For actress Torrey DeVitto, living a healthy lifestyle — and health care — are part of her real and reel life.
DeVitto currently stars as Dr. Natalie Manning, emergency room pediatrics resident, and love interest of Dr. Will Halstead (played by Nick Gehlfuss) the ER’s supervising attending physician on the NBC series “Chicago Med,” airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. The show is part of the Chicagocentric group of series from executive producer Dick Wolf (“Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire”).
In real life, the 33-year-old actress who hails from New York (and whose previous TV credits include “Vampire Diaries,” “One Tree Hill” and “Pretty Little Liars”), is also a devoted vegetarian, holistic health practitioner and hospice care volunteer. It’s in her nature, she says during a recent phone chat.
“I’m vegan in my fashion and vegetarian in my food,” DeVitto says, phoning from a break in “Chicago Med” filming. “I don’t by any leather goods or anything made from animal products – no down, nothing. It’s something people should be mindful of.”
Officially DeVitto is also a hospice ambassador and hospice volunteer for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
“Hospice care actually found me. I was on the set all the time and feeling depressed and I wanted to do more with my life. So I thought I’d volunteer at a children’s hospital. I Googled it, and hospice care popped up for some reason. I researched it and contacted [an organization] near me and went in and trained. And I’ve been doing it ever since, [though] I didn’t end up working with children, ironically.
“I recently re-did my training at Rainbow Hospice in Chicago and I work there when I’m [filming] in town. I have a patient I see once a week. She’s a huge fan of the show and she’s come on to the set with me.”
Torrey says she researches “vegan” clothing brands religiously. (She is a supporter of PETA and The Humane Society of the United States). Her favorite fashion lines include MacNat and Vaute Couture. Personal care products (she swears by Chicago’s Elina Organics) have to be cruelty-free “or they don’t enter my home.”
“I love MacNat purses, and I bought a Vaute winter coat that’s not down and it’s warmer than any other coat I’ve ever owned. [The company] was started by a Chicago woman [Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart] who wanted to create a [vegan] coat warm enough to sustain Chicago winter weather. She totally succeeded.”
Transitioning to vegetarianism she says was easy after moving to Los Angeles to pursue her career following her high school graduation.
“I’m not a big cook by any means, but I think because I came to live in L.A. the transition was simple because vegetarianism is so common there. And I didn’t feel like I was missing that much by being a vegetarian. … I had a moment about 9 years ago. It was so odd. I was talking to my then-boyfriend and he was talking about a fishing trip and how he’d never had the experience of ‘killing’ his food. Even though I had fished my whole life [she spent her early childhood summers in Michigan fishing with her grandfather] something just snapped in me and I said, I’m not eating this anymore. … Being vegan is more challenging, especially when it comes to going out to eat. But I found Chicago has great vegetarian and vegan restaurants.”
Her local favorite spots include Chicago Diner (“they have great comfort food items and their chocolate cake is really good”) and Chicago Raw (“they have really yummy stuff”). “But I find most restaurants these days pretty much everywhere I’ve gone have some kind of vegetarian menu or [dishes].”
Once she went vegetarian, DeVitto says she noticed he had more energy, and she quickly (and happily) discerned that Oreo cookies were something she wouldn’t have to do without.
“Healthwise, I notice when I wasn’t eating meat anymore I felt so much lighter. And Oreos are [for the most part] vegan!”
When it comes to her daily meal routine, DeVitto keeps it simple.
“I have a crazy morning ritual since I stopped drinking any caffeine and coffee four months ago. So now I start the day with a glass of hot water with lemon, and that’s what I drink throughout the day. It’s super great for metabolism. I love [Kimberly Snyder’s] Glowing Green Smoothie. Or I’ll just mix some vanilla into coconut water. I also take vitamins every day.”
“For lunch I eat a lot from Sweet Greens. I love salads and vegetable sandwiches.” She also counts Mexican and Italian foods among her favorites. “I love vegetarian pizza, and rigatoni with red sauce.”
Working out includes yoga, Pilates, and lots of tennis. “I work out as much as I can. I love playing tennis and I found an amazing tennis club in Chicago where I can play indoors. And yoga, which should be free for everyone! It’s the best because you can easily do it in your home.”
DeVitto is also certified in Reiki, a form of alternative healing, which originated in Japan in the early 20th century and centers on energy or a person’s “chi” (life force), which she says, affords her a healthy spirit.
“You’re using your energy to open up your chakras. It’s just about concentrating more on myself and opening up my chakras and energetically move through them. I do it in conjunction with meditation.”
This holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle is something DeVitto says has been part of her life for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve been this way since I was a kid. I remember in middle school I was always looking into crystals and that sort of thing. I always had a spiritual connection [with life]. I started doing transcendental meditation 10 years ago. … [Because] being healthy is more than just eating right and exercise.
“”You have to also heal your spirit,” DeVitto continues. “Hospice has been such a light in my life. It puts things in perspective. You realize with end-of-life issues these people have stories to tell, stories about love, family and travel. It makes you want to live more wholly in your own life. Being part of hospice is like being part of a birth. You’re helping someone move on to the next phase of life. I love it.”
What has she learned about herself from hospice care?
“When work gets crazy — and I love my job — what’s most important to me is family and that connection and love. And hospice really solidified that for me. It keeps me grounded.”