Read an Excerpt
WELCOME TO MY OFFICE
My motto is this: Life is hard . . . food should be easy.
But for many people, knowing what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat is a puzzle they have lost all hope of ever solving.
Anyone who has ever tried to make a commitment to healthy eating knows the obstacles: The dizzying number of choices in grocery stores and restaurants; the crazy, always-on-the-go schedules of nearly every member of the family; the relentless hype and marketing surrounding fatty and sugary snack foods; and the powerful appetites fueled by habits, traditions, and humongous portion sizes. As if that wasn't enough pressure, add in the swirl of conflicting information about specific diets--high-carb versus low-carb, high-fat versus low-fat, calorie-counting versus no- counting, cabbage versus grapefruit versus eggs versus whatever.
Who wouldn't feel overwhelmed and frustrated? And when we're frustrated, we tend to fall back into old, unhealthy eating patterns. Have you ever gone on a diet to lose weight but ended up gaining weight instead? Or did you lose weight only to put it back on again within a year or two? Has your doctor ever put you on a special diet to treat a health problem, but you soon abandoned it because it was just too complicated for real life? If so, you're not alone. These scenarios happen more often than you might think. No one consciously plans to eat her way into a larger dress size or to make himself a candidate for triple bypass surgery. But dietary uncertainty can turn the best intentions sour, even when the stakes are high. When it comes to good nutrition, it is so easy to go from being totally motivated to feeling utterly defeated.
It doesn't have to be that way. Whatever else is going on in your life, food should be the least of your worries. Eating is a piece of cake.
HOW FOOD MAKES US NUTS
We have a strange love/hate relationship with food. We want to eat cupcakes but still be as slim as Gwyneth Paltrow. We fantasize about our ideal meal but settle for a burger and fries from a drive-thru window. We buy "skinny jeans" for the body we want to have but then eat comfort foods because those jeans don't fit anything but our dreams. Love/hate--two sides of the same sneaky cookie.
Food does more than nourish us, so it makes sense that it can elicit complex feelings. Of course, its most important role is to give us the vitamins, minerals, energy, and nutrients necessary to keep us alive and healthy--but food is also about love and family traditions. It's how we celebrate and comfort and nurture--which is why food is at the center of weddings and funerals and why it's the first thing we think to bring when we hear a friend is sick. Food is about taking away the pain of hunger, but it also has become about easing our boredom, stress, or depression. We tend to eat too much of almost everything whenever we get the chance. We eat in the car, at work, in front of the TV, or standing over the kitchen sink. We snack before meals, after meals, and sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes without even waking up. Next to sex, eating is the activity most responsible for making us feel any number of emotions, including happiness, longing, pride, pleasure, shame, weakness, and power.
Food is like that great big proverbial elephant in the room--that also follows you around all day. We try to ignore it, but every time we turn around, there it is. Yet despite the huge (mammoth!) role food plays in our lives, we don't really know how to talk about it, at least not in a way that helps us make the best choices when it comes time to eat.
I believe the reason some diets become wildly popular for a time is that they allow us to understand food and eating in a new way, and they give us a different language to use when trying to sort out our confusion. Think about it: During the past decade, we've all learned the language of "carbs"- -what carbs are, what low-carb eating looks like, the difference between net carbs and total carbs, bad carbs and good carbs. Before that, we studied the language of "fats." And before fats, we all knew how to parse calories.
So it's not that people lack information about food and eating. In fact, most of us have more information than we know what to do with. Many of my clients have such sophisticated vocabularies that they sound like third- year nutrition students. The problem is that they don't know how to combine all the disparate pieces of the diet puzzle into a plan that they can use to achieve their individual, highly personal goals. They are eager-- desperate, perhaps--to gain control over food. But they can't do it with words alone!
That's where I come in.
THE POWER OF A STEP-WISE PROGRAM
I've been a nutritionist for more than 2 decades and have helped thousands of people overcome their worst problems with eating. In the process, they have grown stronger and healthier. In many cases, they have added 10, 15, or even 20 years to their lives by controlling or even reversing disease.
How can food turn your life around? Let me tell you about 56-year-old Stephen, a high-powered lawyer who was all but ordered by his doctors to make an appointment with me. To say he was initially resistant to seeing a nutritionist would be an understatement, but in the end, the encouragement (and begging and pleading) of his wife and children persuaded him to come to see me.
He was a nutritional wreck. At 5 foot 9 and 250 £ds, Stephen was significantly overweight. His body mass index (BMI) was 37, officially classifying him as obese. His lab values were high across the board: High cholesterol and triglycerides put him at high risk of heart disease, and, due to his high fasting glucose levels, he was officially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
To try to get control over these risk factors, Stephen's doctors put him on three powerhouse medications: a blood pressure drug, a statin to lower his cholesterol, and Glucophage to lower his blood sugar. And then I got ahold of him.
I gave him a food plan to help him lose weight and lower his blood sugar and cholesterol, and when he had an episode of gout, I gave him tips on how to treat that, too. Once he overcame his initial reluctance, Stephen approached his new eating program with the same intensity that he used to succeed in every other aspect of his life. He made a spreadsheet to track his weight loss and his lab numbers, and he memorized and followed his plan religiously. He consulted me whenever circumstances made it more than likely that he would need to deviate from the plan; that way, he made sure he wouldn't do too much harm. He ate cake at his birthday party, he socialized with friends, and he enjoyed holiday celebrations, but he always came back to the guidelines of his food program.
At the end of a year, Stephen had lost more than 60 £ds. His critical blood measurements--triglycerides, cholesterol, and fasting glucose--had all dropped to within normal ranges. He continued to take the statin, but he was able to stop taking the Glucophage and the blood pressure medication. As of this writing, Stephen has maintained his weight loss and health benefits for eight years. His doctor told him that because of the nutritional changes, Stephen has probably added at least ten healthy years to his life.
As amazing as this story sounds, Stephen's results are not unusual, and they're well within anyone's reach. No matter what your personal health aspirations are, I have a terrific food plan for you. I'll even help you figure out exactly what your goals should look like.
My objective is to make reading this book as similar as possible to an inperson, one-on-one consultation with me. I'll tell you everything you need to know to lose weight, look gorgeous, improve your mood and memory, boost your bone density, and stay healthy. I'll even give you a script to follow--a focused 4-Step program that spells out everything you need to know in order to think and eat just like a nutritionist. In short, you'll find all of the tools you need for success.
STEP INSIDE MY OFFICE
Let's start at the beginning, with the absolute basics. One of the questions I'm asked over and over is: What defines good nutrition? In general, it means eating the right foods in the right combinations throughout the day to optimize your energy and overall health.
Of course, the people who come to see me lead different lives and strive to achieve a wide range of goals. So for some, good nutrition means focusing on increasing energy. I've worked with professional and student athletes, dancers, actors, and business executives who need to maintain a consistent level of performance. For other people who have a strong family history of disease, good nutrition means minimizing their risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, migraine headaches, arthritis, osteoporosis, or cancer. For others, it means finding a way to lose the weight they might have been struggling with for years.
A while ago, a man I'll call Bruce called me up and told me that one of his friends had lost a ton of weight after he became my client and that this friend now looked phenomenal. This client of mine said that I worked miracles. Bruce was calling because he had a weight problem, and he knew all the tricks and had been on all the diets, and he had gained and lost 100 £ds more times than he could count. But he was a very busy man and didn't want to bother with an appointment if I couldn't guarantee success. "Tell me," he said, "are you the person who is absolutely going to help me prevail, once and for all?"
The answer to this outright question is what all my clients, and probably you, want to know. Can my programs work immediately, quickly, and forever? The short answer is: Yes, dramatic and long-lasting results are absolutely possible. But the odds of success depend entirely on you. I don't want to give anyone false promises, not in my office and not in this book. I'm only as good as my clients' follow-through, so if you're after the kind of transformation that your friends will call miraculous, I'm here to help. We are a team--I'm your food coach, but ultimately, you're the one who'll be doing the heavy lifting.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT COMMITMENT
To meet your goals, you absolutely need:
1. The right coach. Well, you've got me, so cross this one off your list. I have a great track record of success with my clients.
2. Rock-solid nutrition and health information. Cross this one off the list, too, because that's what this book is all about.
3. A personal commitment to stay in it for the long haul. This one is up to you!
Personal commitment is a big deal. None of my tenets will work for very long if you're following them only because you're going on vacation or because someone else is on your back about losing weight. You have to be doing this because you want to succeed. You have to want results and be willing to work for them, no matter what obstacles get in your way. After the economy took a tumble in 2008 and unemployment skyrocketed, I heard lots of stories about how people ran for comfort foods and the liquor cabinet and gave themselves permission to overeat and drink--for months. My belief is that it's incredibly important, especially in times of intense stress, to stay on top of your nutrition and health.
Think about it: Whenever you say "I'm overwhelmed" or "I'm depressed . . . or too busy . . . or too anxious," what do you do? Many people react by giving up on good nutrition and eating foods that contribute to illness and make them put on weight that they then spend months trying to shed. In the end, they're left feeling depressed, sluggish, and irritable. What they don't feel is healthy--physically or emotionally.
Your commitment to this plan is essential. It is a commitment you'll need to honor when you're home, when you're out, when you're traveling, and when you're socializing. It is a commitment to totally change your lifestyle.
Changing how you eat is never easy. The first step is to get in the right place mentally. If we're going to try to create a little nutritional magic, there are a few things you need to do to prepare for this adventure.