08-2008 Self Magazine

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On a sunny day last July (2008, RRF), Rebecca Romijn summoned her three dogs for a hike through the scrubby mountains that surround her ranch in Calabasas, California. "I was off trail, going through the brush, and I heard The Sound," Romijn says. "Even if you've never heard it before, every fiber in your body tells you something is wrong. I looked down and froze. It was the biggest rattlesnake I had ever seen, and it was moving toward us! I threw myself down the mountain with my dogs in a dust cloud!"

It's easy to decide on an about-face when you're staring down a venomous snake. Not as easy when the obstacle is less tangible: self doubt, maybe, or misplaced priorities. But as Romijn, 35, has found, a change in direction is almost always a change for the good. Let her tell you about a few turning points in her life.

#1 Making peace with her body
When Romijn was 19 and just beginning to model, she met runway veteran Elle MacPherson. "Elle told me, 'You have a nice body. You should really take better care of it,"' Romijn says. "That was the best advice I ever got. Until then, it never occurred to me to work out." In fact, Romijn's body had been a source of shame. "I was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 13. I had really bad posture.... I wanted everything from my neck down to go away," she says. Modeling helped change her attitude. "The very thing I had been embarrassed about was exactly what I was going to be paid for!" And MacPherson's comment led her to begin a fitness habit that has stayed with her. Nowadays, she practices pilates three or four times a week, is on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes five days a week and hikes (when rattlers hibernate). Plus, she takes intense 20-mile tandembike rides with her husband of one year, actor Jerry O'Connell, whom she calls "a big motivator and a super high octane person." Her commitment to taking good care of herself physically helps her maintain body confidence and body acceptance. "I'm not model thin anymore, but that's fine," she says. "I've earned everything I have, and I feel great."

#2: Her 30th birthday
When I turned 25, I thought I knew everything, and when I turned 30, I realized I didn't know jack," Romiin says. "When you're in your 20s, you're sort of going along for the ride, still partying and not quite getting it. But that's part of the exploration. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't regret one second of it. But you're constantly looking to the external to find happiness. The older you get, the more you realize it comes from a much deeper place," she says. "At 30, I requestioned absolutely everything in my life, from every molecule of my body up, to rediscover what I'm here for. I don't really go in for astrology, but there was something about the Saturn return that rang true for me, she says, referring to a sort of astrological rebirth based on Saturn's orbit. I realized that you can't take care of the world around you until you start taking care of yourself. I think that's what it means to be an adult. It's about taking on that responsibility. I was having a great time in my 20s, and I still am. Just in a deeper way."

#3: Finder her soulmate
Romijn met O'Connell in 2004, but I don't think I would've been open to Jerry had I not already gone through a turning point years earlier," Romijn says. That change came courtesy of an old childhood pal with whom Romijn reconnected and became close. "She helped me realize the importance of making your personal world as wonderful as you can. She inspired me." Romijn's determination to make her relationship with O'Connell part of that wonderful world led her to take a break from her big screen career to pursue television, including her recurring role as transsexual Alexis Reade on Ugly Betty. "When I was working in movies, I always seemed to end up in Canada," says Romijn, who migrated north for the filming of all three X Men flicks. 'Not that there's anything wrong with Canada! But I didn't want to keep going there. I wanted to be at home with my new man and have dogs and a life."

#4: The next chapter
Romijn now seems poised on the cusp of another great period of change. Late last year, O'Connell mentioned that the couple is actively trying for a baby, although Romijn plays it cool during her SELF interview: "Hopefully, I'll have children, if I'm lucky enough." But no matter what happens in the future, she calls right now the happiest she's ever been. "I feel healthy. I feel strong. And I feel a deep, deep sense of peace and harmony, which is what I'd been craving," she says. "It's really such an honor to continue to grow and gather wisdom."

Original article: Self August 2008

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