Not only actress Erin Karpluk just as sweet as she seems on TV, she has a refreshing approach to healthy living

By Erin Millar

Actress Erin Karpluk on diet, fitness and healthy living

A couple of years ago, Erin Karpluk was on set filming an episode of the CBC comedy-drama Being Erica when she was suddenly overcome with fatigue—unusual for the energetic actress, who was accustomed to 14-hour workdays. Erin wondered if her lethargy was related to extreme dieting. “Sometimes if I had to wear a bra or swimsuit [in a scene], or if I knew I had a love scene coming up—I’d crash diet,” says Erin, 33, recalling that she wasn’t eating any carbs.

That night, a friend who is an athlete said to her, “Erin, you need good carbs to keep your brain functioning properly.” The comment was an eye-opener. “As I get older, I realize I need balance. Everything in moderation; that’s what I practise now.” She has come to consider regular exercise and a healthy diet essential to maintaining not only her trim, well-toned figure, but her mental wellness. “It’s really important to make that time,” she says. “If I have to be at work at 5 a.m., I’ll get up at 4, put on a workout video and get my sweat on.”

Erin is certainly not lacking energy as she tries on an outfit at her Best Health photo shoot. “You look like you’ve been working it, girl,” a makeup artist says. “Yeah, right! Working it while eating perogies!” the five-foot-four, 120-lb. native of Jasper, Alta., laughingly retorts, miming push-ups over an imagined plate of the starchy delicacies. “I’m of Ukrainian descent and there’s no way I’ll give up perogies or cabbage rolls. I’ll just do a double day on the ski hill instead.”

Being Erica Strange

Erin’s newfound balance is only one of many life lessons she learned from Being Erica, which aired its final episode in December. It starred Erin as Erica Strange, who is unhappily single and in a dead-end job, and has a long list of regrets. Her therapist, Dr. Tom, has the power to send her back in time so she can to try to fix her mistakes. Over its four seasons, Erica gains insights about herself and family, builds a career and finds love.

Real-life Erin has grown alongside her character. “The storylines often paralleled my life. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to let go. Erica often holds on to the past or feels the need to control her surroundings, which I can identify with. There were some big ‘aha’ moments while filming.”

For all that Erin and Erica have in common, they are also very different—regardless of how often Erin is mistakenly called Erica, much to her annoyance. (She recalls the time CBC printed a large banner reading “Erica Karpluk” in error.) Erin is more playful, with a quick-witted, occasionally sarcastic humour, unlike Erica. Erin is less girly, more likely to spend a makeup-free weekend fishing with her brother near Jasper.

Her exuberance is contagious at her Best Health photo shoot; she has the entire room laughing as she flashes her gorgeous smile, blows kisses and goofily shows off 
her triceps for the camera. “I’m such a ham! Everything in life is fun if you make it.”

Having grown up in the Rocky Mountains, Erin’s love of being active began with hiking and downhill skiing, passions she still enjoys. As a child, she dreamed of being an actress, and never wavered from that goal. After earning a degree in theatre at the University of Victoria, she moved to Vancouver, where she appeared in more than a dozen television series and movies before landing her first big role in the program Godiva’s. “Acting is the one thing in my life I’ve never questioned,” she says. “It’s like an invisible path I keep putting my feet on, one step at a time.”

No one person is a real-life Dr. Tom to Erin, but she is close to her mother, a former high school principal, and father, a railway engineer. “A lot of people—family, friends, peers —add up to be my Dr. Tom,” she says. “My mom helps me deal with conflict. My dad is the best listener.” Erin is single, but grateful to the men she’s dated for teaching her about herself and what’s important in a partner. 
“I’d love to meet my match one day and have a family, but only time will tell.”

Staying healthy on the road

With Erin now splitting her time between Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto, planning is key to her approach to healthy eating. “Whenever I get to a hotel, I request a mini-fridge so I can stock up at the health food store. I drive a lot in L.A., so I make sure I have snacks like almonds in my car.” Erin keeps up her energy by consuming most of her calories in the first half of the day, eating small but regular meals, sleeping well and staying hydrated.

Being adaptable has also helped Erin stay fit while on the move. In Vancouver, she runs on the seawall near her condo. She fell in love with swimming and cycling in Toronto. In L.A., she does yoga and spinning. “Having routines in every city shakes it up and makes it fun.”

Now that the fourth season of Being Erica has wrapped up, Erin is acting in some pilots in L.A., and will only reveal that she hopes to play roles viewers can relate to. “I like playing imperfect characters, through whom the audience can identify their own insecurities and humanity,” she says. “And I would love to reunite with Michael Riley [Dr. Tom] on stage and do Shakespeare. He’s a brilliant actor and a wonderful friend.”

Erin’s and Erica’s shared life lessons about letting go helped Erin as she filmed the show’s finale. “I’m from Alberta and we’re not that emotional, but I was very upset,” Erin says, tears forming in her green eyes. “But it’s a good sad. As Erica said in her final voiceover: ‘Today is the end of one chapter, and the beginning of the rest of my life.’

This article was originally titled "Being Erica" in the March/April 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience–and never miss an issue!

Best Health Magazine, March/April 2012; photo by Kevin Clark

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