As someone who was overweight for most of my life, weighed over 450 pounds by the time I graduated from college and then finally took off the weight sensibly without surgery or prescription medicine (and has kept the excess weight at bay for almost two decades), I’m often asked: “What’s the secret to successful dieting?” To which I often want to reply, “Don’t.” (Diet, that is.)
While this response might seem factitious to some, I assure you it’s not. It’s communicated with compassion and understanding.
I started to gain excess weight during the first grade. And my parents, thinking they were making smart decisions on my behalf, immediately put me on a strict diet, which taught me the rules of what and what not to eat. Naturally, I was more drawn to the “forbidden fruit” (the richer, more caloric foods) than I was to the iceberg lettuce and cottage cheese. So my parents next started locking up crackers, chips, sweets and any other foods they deemed not diet-worthy. Although still at a young age, I quickly learned the concept of being “on” and “off” of a diet.
For anyone reading this with a furled brow, I will quickly point out I do not demonize my parents for doing this. Again, they were making the best decisions they knew to make. My father was in the Air Force, so his whole family being perceived as trim and “in shape” was very important to him (and, he believed, to his job).
But mentally armed with knowing what it meant to be on a diet, I knew exactly how to go off of said diet. I eventually began stealing money out of my dad’s wallet and used the cash to buy sweets and treats that I would hide in my bedroom closet. My “secret stash” as it were. By the time I was a teenager (still being put on various diets—some even completely liquid-based), I was buying “contraband” food while my friends were trying to get their hands on “contraband” beer.
You can probably surmise that as my constant dieting efforts continued, so did the excess weight gain. Because we were stationed on an air base in Germany, I was forced to shop for clothes from the Sears Big & Tall catalog (nothing like forcing yourself into a pair of large-sized Toughskins jeans to remind you of even more ways you didn’t fit in at high school). But not even that kind of self-perceived shame kept me from going off of whatever diet I happened to be on. And certainly there were times I stayed on the diets. But that was usually just the first day of them—after which all bets were off.
I continued to try every kind of diet known to man as I gained more and more weight. Sometimes I’d actually lose weight on the diets. But I’d eventually re-gain the weight I lost along with some extra “bonus weight” when I finally went off of the diet I’d been most recently “successful” on.
On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. All with more and more weight gain. And what was the common denominator? The diets themselves.
It wasn’t until I finally dropped the diet mentality that I began to make some real progress toward getting healthy. Healthy being the key word. Suddenly I wasn’t as focused on getting thin (and getting out of those damned Toughskins jeans) as I was on feeling good. When weighing as much as I did, I would get breathless just talking on the phone. I would become winded walking up a single flight of stairs. And I even had broken a movie theater seat that buckled under my weight (while on a date no less).
When I focused more on feeling good and the benefits that working my way to a healthier weight would bring me, I realized the “diet” wasn’t as necessary of a tool as it had been originally presented as.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t do everything I could to learn about nutrition. But I also dedicated myself to embrace the concept of moderation. As I learned to enjoy food in a way that wasn’t like it was the last time I would ever have it, I didn’t have to overeat extreme amounts. I could have one scoop of ice cream because I knew there would be more reasonable amounts of ice cream in my future. The concept is simple I know. But sometimes it’s the simplest changes that lead to the biggest triumphs.
I did a lot of work on my mental self as well—realizing that after many years of child abuse (separate of the extreme diets I had been put on), I had as much mental weight to get rid of as I did physical weight. But this was all do-able. And it began with reminding myself of my true goals: Feeling good, being healthy and loving myself (no matter what brand or size of jeans I was wearing)—all while being able to enjoy the occasional rich food in moderation.
Don’t get me wrong. A reasonable (and nutritious) food plan is something that can definitely help you learn portion sizes. But you might want to drop the word “diet” while incorporating the food plan. And the plan shouldn’t be as much about restriction as it is about delicious, healthy choices in quantities that satisfy your hunger while fueling your body.
Dieting can be a concept that doesn’t work for a lot of people. Otherwise those of us with “diet mentalities” wouldn’t have to keep starting and re-starting diets over and over again. For some who are trying to change their lives and better their health, it might be time to try dropping the D-word from their vocabulary as they commit to their overall goal of living a happier, healthier life.
I’ll be the first to tell you that when I met Joy Bauer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was appearing on the Today show for the first time and she was kind enough to be inducting me into her Joy Fit Club. Needless to say, we hit it off instantly and she soon became my “Diet Wife” and I her “Diet Husband.” She is truly one of the kindest and funniest people I know. And she’s also super committed to helping people live their happiest and healthiest lives.
That’s why I’m so excited about her brand new book, Joy Bauer’s Superfood!: 150 Recipes for Eternal Youth. After reviewing countless studies and analyzing the eating habits of people around the world living the longest lives, Joy uses nutritious ingredients to whip up delicious recipes that taste incredible while adding to our overall health. The 150 recipes in the new book include everything from Buffalo wings to deep-dish pan pizza to salted caramel milkshakes to nachos and more.
I begged Joy to let me share a recipe from the book and she kindly let me pick one out to share with Just Stoppers. So here’s one of my favorite recipes from the breakfast category. But trust me that there are tons of amazing recipes in the book. All really easy and even fun to make. And I promise I’m not saying this because Joy paid me. As I recently joked on Instagram, Joy’s too cheap for that. (Ha!) I hope you enjoy this recipe and I hope you check out her book. Besides being full of tips and recipes, it’s also got gorgeous photography (making it a great gift and perfect coffee table book).
Here’s a recipe from her new book that Joy so generously let me share:
Dirty Chai Overnight Oats
SERVES: 2 PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES, PLUS AT LEAST 6 HOURS SOAKING
Recipe by Joy Bauer, from her book, Joy Bauer’s Superfood!: 150 Recipes for Eternal Youth
Chai isn’t just for tea. I love working its Indian-inspired flavors—cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves—into foods because of their complexity and warmth. The standard dirty chai recipe gets its “dirty” moniker because it features a shot of espresso. My version actually calls for brewed coffee—but you can use whichever you prefer. When I’m rushing to an early morning TV shoot or meeting and I don’t have time to prepare breakfast, I’ve come to rely on overnight oats. There’s nothing easier: I prep them the night before in a sealable jar, refrigerate, and then simply give a quick shake or stir when I wake up. Don’t expect a sugary sweet experience; this delivers a creamy bowl of goodness filled with several distinct layers of flavorful spice—pretty darn fabulous, IMO! Of course, you can easily sweeten it up with additional honey, if you prefer. Pro tip: This overnight creation is delicious straight from the fridge, but you can warm it up, too. Just stir in ½ cup extra milk and microwave for a minute or so.
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
In a small bowl, combine the milk, coffee, honey, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, and cloves. Whisk to dissolve the honey. Stir in the oats and chia seeds until everything is evenly incorporated and the oats are submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight for the mixture to soften and firm.
Recipe and photographs used with permission. All rights reserved.
For years I’ve been belaboring the negative side effects of a society that’s glued to its phones and the perils of social media distracting us from genuine human interaction. Although the online arena has opened up a whole new world (the ability to research something in a split second, locate long lost friends or do something as trivial as see how the captain of our high school football team has aged in comparison to ourselves), it’s also created a lot of virtual “single-lane highways,” which have encouraged many of us to narrow our tolerance of people who we might deem as different.
The ugly side effects of being more sole focused have been pervasive in recent years and something I’ve worked hard to overcome—both personally and for others who are open to breaking out of these virtual self-imposed prisons that limit free (and often kind) thought.
And now to add to our solace-addicted society comes the coronavirus and the need to self-isolate (and/or quarantine depending on which hashtags float your boat). Social distancing is necessary and will hopefully help us contain this potentially out of control pandemic. But we need to also pay attention to the side effects of having to shelter in place. To close ourselves off even more from others (extended family, friends and even strangers on the street) has the potential to further harm our society and how we treat one another as a whole. Not to mention how we treat ourselves.
What’s perhaps even worse about this international crisis is that there is no immediate end in sight. We continue to get different messages based on the latest information. Some of it is valid. Much of it is guesswork. Never has “Wait and see” taken on such prominence.
The good news is that there are some helpful tactics we can take on in order to help avoid some of the prolonged side effects of this mandatory alone time.
For starters, everyone can instill a little peace of mind into their daily lives. If you don’t have a meditation practice, now’s a great time to begin one. There are plenty of apps that can lead us through different guided meditations of our choosing. Many offer the ability to choose a time length and even a subject matter. We can also simply sit down, close our eyes and take deep breaths—thinking “in” as we breathe in, and “out” as we breathe out. A gentle pause between the ‘in’ and ‘out’ breaths will add even more to the experience.
When our brains and our breathing get into sync, our minds calm and we can approach life with a little more thoughtfulness and presence. I’d even encourage you to practice meditation with everyone you’re quarantined with. Even young children get the concept. They might think of it as more of a game (can they be quiet long enough to participate?)—but they can still reap the rewards of a little self-imposed silence. There’s also a free resource being offered by Eckhart Tolle that you can click to for inspiration; as well as Well Being and Healing in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic video you can watch from Deepak Chopra.
Another fun and centering activity for everyone (young and old) is to color in coloring books together. Amazon and other online resources offer coloring books for every interest. There are car coloring books for gearheads. Dinosaur coloring books for explorers. Unicorn coloring books for dreamers, snarky coloring books for adults and even Christmas coloring books for yours truly (I admit it, I’m a Christmas addict every day of the year). You can add a giant box of crayons, which you can place at the center of a dining table. Then everyone in your household can choose a page of their favorite coloring book and create their own masterwork. (I suggest everyone sign and date their works of art as well.)
This simple practice of “creating” while spending time together can be spirit building—even if no one feels the need to talk during the coloring fest. Although certainly there can be a groan or two offered in regard to trying to “Color within the lines.”
People can even use FaceTime on their phones to have coloring book parties with long distance relatives (or even neighbors across the street). You could even put together a coloring book and crayon gift package through an online vendor to send to your favorite people across town or across the country. Trust me when I assure you that even those who participate by rolling their eyes will probably enjoy this ritual (a ritual that can be done daily).
Another fun “at home adventure” for the family could be to celebrate Christmas all over again. Pull out the decorations, the fake trees, the tangled up lights and turn your living room into a magical winter wonderland. (Who couldn’t use a little extra sparkle right about now?)
And there’s never been a better time for cleaning out closets and/or organizing (and digitizing) old photographs and videotapes.
Last but not least, I encourage all of us to keep a journal that lists what we look forward to doing once we can “return to normal.” Normal being the keyword. Encourage kids, friends and other family members to do this as well. Maybe you’ll list a goal of joining a bowling league. Or auditioning for a community theatre troupe. Or eating hot dogs from a kiosk at the zoo. Or even surprising a stranger behind you in line by paying for their drink order at a coffee shop.
Whatever it is, make a list of the simple pleasures we once took for granted and look forward to partaking in again. Don’t be sad about the fact that most of these activities are on hold. Be joyful that we could partake of these pleasures very recently and that, in time, we can enjoy them again. Perhaps with more gratitude and joy than we did in the past.
It’s up to us as a society to preserve a way of life that celebrate strangers participating in community activities. To see a movie together. To stand in line with one another at a grocery store without judging one another. And to pass a stranger on the street and offer a smile.
Or even—and just go with me here—start a conversation and invite them to your next kitchen table coloring book party.
Image Source: CNN
Guest Post by Lisa Goldberg, Certified Dietician & Nutrition Specialist
How are your 2020 new year resolutions going? Sadly, most people give up on their weight loss resolutions by mid-February. Only a month and a half into the New Year!
Has this happened to you? You start off motivated and ready to go and then slowly lose steam. And even worse, you’re exasperated from trying to figure out why this keeps happening. Then self-doubt begins to creep back in and you wonder why you just can’t stay the course.
Maybe you chose a plan that wasn’t sustainable for the long term or you didn’t have anyone keeping you accountable. What I’ve found is that the most people that want to make a change and fail over and over, never address the crucial piece to the puzzle: Changing the habits, behaviors and mindset that got you to be overweight in the first place.
Imagine what it would feel like to:
- Feel confident and in control of your body and food choices
- Break the habit of emotional eating, overeating or bingeing for good
- Have more energy to spend on the things that matter most to you in your life instead of obsessing about food
- Stop self-sabotaging your weight loss efforts time after time
- Feel proud of yourself instead of constantly beating yourself up about not eating ‘perfectly’.
To demonstrate how readers of the Just Stop Eating So Much! blog can get there, I’ve created a 5-day challenge called Master Your Mindset for Lasting Food Freedom, which begins on Thursday, February 27th. If food, weight and dieting is a struggle for you, click here to take a health step towards real food freedom.
About the Guest Blogger:
Lisa Goldberg is a nutritionist with a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. In addition, her certifications and Licenses include: Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Dietician/Nutritionist licensed by New York State, Certified in Adult Weight Management by the ADA. Lisa is also a personal trainer certified by the American Counsel on Exercise since 1994. She was the Nutritionist at the New York Stock Exchange from 2003-2007 and for 10 years served as the nutritionist to traders on Wall Street. Anyone who would like to discuss their weight loss goals with Lisa can schedule a free 30-minute weight loss consultation with her by clicking here. (Simply let Lisa know you found out about her on the Just Stop! blog.)
A Note from Gregg:
As some of you Just Stoppers might remember, I have been lucky enough to be a guest in nutrition rockstar Lisa Goldberg’s recent weight loss summits not once, but several times. I love Lisa’s total approach to wellness, which not only includes getting to a healthy weight, but also enjoying life and learning to love and appreciate yourself in the process. Any Just Stopper who wants to find out more information (without any obligation), can click here to schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Session with Lisa herself to find out more about the upcoming Master Your Mindset for Lasting Food Freedom Lisa writes about above.