Bellamy Young, First Lady turned presidential candidate on Scandal, knows a lot about pain — and not just because she plays an occasional one on TV. A longtime migraine sufferer, she’s found relief in medication and meditation. The Cut caught up with her to talk about long walks, Mellie’s attitude toward fitness, and speaking up for yourself.
How I start my day: Sometimes I’m at work at 5 a.m., so that means I get up at 4:30, feed the animals, and run to work. If I have a nice, leisurely day, I sleep as much as I can. It’s important to me how I feel in my body, so I usually start the day with a nice smoothie in my little Vitamix, so I can get all beautiful things inside of me and start my day right. It has some kale, spirulina, soy milk, maybe a banana, and some omegas. Then I take a very long walk to clear my mind and, you know, my little dog benefits as well. I find easing into the day that way is best for me. I’m a night person. Morning is not my time of day, so I literally do everything I can at night.
How I like to sweat: I am not a big exercise in public or sweaty-sweat-sweat girl. I’m a much more mind-body-union sort of girl, so a primary series Ashtanga has always been a great outlet for me. But also I walk like six-to-eight miles a day and get my solace and exercise in that way. Walking is something that is easier to incorporate because, as a woman, you’re hemmed in by hair and makeup, and you can’t go at lunchtime and sweat it out. That’s been a much easier regimen to rely on, so I don’t feel like I’m fighting against the job that I love so much to keep myself in good shape.
How I manage my migraines: I find that a little consistency in my lifestyle, hydration, sleep, and meditation help stave off my migraines. I finally found a migraine drug (Treximet) that can save me when one comes on. For me, they start in my left eye and I lose my field of vision. In the past, even a year and a half ago, I would have lost a day. Now I feel so liberated: Not only am I able to continue my job, I’m free from the constant worry that a migraine might come on. For me, my triggers historically were being too stressed, lacking sleep, getting dehydrated, and I have certain food triggers. Everyone has different triggers in their lives, but the ones that you can control are taking consistent good care of yourself, and that’s not always possible in this day and age. We drive ourselves so hard, but the more we’re aware of how our lifestyle choices impact our health, I think the better we’ll all be.
How Mellie takes care of herself during her presidential campaign: Mellie is one of those people that drives herself pretty hard, especially in the crucible of a presidential race. I think she really hasn’t been stopping to consider her health as much as she should, although Marcus is a great tonic for that. He really reminds her to just stop and breathe and sort of center herself, and be aware of the person she’s being. He’s the first person in the show that’s made her have a little self-awareness, ‘cause she goes off very blindly sometimes.
What wellness means to me: I can tell when I’m out of rhythm with myself. I can tell I’m in my own wellness when I feel whole and balanced. I very quickly get out of orbit. Now that I have, you know, a little age, I can see when I’m not taking good care of myself, when I really need to lie down and take a nap. There were decades that I wouldn’t let myself nap because I was just like, “No, keep going, keep going.” We’ve been going all day today, and I was like, “No, I just need a little protein at lunch — it makes all the difference in my life.” It’s funny, for women, so often the issue is just speaking up for yourself. Knowing yourself, and knowing your needs, and then speaking up for yourself and claiming them. People want to take good care of you often more than you do yourself, and once we just really become the champion of our own health, then all the doors open and we can move forward seamlessly.
How wellness has changed for me: I had a health scare senior year of college. They found a cyst in my breast and we thought it might be breast cancer. I’m adopted, I didn’t have a medical history, so it was a real question mark. I think until that point I had really taken health for granted. You’re young and you just think you’re always going to feel like that, but that was the first point, I had just gone vegan, and that was the first time I really started to understand the relationship between self-care and health. And gratefully it became something I was interested in and became a better student of as time passed.
My biggest wellness struggle is: I would say, in the exterior world, the biggest wellness struggle is always making sure when I’m traveling or not in control of my own eating, getting enough protein. As a vegan, I just really have to take care of myself. And then in my interior world: worrying. I’m a worrier, so it’s just more mediation, more faith, more surrender and that’s definitely the battle I fight inside.
My guilty pleasure is: I’m salty, so I’ll always reach for some SkinnyPop or chips and guacamole or those Milton’s craft-baked crackers. And now they make a cheese called Chow, which is made out of coconut milk; it’s delicious. [My] guilty pleasure is also watching Project Runway or watching Chip and Joanna — what is the name of their show? — Fixer Upper. I love watching people give their art. It makes me so happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed.