Writers can be a sedentary lot, so I couldn't wait to find out how Amy Ephron found time to work out. Ephron, whose latest is the bestseller "A Cup of Tea" (1997), told me during our phone interview that she writes about 100 drafts per printed page. That's a lot of sedentary time. Ephron, of Pacific Palisades, is also busy being a screenwriter, producer (she was executive producer of 1995's "A Little Princess") and divorced mom of three--Maia, 13, Anna, 11, and Ethan, 8.
Ephron herself is one of four daughters--including screenwriter-director Nora, Delia and Hallie--of Henry and Phoebe Ephron, screenwriters whose credits include "Carousel" and "The Desk Set."
Question: How do you find time to go to the gym?
Answer: If I suddenly realize that it's 9 in the morning and I have an 11 o'clock meeting and I could go to the gym for 35 minutes but not an hour, I'll go.
Q: You're regimented in an undisciplined kind of way.
A: I am not someone who wakes up in the morning and goes to the gym. I drop my daughter at school, and if the Coast Highway hasn't had a slide, I might go to the gym in the morning or at noon, or I might go at 4 in the morning.
Q: What got you started working out?
A: Well, let me be quite frank about this and with anyone who's paying attention to this. After I had my third child, I started to work with a fabulous trainer named Angela Best, because for the first time in my life I had put on seven pounds that I couldn't lose. She taught me an enormous amount. Working with a trainer, however, is a fairly expensive proposition. And it requires that one be organized in a way that I am not. I mean, I write a sentence at a time. I've got three kids. I do seven things at once. I tell you that this isn't fair for me to say because I really don't have a weight problem. I'm just in my early 40s now, so I work out.
Q: You don't have to diet?
A: I think I'm genetically thin, but I'm also careful. If I have spent a weekend in New Orleans being outrageous eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes, I will come back and do a week where I don't eat carbohydrates at night. I rarely eat sweets, and I've been known to give up cheese.
Q: Tell me why we have to give up cheese.
A: Well, because you'll get cheese arms.
Q: What do you do in the gym?
A: Oh, I do everything. I'll go on the treadmill for 15 minutes if I have time or eight if I don't, and then I'll go over to the leg machines and then I'll go over to the chest machine and then to the free weights and then, depending on what I'm doing, I'll do more leg work and then I end with stomach and I go home. I'll alternate, like if I'm having a period where I'm working out a lot, one day I'll do biceps, the next day I'll do triceps. One day I'll do chest, the next day I'll do back. And when I'm feeling a little bit wobbly or I'm completely scattered, I will call Angela and meet her.
Q: What do you usually eat?
A: As a result of my allergies, which are mostly to preservatives, I have never been able to eat processed food. Everything I've eaten from practically the moment I was 2 has been fresh or natural. I'm not saying health food. I'm just saying fresh peas instead of canned peas, or if they're canned, they'd better not have anything that's preserving them. So I've always eaten very well, but I eat red meat. I can get anemic really easily.
Q: So you can pack it down.
A: I can pack it down because I'm sort of high metabolism. I also watch it when I've overdone it. I can eat anything for breakfast. This morning I went to the gym and then I had--I don't even want to tell you what.
Q: Oh, it can't be that bad.
A: I had huevos for breakfast--eggs and beans and a tortilla, but I didn't have cheese. But I can also eat yogurt and granola. That's also my idea of a perfect snack at 11 at night--yogurt and granola.
Q: What would be the next thing you'd eat?
A: I'd probably have a full lunch--either a salad or a sandwich. And then I have a real dinner with meat, vegetables, potatoes and salad. But I do not eat bread at night ever. That was the one thing Angie ingrained in me, that your metabolism starts to slow down when you get a little older. If you want pasta, have it for lunch. It works.
Q: What weight are you comfortable with and how tall are you?
A: Five-seven, five-six and three-quarters. Now I weigh about 129, but some of it's muscle weight. The truth is, when you're thin, clothes'll fit, you know.
Q: Anything else you want to toss in about taking care of yourself?
A: In terms of working out--no. Well, you pray a lot is all I can say.
Guest Workout runs Mondays in Health.