Jenna Dewan On Postpartum Life, Pilates, And Her 80-20 Diet
While most of us were busy scavenging for toilet paper and swapping sourdough starters, Jenna Dewan was in the middle of more labor-intensive pandemic preparations. Quite literally. The actress gave birth to her second child—a son, Callum Michael Rebel Kazee, with fiancé Steve Kazee—on March 6, 2020, just days before Los Angeles’s stay-at-home order went into effect.
“I was in this postpartum-haze bubble, then a week later, everything just shut down,” Jenna says. “It was new; it was different; it was kind of scary. But we were all in it together.”
Jenna had already planned for a hunkering-down period following Callum’s birth, sticking to the same “First 40 Days” model of postpartum rest and replenishment that she had used after the birth of her daughter, Everly, with ex-husband Channing Tatum in 2013. But what she hadn’t planned for was a months-long isolation—especially considering how alone she had felt the first time around, giving birth to Everly in London, spending the first few weeks in an apartment with no Wi-Fi, then quickly transitioning to 15-hour shoot days on the set of Lifetime’s Witches of East End.
“I had this grand idea that with this baby, I’m going to have friends and family over all the time,” says Jenna. “Talk about expectations and having to surrender.”
Leaning into unexpected curves has helped Jenna navigate a number of detours over the past three years—splitting from Channing in 2018, building a new life as a single mom, reconnecting with Steve (whom she’d met years earlier after one of his performances in the Broadway production of Once), and embracing new love.
“I got here by following the flow,” says Jenna, reflecting on her journey. “I’ve really been big on that. I know when I’m swimming upstream and fighting it.”
And so the self-professed “free spirit” has harnessed that submit-and-sink-into-it approach in pandemic life. Instead of getting bogged down with anxiety or fear, she has constantly looked for ways to swerve and grow through it all.
Most noticeably, the past year finally forced Jenna to take a beat. She’s been hustling since the early 2000s, kicking off her professional dance career on Janet Jackson’s 2001 All for You tour. Film roles followed, including her 2006 breakout, Step Up. And the past five years, which have been especially busy for Jenna, included acting roles (The Resident; Berlin, I Love You; Soundtrack), hosting gigs (Flirty Dancing, World of Dance), and production projects (Step Up: High Water). When Hollywood shut down last year, Jenna was left with a largely open calendar.
“I’ve learned for the very first time what it means to actually be quiet, to be present,” she says. “I’ve never been a homebody, and I love it.”
Without external factors like work projects or lunch dates with friends to fill her up, Jenna turned her attention inward, establishing a new feel-good morning routine. By tending to her self-care early on, Jenna finds that she’s able to give more to others throughout the day. So now, every morning after Callum wakes her (and Steve) up around 6:30 or 7 a.m., she feeds him, then feeds her own soul, starting with a 20-minute meditation session.
Jenna has relied on Vedic meditation—a mantra-based practice similar to transcendental meditation—for years. She’s so serious about it that she has a dedicated nook at home where her kids aren’t allowed. And it’s where she’s seated today as we talk.
Sunk deep in an overstuffed beige chair, Jenna starts rifling through the belongings on the table behind her, a spiritual grab bag of sorts. She lifts up a fist-size ivory crystal—an aplite, she tells me, which is good for connection and meditation. She shows me her Super Attractor Journal, where she jots down her thoughts; her oracle cards, which she uses to set her intentions for the day; and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, which she’ll open to a random page and read from. Completing the collection is a chunky sage smudge and, of course, a candle. When I ask what scents soothe her, she pauses and laughs, telling me the candle is “This Smells Like My Orgasm” by Gwyneth Paltrow. “It was a gift,” Jenna says with a grin. “It smells good!”
Breath work is another big component of her mindfulness. After meditating, she’ll often cycle through a holotropic breathing routine (two breaths in, one breath out) set to music, which she says has been transformative.
“It’s very effective for stress,” Jenna says. “You’re creating this rush of oxygen to your brain, and it calms your nervous system. It can be a little uncomfortable at first, but once you get past that, you really open yourself up.”
Then, once centered, Jenna sweats it out. Her exercise of choice right now is Pilates—she logs three or four one-hour Zoom sessions a week with her instructor Kim Carruthers. “It gets you fit so fast, and you just feel stronger,” Jenna says of her practice, which has transferred from the studio’s reformer to a mat at home. “The dancer in me really likes it because it activates the same muscles in my core,” she continues. Especially after recovering from surgery (her C-section), “you feel things just all start to go where they’re meant to go [with Pilates].” She’s also become a fan of Isaac Boots’s Instagram Live workouts, a high-energy combo of cardio and strength, which Jenna calls “dancer wonderfulness.”
As dance studios are closed, Jenna has had to get her groove on in small gasps—an online class here, a TikTok routine there. Through it all, she keeps a perpetual rhythm in her home. “I’m always dancing, even in the kitchen,” she says. “Callum laughs and smiles when I dance, especially when I give him a good hair whip. It’s as if it’s the funniest thing that ever happened. And Evie’s always like, ‘Dance party time!’ ”
When it comes to refueling, Jenna finds that her body does best with a mostly vegetarian diet. She follows an 80/20 approach—80 percent of the time eating “healthy” and 20 percent of the time indulging. She starts every morning with a green smoothie (emphasis on the “green”), blending spinach, romaine, celery, cilantro, parsley, apple, banana, and lemon. For lunch and dinner, she’s learned to keep it simple. “In the beginning of quarantine, I was trying to cook more,” Jenna says. “But then people in the house were like, ‘You’ve got a lot of strengths. I don’t know if cooking is one of them.…’ ”
She’s since pivoted to preparing and refrigerating nutritious meal components—like quinoa, roasted vegetables, and black beans—and letting her family combine them into entrées. She does take pride, however, in a dish her family calls the “Jenna Salad.” It’s a chopped medley of whatever vegetables are in the house—usually carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, avocado, and sometimes even sauerkraut—topped with a veggie burger and dressed with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
“It’s delicious,” says Jenna. “The warm veggie burger makes you feel like you’re eating more than a salad.” As for indulgences, Jenna goes for salty over sweet, with faves like nachos or french fries. “I don’t deprive myself,” she says. “But I try to choose healthy most of the time.”
That balanced approach is just one more example of the laid-back, go-with-the-flow attitude that has seen Jenna through a myriad of milestones, including her most recent biggie in December: turning 40. As Jenna sees it, life has only gotten more fulfilling.
“I feel better in my skin. I feel more grounded in my body,” she says. “I feel excited for this next decade and what is available to create. Even in this crazy year, I still have that feeling.”
As Jenna looks to the future, she’s set a few goals for herself—namely, producing more projects through her company, Everheart Productions, and continuing to grow personally. But, as with all things, she recognizes that some of that, ultimately, will be left up to fate.
“You can’t really control how life is going to look—you just know how you want to feel,” says Jenna. “I am in no way at that point where I’m like, ‘I’ve got it all figured out.’ I’m still learning more about myself every single day: what I want, how I want to experience it. All of that is in flux. I am not one of those people who thinks change doesn’t happen. Instead, I own it, I’m happy with it, and I’m excited to see what develops from it.”
Spoken, as ever, like a true free spirit who’s mastered the art of embracing the unknown.
Photographed by Eric Ray Davidson Fashion editor: Kristen Saladino Styling: Katie Collins Hair: Kristin Ess, kristinesshair.com