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I was not born a skinny girl…

Or a fat girl…

Which is not to say that I haven’t been both…

A lot.

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.

And me?
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.



28 Responses to INTRODUCTION

  1. Beth says:

    Lisa – Your information has been so helpful for me. I have been vegan for 4 years now due to cholesterol issues. I had my thyroid removed about 6 years ago and had no idea that soy would interfere with the absorption of my meds. I have watched the scale move up and up in all this time. It’s been so frustrating. Now I’m going to remove soy but add in a bit of chicken breast for a while and see how it goes.

  2. Brooke says:

    Hi, Lisa! Do you plan to include the nutritional information for your recipes? That would be very helpful for planning.

    Thanks for the site–the YouTube videos are great, too!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Hi Brooke, I haven’t gone through and done detailed nutritional information…though I always include calorie count and usually compare it to the pre-skinny-fied version of the dishes. And if certain ingredients offer protein or a specific nutrient (like omega-3’s or B-vitamins) I’ll mention that in the story. The truth is, I never count carbs anymore…just the calories and protein in what we eat daily. With so many veggies and whole grains in the dishes, I know we’re getting more than enough fiber and nutrients…just want to make sure we stay under the calories we need each day and get as much or more of the protein we need. It really makes eating so much easier!!

  3. Julie P says:

    I found your blog through Flipboard last night and bookmarked several recipes already. I just finished reading your intro and can’t wait to read on! You’ve definitely got my interest.

    I am 51 and a former runner. Former, because after 40 years of running, I had to have my right hip replaced last fall due to osteoarthritis. I’m still on the mend physically but mentally I’m suffering. I have started walking 3-4 times a week but while my leg muscles get stronger every day, the knowledge that I will never run again depresses me immensely. As does the weight gain that resulted from my year of inactivity. I gained 30 lbs, tipping that 150 mark you know so well. (I too am just a smidge over 5’5″) I have managed to take off 11 lbs but the final 19 are being excessively stubborn.

    Thankfully my 5’5″ eleven year old daughter is a bean pole but she eats horribly. Hubby could stand to lose about 30 pounds as well. I can’t wait to read on and give your recipes a try. I will definitely let you know!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Hi, Julie P., so glad you found the site…and sorry to hear about your hip injury. I had hip surgery 6 years ago after a yoga (!) injury and know how depressing it is to be immobile and feel like you can’t get a handle on the weight that comes from being unable to exercise.
      But the good news is, The Skinny way of approaching food–aiming for 80 percent plant foods at every meal and every snack—really, really works. Though I don’t do the kind of hard exercise I once did with a trainer, once the weight came off it became much easier to move and now I simply play tennis, bike and use some light weights regularly to keep myself toned but rely on food choices to keep the weight off.
      Building that “inventory” of plant based foods–and being aggressive about how many veggies you eat a day (8 servings)–really will reset your system and “crowd out” all the foods that cause weight gain and inflammation. (As a runner, you know how important reducing inflammation can be!)
      And the more you master those quick and easy veg dishes, the easier it will be for your 11 year old to find her own favorites and improve her health and eating habits without you having to harp on about it…(my 11 year old always gobbles up any veg I cook now..but her faves when we began were oven baked butternut squash with cinnamon, cayenne and sugar-free maple syrup, simple curried cauliflower and oven roasted asparagus or green beans or haricot vert…(The first three are on the site, the green beans you simply toss in a wee bit of olive oil, salt and roast at 425 for 10-15 minutes and toss with a little lemon juice and Parmesan to finish.)
      And don’t forget how many dishes you can “turn upside down” to get more veg in your daughter’s meals…Our spaghetti sauce, taco meat, enchiladas, shepherd’s pie and the like are all 80 percent veg now. And, trust me, if you don’t mention it, they won’t realize you’ve made the switch!
      Thanks for writing and good luck getting back in shape…
      I promise, even though your exercise of choice, running, may be too dangerous with a new hip, you will find new ways to move that will cheer you up…
      Just start slow and focus on what goes in your mouth so that the extra weight comes off first..Once you’re lighter and the inflammation is gone, moving your body will be so much easier! Keep me posted! xolmc

  4. Julie Hupp says:

    Taking a wonderful trip of my life this year. We sold our house and are full-time RV’ing. We are seeing new places in the USA and enjoying all of the local flavor. Although our spirits are soaring, our waistlines are suffering. At present, my husband and I have both gained weight and are horribly unfit.

    I was in great shape last fall in preparation for a three-week trip on the Colorado River. Going to the gym three to four days a week. Changed my eating and drinking habits. My husband always stayed fit through his work; ski patroller, raft guide, all around general outdoors dude.

    After hitting the road, all the good changes stopped. Rich, wonderful restaurant food or prepared, high salt when at an RV Park. We spend plenty of time walking but that’s about it.

    I too suffer from extreme personality disorders when I get hungry. My husband jokes but he knows “never let her get hungry”. Last night while munching on a bag of BBQ chips I knew that it was time.The diet must change. I have hit that place the Lisa talks about in this blog! Our challenge is making this happen while we live on the road. Having hit that “enough” place, I’ve decided to rise to the challenge instead of using it as an excuse.

    We have a small 20′ RV with no oven, a very small fridge and no freezer. Our stove is a Coleman two burner propane, Our pantry as three small shelves and the total size is about the same as my spice drawer was back when we had a house.

    The challenge I did not expect was availability of fresh produce. When not traveling, we call Northern California home. Plenty of great food that grows any time of the year. Not so much while we’re on the road. For instance, yesterday we visited the fruit stand in Cedar Key that is only open four days a week. With the exception of the potatoes, garlic, and onions, all the vegetables and fruit was old, brown and/or wrinkled. Not one decent bell pepper in the entire box. This is not an excuse, just a challenge.

    After getting back to camp and cooking a fairly reasonable dinner that included a big salad, I hit that “enough” place. I was surfing around (again) for “the answer” and found Lisa’s blog. Then and there, I decided I would become the test pilot for how to live The Skinny way while living on the road.

    Today, I will do some meal planning that includes getting food prepared so I will always be able to grab something good! I am not going to be able to do multiple cookie sheets of food prep or create a Tetris puzzle of Tupperware. No excuse mind you, just a challenge.

    And since I’ve wanted to write more while traveling, I can check another goal off my bucket list. My journey will be chronicled. I learned so much from the blogs I read prior to starting this trip that I hope to give back by sharing what I learn about The Skinny – Life on the Road!

    If you are trying to do the same, please share. Now, onward!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Wow, Julie…What a great adventure! But as exciting, beautiful and fulfilling as it sounds, I’m sure it’s a huge challenge to live in an RV and not become the size of one! 🙂
      Putting myself in your shoes for a few minutes, here’s what I’m thinking might help you get more veg in your “inventory” and some other Skinny Tricks and Tips that don’t require a full kitchen:
      1) I’m guessing you have some small little grill you can use to cook outside, right? You can, obviously, use that to grill any fresh fish, chicken or Bison or Lamb Burgers (you know I really steer clear of regular ground beef.) But whenever you pass a grocery store or farmers market that has fresh asparagus, zucchini, summer squash, Japanese eggplant, onions, any color of bell peppers, or mushrooms, toss them in a scant bit of olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper and grill them up as well. Make enough to last a few days. After eating them for dinner, you can use them to make a quick Eggbeaters or Liquid Egg Whites omelet in the morning. (By using cartons of liquid egg whites or Eggbeaters–which are made of egg whites–you’ll not only save calories and cholesterol, you’ll save space in your small fridge and won’t have to worry about breakage or leftover shells.) If you keep high fiber Light Wasa Bread crackers in the RV, jarred black olives and feta in the fridge, you can use those grilled veggies to make a couple of Skinny Crostinis for a mid morning snack. With some corn tortillas in the fridge, you can use those grilled veg and leftover grilled chicken and/or canned refried beans to make some soft tacos for lunch. I know you don’t have much space, but grill up as many veggies as you can when you cook outside…grilled veg are always in our fridge and I use them daily.
      2) Don’t underestimate the value of frozen veggies, they’re usually flash frozen at the height of flavor and if you don’t have a freezer are okay for a couple of days in thawing slowly in the fridge. You can toss frozen okra in a scant bit of cornmeal, salt and pepper, use Pam as the oil and have fake fried okra as a side. You can use them for omelets, or make a soup, or could cook up some dried legumes, like black eyed peas or navy beans, toss in some onions, dried herbs, salt and pepper halfway through cooking time, and thawed frozen okra/peppers/green beans and fresh tomatoes near the end for a big veggie side dish.
      3) Munch Much…I’m big on nibbling, but dump those store bought BBQ potato chips and spend 19 bucks on a Presto Air Pop Popcorn Maker. If you’ve found the “Munchie Much?”entry on The Skinny, you’ll know how important this little gadget is if you are someone who likes to nibble. When you’re plugged into a power source, make a big batch, spray it with Butter Flavored Pam, add some other fun things…like dried cranberries, slivered almonds, wasabi dried peas, even a few (FEW) M&M’s. Make sure it’s there when you need it…(When watching Homeland or Downton Abbey, I need a big batch..)
      4) When passing through a town that has a Subway restaurant, eat there. Any sandwich can be made into a salad now and when I’m traveling (even in Sweden!) I’ve stopped for a Roasted Chicken Salad. If you ask for ALL of the veggies, skip the oil but ask them to douse it in vinegar, salt and pepper, it’s a huge salad with 4 ounces of chicken (almost half the protein you need in a day) for just 120 calories. (When traveling in Maine, I often have 2 in a day) THEN and THERE you can add a bag of BAKED Lays BBQ chips (140 calories) and feel totally satisfied when done for under 300 calories!
      5) Whenever you eat out with your husband, split the entree…and order 3 to 4 veggie sides, roasted, grilled or steamed. As soon as you sit down, look at the veggie sides, order them and tell them to bring them as soon as they can. If you have roasted Brussels sprouts or asparagus show up quickly, you’re less likely to eat the 150 calorie slices of bread in the bread basket…

      Hope this helps…Looking forward to hearing about your journey!! Good luck!!!

  5. Joanne says:

    I’m starting today!!

  6. Traci says:

    I found you through YouTube and have read pretty much everything on your blog. I love the way you eat because it’s the closest thing to perfect for me I’ve found. And believe me I’ve left no stone unturned! I need to lose weight but have so many dietary restrictions I’ve yet to find a conventional diet plan that works well for me except low carb which I’ve decided is not going to work long term. For me this is not something I can ever stop doing like a diet implies. Whatever I do has to be my way of life from here on out.
    Now for the fun part. I have fibromyalgia, arthritis, colitis, and an autoimmune decency in my intestines that keeps me from absorbing most of the vitamins and minerals in my food and makes eating raw fruits and vegetables a risk to my health. I do still eat some but make sure they are very clean and try to buy organic when possible. Because my body doesn’t digest foods properly I can’t eat nuts, the skins of raw fruits and vegetables or raw fruits and veggies that are hard such as apples and carrots. I am sensitive to lactose with the exception of hard cheeses, whey, soy, white flour and many of the additives in processed foods. Because of my intestinal issues I absorb very little of the vitamins and minerals from my food.
    Because of all of the above I live mostly on cooked vegetables and fruit and lean meat with a little whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice and cheese thrown in for some added flavor. That’s what makes me think your way of cooking/eating might just work for me and help me manage both my medical issues and my weight. It’s very, very hard to find a plan that takes all of my problems into consideration. Most will offer modifications up to a point but never everything. From what I can tell I shouldn’t have to modify very many of your recipes and the ones I might have change are very doable.
    I’m so glad I find you and will putting your Skinny Strategies to work right away.
    Thank you,

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Wow, Traci, I can only imagine how difficult it’s been for you to work around those challenges…and I’m so happy to hear that you think The Skinny can help!
      Though I never faced the complications you’ve had to deal with, I can tell you that this way of living and eating has not only kept me, my children and my husband at healthy weights for more than 3 years, it’s really solved the few minor health issues we had before. Before I was 45, I had 2 shoulder surgeries and 1 hip surgery caused, in great part, to inflammation in my joints…but after drastically boosting my intake of veggies and reducing gluten, dairy and processed foods the inflammation and pain I once felt after a simple game of tennis, a yoga class or working in the garden are gone! And that reduction in inflammation-causing foods has helped us ALL avoid the sinus infections we suffered through every spring (and helped us all get better sleep year ’round because no one snores anymore!)
      Thanks for sharing your story and keep me posted on your progress! I know you can do it!

  7. Marsa says:

    Sorry sent wrong email address and name spelt incorrect ly,above message from Maria is form me,54 yrs old with joint pain,do not know where to start,do not understand calorie counting,have to lose 15 kilograms.can you ple help

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Hey, Marsa.. Go to The Skinny Truths and read through… There are 2 important calculators there… One will tell you what your ideal weight is, the other will tell you how many calories a day to eat to achieve that weight. Then, look at all my recipes, they’re really trying to help you understand how many calories are in the foods you used to eat and the foods you want to eat instead so you can make better choices. (Don’t forget, you can always Google a food to find out calories per serving if you need to..I do it every day…) BUT..the most important thing is to focus on eating 8-9 servings of vegetables a day….if you do that, you will crowd out the bad food and be full all day but still eat fewer calories!! xolmc

  8. Maria says:

    Ive been reading your blog and find it very interesting.i am 15 kgs overweight and do not know where to trying to eat healthy ,do a little exercise but can’t lose any weight.I am 54 years old,have joint pain.I do not understand the calorie counting,can you help?

  9. Pat Winter says:

    Lisa, These get better and better. I haven’t actualy had the guts to try one yet (I am no kind of cook) but am printing them out and getting ready. Can’t wait for the book and the TV show!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Thanks, Pat! I will be posting more and more recipes for folks who don’t have time to cook soon! And will have a batch of Sneaky Skinny Tips and Tricks posts to help you skinny-fy take out from Whole Foods! xolmc

  10. Scott Jones says:

    Hi Lisa. Glad I caught your link off of Alex’s Facebook post. Perfectly on target with so many women. I’d love to feature one of your recipes on my blog & my Jones Is Hungry Facebook page…I suspect many of my Southern Living friends would find your info helpful/relevant/encouraging. Best regards, Scott

  11. Jenn says:

    My new Bible!

  12. Meg says:

    Go, Lisa! I’m so happy you posted this on the ABC Facebook page. I didn’t know about it (how, I don’t know since you are one of my favorite frequent pop ups in my newsfeed). But I’m glad I found this!!

  13. You’ve convinced me – and I’ve lost 10 pounds since Mother’s Day, using the recipes I saw you make in your own kitchen. It’s great to have access to ‘the rest of the story.’

  14. Rebecca says:

    Well done you! I love it when we learn to listen to our own bodies and begin to nurture it. You journey sounds similar to mine.

  15. Patricia A Winter says:

    Fantastic! This is so encouraging. I plan to share it with everyone!

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