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A Real Survivor

Reality television's fittest star reveals her secrets

A huge fan favorite on Survivor, Stephenie LaGrossa is now focused on turning her passion for fitness and ebullient personality into a career in entertainment. How does she keep fit in her busy life? Dedication to training, and a healthy diet augmented by Supreme Protein Bars. Forget what Hollywood has told you. Sometimes, the biggest breaks in your life come relatively easy, truth be told. For Stephenie LaGrossa, a simple decision and a meeting with casting agents led her to eventually become one of the top reality-show celebrities in the world, and not one but two stints on one of the most groundbreaking television series ever. "I've been an athlete all my life, and loved the show," LaGrossa says of her reasoning to take her one-in-a-million shot to land a spot on CBS's Survivor. "So after I graduated from Monmouth University (New Jersey) and my scholarship for lacrosse was done, I applied and to my surprise, I was cast." Of course, mere opportunity may be one thing, but what you do with your chances is another. LaGrossa made the most of her trip to Palau island in the South Pacific in October through December of 2004, outwitting, outplaying and outlasting her way through difficult circumstances -- her entire tribe was wiped out one by one in the game, until she was the last one standing and absorbed into the rival tribe. She even made it through a few more eliminations before becoming the 14th contestant voted off on the 30th day of the 39-day Palau competition. But she wasn't done. In the cast of 20, LaGrossa stood out to viewers when the show aired in the spring of 2005, becoming a much-talked-about personality on the myriad message boards dedicated to the show. "I went on the show to be myself, work hard, play hard and have some fun," she says, analyzing what may have set her apart. "I wasn't one of those girls who tried to use her sexuality to further them in the game. Because I was my real self, I think the men and women respected me in the game and that was portrayed to viewers. It's not only that -- America loves a fighter, a hard worker and an underdog, and much of my time on the show I was just that. "Also," the native Pennsylvanian remarks with a smile, "I think I showed women that you can be strong, smart and sexy without trying -- by simply being yourself." Her popularity led her to a rare repeat invitation to play, this time on Survivor's next season in Guatemala, filmed in the summer and aired in the fall of 2005. She made the most of her second chance, finishing as the runner-up. "Being a competitor my entire life certainly helped in the game," the 27-year-old admits, adding that growing up with four brothers probably didn't hurt either. "Not only is Survivor a very physical and mental game, it is extremely emotional, so no matter how fit you are, if you can't keep it together upstairs you're in trouble." Her lacrosse experience came in handy, but not because any of the challenges involved catching, scooping or shooting a rubber ball into a net. "Being able to handle pressure in competitive and difficult situations helped me tremendously, to not only compete well but stay mentally intact the whole game," LaGrossa explains. "To accomplish something like that not once but twice has helped me realize how strong I truly am, not only physically but mentally. And for one of the first times, I admitted to myself that I'm proud, of me." Once back in the U.S., LaGrossa set her sights on using her newfound fame to explore opportunities in the entertainment and fitness industry. But first, she simply needed to recover -- and that's where her dedication to training paid dividends. "When I got back from the show both times, my body was completely depleted," she recalls. "I was tired all the time and had no energy. I was putting weight on but I was very bloated, my hair was falling out and my skin and nails were just a mess. I took a while to get back to normal. But now it has been over a year, and I am finally back to myself, working out, eating healthy and just trying to enjoy life." When she's home with her husband Michael in Toms River, New Jersey, she hits the gym, KS Fitness, at least five days a week. "I like to mix up my workouts because I get bored," she explains. "I do cardio, mostly running and spin on my own. I save the weights for when I work with my personal trainer. I like to do full body at least one day a week, and then individual body parts on other days to really zero in on my physique. I also enjoy yoga and Pilates for endurance, balance and flexibility. I travel a lot, but when I do I work out as much as I can." That's not all for the aspiring TV host and magazine model. "I also like to swim and play club lacrosse when possible -- it's the fastest sport on two feet so you definitely get a great workout. I'm training for a spread in Muscle & Fitness magazine, so diet is very important for me right now." LaGrossa's nutrition plan isn't overly regimented, but it is changing as her metabolism adjusts with age. As she says, "I believe that everything in moderation is key. I have never truly been on a diet, although now I am taking a lower carb approach to prepare for the Muscle & Fitness shoot. I used to eat whatever I wanted, then work out for one week and be ripped! But I'm not 18 anymore -- now I need to focus on what I eat a little more." With a meal plan dictated by her hectic schedule, LaGrossa aims to get at least three meals per day minimum, augmenting those with ProSource meal-replacement supplements. "I love ProSource NytroWhey Chocolate Protein Shakes as well as the Supreme Protein Bars!" she exclaims. " Supreme Protein Bars are great. Reese's peanut butter cups used to be my favorite-tasting snack, but now it's the Supreme Protein Bar, by far. They're healthy and give me tons of energy. They taste like a candy bar except they're good for you." While she appreciates the fact each Supreme Protein Bar ! Supreme Protein bar is packed with 30 grams of high quality protein, she admits, "the chocolate and caramel is a treat to the taste buds." When on the run, the convenience of the bars and shakes becomes even more vital to her diet. "I'm always on the go, so for me the Supreme Protein bars are a staple in my life," she says. "I bring them in the car and on the plane when I travel and also to the gym in case I can't get to a meal right away after I work out. I love them and I have them in my bag at all times! They are also very satisfying to the appetite, and hold me over for some time until my next meal. They're just perfect for a busy, healthy lifestyle." Now that Survivor is in LaGrossa's rear-view mirror, that lifestyle is driven by her pursuit of new ventures, and exploring the doors opened by her celebrity status. "I have had the opportunity to do many things in the entertainment industry, but I'm looking for something full time that I love," she says. "My dream job would be to host a talk show, like a Regis and Kelly or The View. Fitness and athletics are my passion, so something pertaining to that would be fantastic too." No matter where she ends up, LaGrossa won't forget what Survivor did for her. "Just the traveling opportunities I've gotten (are amazing) -- before Survivor I had never been out of the country, and now I've been to Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Panama, and, obviously, Palau and Guatemala. Aside from traveling, I've been able to meet new people within the industry and outside of it, and I've seen the impact I had on young girls and fans all over the world. The fan mail and the reaction I get in public has been breathtaking." However, her stints on the show did have some downsides, as LaGrossa brought back a few mementos she'd have much rather left without. "I still have a ton of bug bite scars! Hopefully, they'll fade over time." Visit LaGrossa online at