Wiatt, hailed by Vanity Fair as "L.A.'s Diet Diva, " has whipped some of Hollywood's best bodies into shape with her tailor-made diet plans. Now she shares her secrets, telling readers how to identify which of the 12 distinct food personality types they are, then how to customize a diet plan accordingly. Complete with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes, Wiatt's program allows for impressive weight loss without a battle with one's inner nature.
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"Cleaning your house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."
- PHYLLIS DILLER
I dreamed I was in my kitchen, putting together yet another perfect meal for my family. Suddenly I looked out the window and there, floating in the sky, larger than life, was my mother. She was thrusting something at me -- a boiled chicken, yellow with congealed fat and dripping schmalz from the wings. "Eat, eat, " she was saying, and with every pronouncement of the word, she grew. She kept waving the chicken, screeching "Eat!" in increasingly desperate tones, until she was so big she filled the sky and blocked out the sun. My God, I thought, I've become my mother! It wasn't until I woke up that I realized I'd just been watching too much late-night Woody Allen.
- CONFESSIONS OF A NURTURER
Sophie was a supermom. I could practically see the big varsity letter "S" on her chest when she walked into my office lugging a ten-gallon purse and trailing an unhappy-looking eight-year-old in headgear. "Straight from the orthodontist," I thought, "And now she's going to try to focus on her personal eating issues while half her mind is committing her son's headgear schedule to memory." I foisted Jimmy off on my long-suffering assistant so I could meet with Sophie alone. I wanted to be the only caretaker in the room.
Sophie was devoted to taking care of her husband, four active children, two dogs and a cat, and a large house, along with charity work and volunteer efforts for school and community issues. She grew up in a close family with a loving other who made three home-cooked meals and ironed her husband's shirtevery single day of the year. Sophie pursued her own dreams of helping people by earning a degree in speech pathology. When she married Gene, a resident at Cedars-Sinai Hospital where she worked, she had no question what her next move would be: start a family and work hard to make it every bit as wonderful as hers was.
But somewhere between marriage to the doctor of her dreams and creation of the perfect family, Sophie got fat. I could see the forty pounds of unconscious eating as plain as day on her body, the selfless by-product of sampling her own cooking, nibbling on the kids' cupcakes, and portioning her own plate for the appetite of an adolescent boy. I was about to reassure her of the magic ability of the Diet Designs program, with its prepared, preportioned meals, to eliminate unconscious eatingwhen, a of a sudden, Sophie told me that she had not come in for herself at all!
Sophie said she needed my help because her sixteen-year-old daughter Kelly had recently begun to act strangely about food, refusing to eat at dinner, picking and moving her food around on the plate. Though she wouldn't eat with her family, Kelly would plow through bags of cookies and freezerfuls of pizza with her friends, then go on group crash diets in a dangerous form of adolescent bonding. Sophie didn't know what to say to Kelly to draw her back to the family table, so she had come to me for coaching.
This was a red light for me. Sophie obviously had her own food issues to confront, which she couldn't see through the smokescreen of concern for her daughter. I questioned her gently about her own weight, but met a blank brick wall.
It was as if her very visible problem were made invisible by her attention to others. My only hope for helping Sophie was to treat her dilemma with Kelly, then show her how caring for her family could translate into caring for herself, and help her set a good example for her children. Her healthy eating solution had to be shared at the communal dinner table.
Unfortunately, Sophie's schedule was a hectic one of erratic eating before she sank down, exhausted, in her chair at the head of that dinner table. She was up at six thirty every morning getting her husband off to work and the kids off to school. Days were full of shopping, cooking, and cleaning; errands for the house, church, neighbors, and relatives, and complicated patterns of kid shuttling worthy of an air traffic controller. She rarely took time to sit down to a meal, but instead picked and nibbled throughout the day from the endless stream of nourishment she provided to others. By the time she dished up the last supper plate she was completely drained. ate ravenously and polished off potential leftovers during cleanup. After a heavy dinner, it was all she could do to keep her eyes open long enough to supervise her kids' homework and trundle everyone off to bed. She often fell asleep on the couch, the newspaper on her lap still turned to the front page.
What Sophie needed before she could embark on any effort for Kelly was an energy-maximizing plan to fuel herself through the demands of her day and leave a little spunk to spare for her family's healthy eating education. I told Sophie I would give her a plan for the whole group, working with her to trace the process from the shopping cart to the kitchen to the table -- if she would promise to commit to the project first. This meant scheduling and portioning her own meals regardless of what the rest of the family was doing or eating, managing her energy flow, and paring off excess fat to keep up with her family's frantic pace and to show Kelly what it meant to have a healthy approach to her diet and body. She agreed.
My first trip to Sophie's house was an eye-opener -- I had forgotten what teenagers can eat. The cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer were packed with infinite varieties of sugar-sweetened cereals, snack cakes, doughnuts, chips, canned and packaged spaghetti and noodle dishes, condensed canned soup, crackers, cookies, caramel corn, salted nuts, instant breakfast drinks, industrial-sized tubs of mayonnaise and peanut butter, four different bottles of creamy salad dressing ("each kid likes a different kind," said Sophie), sliced lunch meats, processed cheeses, jugs of soda, canisters filled with chocolate chip cookies and mini candy bars, Popsicles, ice cream, and pizza three different ways: frozen, refrigerated, and in a mix.
"Wow," I said in amazement. "It looks like the pantry of a hotel restaurant in here! Who eats all this?" I could have given Sophie the frightening statistics about the fat, salt, and sugar content of her kitchen, but I didn't want her to feel that she'd been slowly killing the family she was trying to feed. Instead, I handed her a supermarket list to stock up on healthy foods for the whole family, and recipes for an oil-free marinara sauce to last all week and turkey meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and apple cobbler for the family's inaugural lowfat dinner.
I called Sophie the next day for a report on how the new dishes were received. Kelly had pronounced the dinner gross, but everybody else loved it. And instead of finishing off the meat loaf during cleanup, Sophie saved it for a sandwich for Gene's lunch. He was pleasantly surprised to have an alternative to greasy hospital cafeteria food. I knew we had cleared the first hurdle.
But Kelly was not so easily won over. She continued to resist Sophie's efforts, saying it was all gross and she was "not into health food." I asked Sophie if she could convince Kelly to do a session in the kitchen with me. Mother finally struck a bargain with daughter -- an hour of her time in exchange for an extra night out with the car. I was overjoyed. If I could just get to Kelly, Sophie's soft spot, I knew I would have full family support for my mission.
In a private conversation with Kelly, I determined that her rejection of family dining wasn't indicative of a disorder -- it was just normal teenage rebellion and concern for her changing body image. I was happy to have the opportunity to help at this crucial stage of her adolescence. Armed to the teeth with recipes and statistics, I compared fat and calorie counts between my version and the originals for barbequed chicken pizza, enchiladas, layered bean-and-cheese dip, burgers, Chinese chicken salad, fudge brownies, and hot fudge sundaes, comparing the number of servings Kelly would have to eat of each to gain a pound. I described how dietary fat turns into body fat and aggravates skin problems -- two teenage phobias. Then I asked her if she'd like to learn to make any of my recipes. "Yes, please," she said. "The pizza, layered bean dip, burgers, and brownies."
I Invited Sophie into the kitchen to join us in whipping up the dishes, and soon the three of us were chatting and giggling over a pan of brownies. Minutes later, Kelly was on the phone to a friend saying, "I'm telling you, you can have three of these brownies for the calories of one regular one. It is so cool." I confided to Sophie that if she added some fresh fruit and vegetables, Kelly could essentially live on this diet until she decided to do otherwise. I was happy to see that Sophie, even as she dug into the stack of dirty dishes, was smiling.
Sophie went on a three-month cooking marathon, adapting the favorite family recipes with low-fat cooking techniques, testing the new versions out on the gang, and perfecting every last detail of her redesigned dishes. She was up late at night portioning and freezing the products of the day, and was awake extra early in the morning to pack lunches for everyone instead of leaving them at the mercy of the school and hospital cafeterias as before.
I kept expecting Sophie to drop from exhaustion, but with lots of encouragement from me that this was the best possible example she could set for Kelly, she developed her own schedule of interval eating and portion control that trimmed off twenty pounds and doubled her energy. We held our consultations in her kitchen while she cooked up her latest low-fat wonder, quizzing me on further fat corners to cut from their favorite dishes.
Kelly lived happily on my versions of pizza and brownies and served them to her friends. The rest of the kids and Gene hardly noticed the transition to a low-fat diet, though Gene finally complimented Sophie on her appearance and asked if she'd been on a diet. "What about you?" she replied. "You're barely holding your pants up!"
Gene hopped on the scale to discover that he'd lost ten pounds without even trying. This was Sophie's greatest triumph -- to peel off her husband's extra weight without making him suffer. I told Sophie that it was great about Gene, but not to overlook that she herself had lost twenty pounds. What an achievement that was!
Ever the Nurturer, Sophie had to help others to help herself. That was okay with me. All that mattered was that I had helped Sophie.
The truth Is, I chose a career in nutrition because, like a mom, I wanted to devote my life to helping others. You see, I am a Nurturer too.
Nurturers specialize in putting the needs of others before their own, whether at home or on the job. They're never happier than when they're caring and shouldering the burden of other people's crises and daily needs. Not all Nurturers are parents. I've worked with those in many walks of life, but we all have one thing in common: an instinct for caring. Whether serving family, friends, co-workers, or community members, Nurturers are generous, with willing ears and helping hands. They are the best friend, the warm hearth, the steady hand, the organizer of birthday parties. Unselfish, altruistic, and strong and steady as a rock, Nurturers provide stability to society. I'm always happy to have Nurturer clients-we bond instantly in our concern for caring, our instinct to provide. And if anyone deserves the care of a program like Eating By Design, Nurturers do.
Unfortunately, it's often hard to persuade Nurturers to accept this kind of care. Their constant coping on behalf of others can conceal their own problems and needs. Personal issues tend to simmer away on the back burner while those of the rest of the world are at full boil on the front. As often as not, this includes their diet.
As a Nurturer, you're probably an excellent culinary provider to everyone but yourself. While you offer food to those around you as necessary nourishment and a symbol of love, your own food choices, mealtimes, and portion sizes are all subjugated to theirs. This self-sacrificing practice can lead to erratic eating, poor nutritional quality, and the substitution of food for thanks and relaxation, all of which can sap your energy and good health-making you. ultimately, less of a help to those around you than you could be.
My Nurturer clients repeat a common theme: "So much to do, so little time.... So many needs, so few of them mine." Caretaking is a basic human instinct, and few of us could make it without nurturing from others. But as one who more often offers than asks for support, you need to ask yourself, who's taking care of the caretaker?
Eating By Design is a handbook to help you give the gift of health and a joyful approach to eating well to the ones you love. But it's also a gift to yourself, as you relax and allow me, in a sense, to take care of you. How's that for a switch?
Remember that airline safety instructions always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first and then attend to your child? The idea is that no matter how caring your Instinct, you can't help anybody if you're not breathing. Nurturers tend to be so busy sacrificing themselves that they starve all day and make up for lost calories at the dinner table, after everyone else has been attended to. Heavy, end-of-day dining topples you into bed full and exhausted, to wake to the onslaught of a busy new day feeling sluggish; then you skip breakfast out of disinterest and time pressure, and so on, in a repetitive cycle of fatigue and caloric catch-up. Caring for others is a high-energy sport, and you of all people need to be stoked up for the many emergencies, large and small, that come your way. Your Personal Prescription in Part Three will show you how.
The Pusher and the junkie
Your first interaction with the world is through your mouth, sucking on the life-giving nipple provided by your mother. This is the one time in life when you can eat as much as and whenever you want -- you need only yell, and your family is there to tend to your needs. That basic association between being cared for and being fed is deeply embedded in your subconscious.
We are socially conditioned to equate food with love. The food of your family table can symbolize love, stability, and safety throughout your life. For the Nurturer, food is a primal way of caring for other people, providing the glue to fix what is -- or isn't -- broken. To feed is to love; to be fed is to be loved; to clean your plate is an achievement and a bid for approval. Feeding is a natural Nurturer instinct reinforced by family patterns across generations. But you can take feeding too far. There's a fine line between feeding hungry people and pushing to junkies.
Food pushing can take many forms: constant and repeated offers or presentations, insistence upon second helpings, comments about how much trouble or expense went into the dish, declarations of the dish's inadequacy that beg to be disproven, solicitous remarks about the recipient's health or body weight, and a multitude of variations on the classic caretaking themes: "Just a little bit; it's a special occasion; it's so good; I made it just for you." Pushing food on people shapes destructive eating habits. No matter how much love is vested in the food you serve, your need to see it eaten can lead to weight control issues for those you feed, and inappropriate emotional attachments to eating.
Everyone who's cooked a meal has indulged in food pushing at one time or another. But repeated invocation of the food pusher's mantras can create food addicts. The next time you offer without being asked, remember that the mother doesn't offer her breast until the baby cries. Your Personal Prescription will encourage you to portion food according to real needs.
Your Child's Future Fat
In fact, looking for hunger signals when feeding your child is important from infancy onward, because body fat patterns are established in the earliest stages of life. We speak jokingly of "baby fat" as a cute aberration automatically corrected by Mother Nature, but only babies under age two need a layer of fat to support their rapid growth and physiological development, and even infants can carry more fat than they need. Every fat cell in your body is laid down for life. And all these fat cells are created early: during the last trimester in the womb, in the first year of life, and at adolescence. You can't diet fat cells away; the best you can do is try to empty them of their corpulent cargo. But an empty fat cell is hungry, eager to convert any passing calorie into body fat. The more fat cells you have, the greater your lifelong tendency toward the storage of body lat. So a fat baby is cellularly programmed to become a fat child, and a fat teenager to become a fat adult.
Codependence in the Kitchen
Prolonged food pushing can lead to a cycle of mutually reinforcing destructive behavior that is often called codependence. I ran into an old client with his new bride at a party a few months after their wedding. June was lovingly handfeeding Thomas a wedge of Brie baked in puff pastry. I marched up and said hello; Thomas choked, wiped his mouth, flashed a brilliant smile, and introduced me to his new wife. "June, this is Carrie. She haunts me at all the highcalorie Hollywood parties." I tried not to stare at his encroaching double chin.
Soon after, Thomas and June were in my office, describing their newlywed eating habits in a kind of point-counterpotnt. Thomas's side of the story sounded like June was shoving food down his throat; June's version sounded like he was begging for richer, grander meals. Both genuinely felt they were serving each other's needs. Both were gaining weight. Both were unhappy.
At the center of this cycle of codependence in the kitchen was June's habit of creating wonderful concoctions just in case Thomas wanted something when he got home, woke up, finished reading his script, etc. June hoped to please Thomas with her surprise, Thomas hoped to please June by eating it, and both felt close to each other when they shared the moment and the food. They ate whether or not they were hungry because June had anticipated a potential need without asking whether it was real.
I asked June to make a new rule for herself: Ask, don't anticipate. Every time she contemplated making something for Thomas, she had to ask him in advance if he actually wanted it. Thomas, in turn, was required to answer honestly, not out of his desire to make June feel accepted and needed.
After a few tough weeks, June accepted the truth: Many of her unsolicited offerings were extraneous, more food than Thomas wanted or needed. Thomas also had to face the fact that he had a very difficult time saying no. He was afraid of hurting or offending June by rejecting her offers of food. Both Thomas and June were caught in a cycle of pleasing without needing.
The dynamics of feeding other people can be very complex. While June was trying to please Thomas by feeding him his favorite foods, she was also subconsciously keeping him "safe" in their relationship by making sure he carried a few extra pounds. Thomas was pleasing June by eating what she fixed for him, and colluding in her efforts to keep the relationship safe by not questioning the food's fat content, even though his previous experience with Diet Designs made him wise enough to know better.
Declare Yourselves a Lean Team
Though codependence in the kitchen can unravel your healthy resolve, cooperation in Eating By Design can strengthen your commitment. You can let your family know that sharing a healthy diet is an expression of your love for each other, and the strength of cooperation will help make it stick. Lean Teams work together to nourish each other's soul, sanity and self-esteem. Imagine the following scenarios:
- You are a loving wife. Part of your personal identity is bound up in feeding your husband, whom you adore and wish to surround with all the warmth and security the world can provide. When he phones with news of a personal triumph or tragedy at work, you consider cooking up a thick steak with herb butter and pan-fried potatoes to celebrate or commiserate. But then, you stop and consider what happens to your husband's heart when he eats the butter-drenched steak. You resolve: Tonight, I will grill the best-quality freerange chicken breast, smother it with yummy onions and herbs, and share a very special moment with my husband. He deserves total care.
- You are a loving husband. You know your wife loves to go out to dinner as a welcome break in her busy schedule. You decide to offer her the ultimate luxury by taking her to your favorite French restaurant for a rich meal, because you love her and she is being celebrated. Then, you stop and think: My wife is happiest when she feels good about herself and her food choices. Tonight, I will choose a new restaurant, call ahead, investigate the preparations, and choose something healthy for us to eat that will energize us and enhance the moment.
- You are the best best friend in the world. Your buddy has just phoned you in a suicidal frenzy because her boyfriend has told her it isn't working out. Your first instinct is the Total Care Package: A large pizza, two pints of premium ice cream, spoons, napkins, and a shoulder to cry on. Then, you stop and consider the consequences. Tomorrow, your best friend will wake up feeling abandoned, rejected, and bloated. In addition to her emotional weight, she will bear the heaviness of ice cream, pizza, and self-hatred. You reconsider. You go to her house armed with baked tortilla chips and salsa, frozen yogurt, and the personal ads.
- Your Personal Prescription in Part Three contains many specific suggestions for providing healthy food that truly nourishes the people around you, to make a Lean Team together.
Nurture Without Nourishing
There are many ways to cure or care for someone who isn't hungry. You can deepen your nurturing relationships with others by developing ways to care without calories:
- Go for a walk together.
- Send flowers, fine bath products, a favorite CD or book, or a gift certificate for spa services.
- Tell a story, play a game, or sing a song.
- Rent a movie and watch it together.
- Offer to run an errand or take care of a household task.
- Go on a special excursion.
- Hug, kiss, have sex.
- Volunteer for those in need, such as the homeless, hungry, illiterate, battered children, etc.
- Work for arts, community, church, or youth groups.
Your commitment to the human race Is a vital thread in our social fabric. Serving others without food will feed your own self-esteem and help you serve humanity even better.
Copyright © 1995 by Carrie Latt Wiatt