavement in New York Britton swore off gyms. Instead, she preferred hiking and running — until bulging discs in her neck forced her to stop. While in Austin filming Friday Night Lights she discovered hot yoga and became a convert. "The heat and routine element to the Vinyasa style really helped with my injuries…. I love the mind-body-spirit element."
Meditation, once a daily ritual, is now sandwiched into her busy working-mom schedule. "I certainly have the [mental to-do] list going on all the time, to the point where my brain feels like it can't cram anything more," she says. "Now with a child, it is much harder to take the time to sit down and do it, but I constantly remind myself to just breathe. … The things that are the priorities become more evident and the rest of it goes down."
Down time includes dinner out with her close circle of family-like friends. ("I love to entertain, but I am not a big cook, which is sort of tragic," she says wryly.)
Meanwhile, the accolades — and roles— keep piling up for the in-demand actress. "I worked really hard my whole life to get to this place, so I don't want to miss these opportunities," Britton says. "But my priority is so clearly being with my son that it helps me weed out the opportunities I want to pursue and those I don't want to pursue. That's a nice clarity."