By Steve Ginsburg
NEW YORK, Aug 19 (Reuters Life) - When it comes to late-night scavenging in the pantry, 12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres insists she is like anyone else -- out for something sweet as a reward for the daily juggle of work, swimming and her family.
"I have big huge blocks of milk chocolate that I just love," the 42-year-old swimmer told Reuters in a recent interview at the Asphalt Green pool in Manhattan's Upper East Side.
"And I love making Rice Krispie treats. I'm not the super, super healthiest eater although my body might look otherwise. I try to eat somewhat healthy but I don't want to deprive myself of things that I like."
Torres, who has won medals in five different Olympics after making her Olympic comeback in Beijing last year aged 41, battled bulimia in the 1980s while attending the University of Florida but she says that problem "is way in the past."
"It's safe to say I have a pretty decent metabolism," she said. "I didn't when I was in college, when my body was changing, becoming a woman. It's just much different now.
"Because I had an eating disorder, I'd deprive myself of foods or overindulge in certain foods ... but now I feel if you want something to help that craving, just have a little bite."
Torres is considering a run at the 2012 Olympics in London.
In a sport where a 30-year-old is an elder statesman, Torres, who won three silver medals in Beijing, is an anomaly.
A Jewish, twice-divorced mother of a 3-year-old daughter, she is nearly 6 feet tall (1.82m) with Adonis abs, a ready smile, and an engaging laugh.
She recently released an inspirational memoir about staying fit and aging gracefully called "Age Is Just A Number: Achieve Your Dreams At Any Stage In Your Life."
Torres credits good genes as a key reason for her athletic build but is well aware that she might have to cut back on the late-night snacking once she stops swimming.
"When people accuse me of taking performance-enhancing drugs -- I had to prove that I didn't, which was fine, but people don't realize I have a brother that looks exactly like me," she said.
"Same body type. Lean, ripped, tall. So genetics plays a role in it but I also work really, really hard. I work hard to get my body the way it look and I work hard because I want to be the best swimmer in the world."
Torres said her training regime has changed since she won her first Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984, including cutting back from about nine workouts a week to five and taking more care over possible injuries.
"I do a lot more recovery work. I get massages. I have a stretching routine I go through three times a week. It's just a lot different than it was when I was younger," said Torres, who is the only U.S. swimmer to have competed in five Olympics.
Torres concedes it's difficult to balance motherhood and a career. She is in great demand as a motivational speaker and a corporate pitchwoman, and even has her own following on Twitter.
This really hit home during the world swimming championships in Rome last month when she had to leave her daughter for three-and-a-half weeks.
"It's hard. I look at working parents as role models and see that they're able to go to 9 to 5 jobs and still be great parents to their kids," she said.
"You definitely go through guilt when you have a child ... You feel really bad but at some point you'll be able to explain to them what you're doing and hopefully they'll appreciate it."