OFFSTAGE: Kellie Pickler: New Body and New Passion

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Obviously, Kellie Pickler‘s body has changed. I mean, she dances all day — every day — for her run on this season’s Dancing With the Stars. But when you see her up close, as I did at an ACM event last week, you just have to ask how much it has changed. “I feel like I did when I used to cheer — but better,” she told me. “I’m working every muscle in my body, so my body’s changed. A lot. And you know that baby fat you have when you’re a teenager? That’s gone, too.”

I had to know what she eats to stay so slim but keep her energy up.

“I’ve really been eating healthy on the show just so I have energy and feel good all day. Because when you eat crap, you feel like crap,” she said, adding that she’s been a vegetarian for years.

She also offered this advice: Eat when you’re hungry, eat small things throughout the day, don’t pile food on your plate because your stomach’s not big enough to hold it, and stop eating when you’re full. (Protein shakes, raw almonds and healthy gluten-free organic bars are her go-to snacks.) And then, you know, dance like crazy.

“I eat, sleep and breathe dancing. This is my life now,” she said. “When I signed up for the show, I didn’t know that I would find the joy that I found. I put myself out of my comfort zone and discovered something that I love.”

You can see Pickler dance the rumba to “Say I Do,” a ballad her husband Kyle Jacobs wrote for her before their wedding day. He will be there to perform the song for her dance on Monday night (April 8).

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.