I was not born a skinny girl…
Or a fat girl…
Which is not to say that I haven’t been both…
Full Disclosure? I am 5’5 when standing up straight and in a good mood. And I have what is referred to as a “medium build.” (Which, if you ask me, is just a polite way of saying, “Just shy of big boned.”)
And, since my freshman year in college, through my years as a local and network news anchor and reporter, through my transition to wife and mother, I have been, for weeks, months, or years, these recurring weights:
115, 120, 117, 130, 122, 135, 140, 150, 160, 170, 185…
(Yes, I was pregnant those peak years, but still…)
160, 142, 132, 129, 138, 145, 152…
You get the idea.
Of course, in the early years, as I bounced around the country pursuing my career, it was a little easier to keep the bounces in my weight within a certain range. I was younger then and was on television everyday, and I needed those jobs.
But in the last ten years, as my children were growing up and my career was cooling down, something changed. While I was still skipping around the scales like Liberace, I was consistently hitting far more high notes than low ones.
It’s not like I hadn’t tried to keep a handle on the love handles through the years.
I’d done it all.
I swore off meat for a year as a vegetarian and, 9 months later, ate a herd of buffalo on Atkins.
I counted points on Weight Watchers. I tried Sugar Busters and South Beach. I took Fen-Phen, I Zoned, and I starved.
But each time I hit my goal, lost 10, 15 or even 20 pounds, and stopped following someone else’s rules, it all came back: the weight, the sense of failure and frustration, and the fat pants from the back of the closet.
Of course, I blamed everyone and everything:
I blamed my genes. (And my mother for not giving me better genes!)
I blamed my children for ruining my body before they were born. (And, later, for leaving macaroni and cheese on their plates after dinner.)
I blamed “the mid-life fat cell” for its persistent genius.
I blamed all carbs and every TV chef.
I was even considering blaming Obama, because I was pretty sure there would be someone out there who could prove it was his fault!
But, no matter what or whom I blamed, I couldn’t escape what I’d become: Just another American woman who was losing the battle against fat.
And, what made that even worse is that I live in Los Angeles, my husband works in the film industry, and my children attend a school where 95 percent of the “Hollywood moms” are breathtakingly thin and beautiful.
Every time that I went to a party, joined my husband at a premiere, or just drove carpool, I felt like I never had before: like a fat girl in a skinny world, miserable and invisible.
But then, one spring, as another diet failed and I (again) toed over the 150-pound mark, I finally hit a tipping point and thought, “ENOUGH! I AM TOO YOUNG TO SHOP AT CHICOS! I AM NOT GOING TO SPEND THE REST OF MY YEARS BEFORE I NEED A WHEELCHAIR OR A RESPIRATOR DRESSING LIKE MAUDE!”
(No disrespect to the late, great Bea Arthur here, but caftans, as an occasional fashion choice, nee Babe Paley, might be okay…but as a way of life from here to eternity? No. Uh-uh. Not Okay. At least not for me.)
As I considered my options, I knew the diets I’d used in the past wouldn’t work for me anymore.
With a family to feed, and a life to live, I was simply no longer willing to eat ONLY vegetables, or eat ONLY meat. I wasn’t going to stick with a program that required me to spend hundreds of dollars a month on thimble-sized portions of pre-packaged foods. I didn’t have time to see a counselor for weigh-ins, or attend weekly meetings. And I certainly didn’t want to give up wine for life, or see a trainer every day.
I also knew any plan to trim my size wouldn’t work long term if it ignored who I really am: a card carrying, Bon Appetite subscribing, Food Network watching, Top Chef-Wanna-Be, Lover-of-All-Foods Foodie! I love comfort food like chili and church lady casseroles just as much as I love fancier fare from my favorite chefs and restaurants.
And the only thing I love more than cooking delicious food, and sharing it with the people I care about, is EATING it!
Feeling nothing but frustration, I was about ready to give up and just accept my future in caftans when a visit to the pediatrician finally spurred me to action in a way that my vanity could not.
As the doctor held up my 8-year old daughter’s growth chart, it was plain to see from the graph, and from the concern on his face, that she was heading toward a weight problem that could haunt her for life.
That was the turning point for me; the day I became determined to find a new way to feed my family and myself. It had to be delicious, it had to be familiar, and it had to be filling without being fattening. What it could not be was a diet but, rather, a way of life.
It was a tall order, I admit, and being neither a doctor, dietician nor a magician, just a reporter and a cook, I had no choice but to approach the problem the only way I knew how: by reporting and cooking.
Poring over hundreds of articles from medical journals, diet books, and the works of food journalists like Michael Pollan (The Omnivores Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), and the New York Times’ Mark Bittman, I gathered the latest information on what we’re eating and what it’s doing to us, good and bad.
I then turned the lens toward my own weighty history.
Looking at the ghosts of diets past, I wrote down exactly how they worked and why they were each successful for a short time, how I felt and how much weight I lost when following them and why, ultimately, they all failed.
Then, just as I do when working as a journalist, I began to edit those diet stories: keeping what worked, dumping what didn’t.
And, with that knowledge in hand, I rolled up my sleeves and got cooking… literally.
Over the next weeks and months, I spent hundreds of hours conducting some serious “mad science” in my kitchen.
My goal was to find guilt free food that would fill us and fool us; dishes that I could serve to my children, as well as to guests at a dinner party.
I combed through the more than 250 cookbooks on my shelves and teased apart hundreds of recipes from my favorite chefs (sorry, Jamie, Alice, Tom and Wolfgang!), as well as recipes from friends and family (sorry, Grandmother!) and attempted to “skinny-fy” them.
Sometimes the fixes were simple and intuitive…roast instead of fry, use less oil, less cheese, and more vegetables.
Other times the fixes weren’t so easy and I ended up asking other cooks and chefs for advice, or looking for solutions in recipes designed for diabetics or people allergic to wheat or dairy. I even found answers in the blogs of food engineers which, until then, I didn’t even know existed!
To be honest, it was not always pretty.
For every recipe that worked, ten ended up in the disposal.
But, in the end, that effort was worth it. By re-designing our favorite dishes, and discovering dozens of new ones, my family and I can eat full sized portions of the foods we love… Mexican enchiladas, tacos and fajitas, Italian lasagna and caponata, Greek moussaka and lamb burgers, Indian curries, Asian noodles, rice and stir fries, Spanish Paella, French toast, and good old American meatloaf and mac and cheese…and still lose weight!
And, throughout the process–through the research, through the cooking, and by watching, mindfully, as our bodies changed–I came to understand The Skinny Truths about food and weight loss that I now apply to everything I cook and everything we eat.
It’s those truths, as much as the recipes themselves, which helped us and will help you slim down without ever, ever feeling deprived.
How do I know it works?
Just 4 months after we began living and eating this new way, my body, my life, and my family was, literally, transformed.
My husband lost more than 40 pounds and now weighs what he did in college!
And, my children?
Loving the new versions of their old favorite foods, they are just as happy as always… but are now much more fit and in tune with their bodies.
And, best of all, I know they’ll be smarter eaters for life.
When I began this new way of life, my only goal was to move myself out of “medically overweight” and back to the middle of “normal” weight, which meant I needed to lose 26 pounds.
In the end, I lost more than 30 pounds, and now weigh what I did before I had children!
Not only am I never hungry, I’m never bored, and now have more energy and feel better, physically AND emotionally, than I have in years.
(By the way, I can now proudly wear anything I own. I can even fit into my old Good Morning America clothes which, until now, had been stashed in the attic. And–as soon as I get some shoulder pads removed–I’m wearing those again, too!)
In The Skinny, I’ll share the secrets of our transformation: the recipes and the truths, along with a strategy for cooking and shopping that will allow you to eat more food, and better food, and lose a ton of weight without ever going hungry or feeling deprived!
Are you ready for that?
If so, read on.
NEXT: THE SKINNY TRUTHS
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