If you’re a born food lover (like me), there’s a good chance you’ve struggled with your weight. One famous food lover knows this battle all too well, but has found her way on the path to good health. Daphne Oz, one of five co-hosts on the ABC talk show, “The Chew,” routinely shares some of her tasty, but healthful, recipes with America. A graduate of Princeton University, she’s the author of the bestselling book “The Dorm Room Diet,” a book designed to help college students adapt to a healthier lifestyle. She’s also the daughter of one of television’s best known medical experts: Dr. Mehmet Oz.
I caught up with Daphne to ask her exactly how she overcame her struggle with weight without having to sacrifice her love for food. Below she dishes on some of her best weight loss tips, good health, maintaining her youthful beauty, and of course, her father, Dr. Oz. She also shares a recipe for her healthful breakfast smoothie, a refreshing treat at anytime of day – especially during this summer heat.
How does it feel to be the daughter of a famous father, Dr. Oz? Do you ever feel pressured to be super healthy and fit?
For me and my siblings, he’s just like every other dad. He wants us to succeed, push ourselves and be happy. He offers great advice, but he’s also supportive of the decisions we make on our own. He’s definitely made health a priority for our family, but it’s more leading by example and giving us lots of opportunities to choose health for ourselves. I grew up around my parents’ dinner table, so I certainly have a predisposition to think about health first. But the pressure I feel to be healthy and fit is because I want to be able to function optimally in my own life.
You’ve talked about being overweight as a child and teenager. What motivated you to lose weight and how did you do it?
I tried every fad diet under the sun when I was a kid trying to lose weight. Of course, none of them worked because they are all based on giving food a position of power it should never have. I was sick of feeling like a failure every time I went back to eating the “forbidden” foods, and sick of being overweight, so I committed to creating a healthy lifestyle that would allow me to make health a priority and not an obsession. I wrote all about my journey, and the tips and tricks I developed that helped me successfully (and permanently!) lose 30+ pounds, in my book, The Dorm Room Diet. Since then, I’ve really come to see that living a healthy lifestyle is about being flexible – nothing is every off limits any more, and I make the rule! – so I can pursue being healthy and happy all at once.
What advice would you give to someone who has a significant amount of weight to lose, where should they start?
Get started today, even if it’s something small – drinking half your body weight in ounces of water; taking the stairs – so that you start to train your brain to choose health. Building healthy habits is like building any muscle: repeat action will make it easier. Once you get in the habit of making a positive, healthy choice, it will take less and less effort.
For years, I thought of dieting as a departure from normal activity: “I’m going on a diet” implies that at some point, I’ll go off it again. A healthy lifestyle is permanent, which means there’s plenty of room for adjustment. Don’t think about it in terms of being deprived of the things you love because, truthfully, you can have any of those things whenever you want when you make the rules. That’s the beauty of creating your own, individualized plan that is specifically tailored to the things you need in your life.
Part of creating a healthy lifestyle is trusting yourself to make smart choices. Give yourself the freedom to be flexible – yes, you can have that slice of birthday cake and be a part of the celebration, but really take this time to savor the indulgence so you don’t feel tempted tomorrow by stale, store-bought brownies lying nearby. It’s not the one cookie that sends you over the edge. It’s eating the entire box of cookies because you feel guilty, like you’ve “ruined” the day, by eating one. Retraining yourself out of this mindset – and really learning to enjoy your food and your life again! – is what creating a permanent, healthy eating plan is all about.
You’ve written about being on the 21 day whole living cleanse. What is this and how has it worked for you?
For me, sticking with the WholeLiving cleanse was about breaking the lazy eating habits I’d fallen into over the holiday season. I wanted to remind myself what it felt like to have my body run on premium fuel, and get back to the place of conscious eating where I am most of the time.
Being conscious about what goes into my body means I get to really enjoy my food, whether it’s a super healthy salad or a decadently delicious dessert. The most important thing is to be present when I’m making the decision, and over the holidays, I’d gotten really comfortable eating things just because they were lurking around and not because I really cared about eating them.
Normally, I’m a total jerk on cleanses because I’m always hungry and feeling deprived – which is probably why I never do them! But I committed to three weeks of eating clean, which basically meant starting my day with a fresh juice of mostly greens (lettuce/kale/celery/cucumber/parsley/mint + some apple, pear or pineapple for taste) and then cutting out sugar, dairy, meat, gluten, alcohol and most caffeine out of my diet. The first two days were the worst, just in terms of getting out of my routine of eating junk out of convenience. But I was never hungry, and by day 3 I was already seeing the results: improved skin tone and brighter eyes, better sleep and a boost in energy (and without my double espresso at that!), clearer thinking.
By the end of the three weeks, I’d dropped 10 pounds of bloat and toxins that had been building up over a holiday season crammed with processed sugars and flours. Most importantly, I’d recalibrated my ability to think about what I was eating before eating it, and make better decisions as a result.
Being on the Chew and surrounded by such wonderful chefs, it must be tempting to eat all the time! How do you maintain the will-power you discussed in your column?
I love good food! But the beauty of being surrounded by such wonderful food all the time is that I know I don’t need to stuff my face whenever it’s there because, guess what? Something equally delicious will be coming up tomorrow!
I like to have a bite or two of any dish we prepare – that way, I can enjoy all the wonderful flavors and be expanding my palate and cooking ability without going overboard.
How important is self-esteem to losing weight?
Hugely important. Self-confidence – confidence not only that you have the will power to eat right, but also that you deserve to look and feel great – is the first step to committing to a permanent healthy lifestyle program. Additionally, because a healthy lifestyle is so individualized, there are no rigid rules telling you what you can and can’t eat. Instead, you have to have confidence in yourself that you can make smart decisions on the fly – ones that will allow you to enjoy your food and your life without sacrificing your health. Trusting yourself to make those smart move, and then seeing how easy it becomes to lead a healthy lifestyle that is customizable to your life, will only help boost your self confidence.
In your book The Dorm Room Diet, you discuss obstacles that one may encounter when trying to diet or lose weight. Any advice on how to combat emotional eating?
Emotional eating was at the root of my struggles with weight. I associated cooking and eating with love and bonding time with my family, so it became very difficult for me to actually pay attention when I was eating and recognize when I’d had enough.
The first trick is to break the cycle. If you catch yourself eating mindlessly, or eating beyond the point where you are full, just walk away from the food. Sometimes, it’s simple habit that keeps hands shoveling food towards face, so just taking yourself away from that situation gives you a chance to recognize what’s going on.
When you’re tempted to eat and it’s not time for a meal, try to ascertain what you’re really trying to feed. Are you hungry, or are you bored/tired/angry/upset/happy? We use emotional eating to help social interactions, to celebrate, to feel better…and the first step to stopping this behavior is to recognize when it’s happening and then find another way to help the situation in a way that might actually deal with the root of the problem.
Also, the biological process your body uses to tell when you’re hungry can often be confused with being thirsty, so always have a big glass of water before eating! That way, you’ll be better able to moderate how much you actually need to eat to feel full.
What obstacles to healthful eating have you encountered since you’ve graduated from college? Is it difficult to eat healthy while you are married, busy with a career, etc.?
The truth is, once you learn the tricks I’ve included in The Dorm Room Diet about how to eat on the run, plan ahead, navigate danger zones, and make smart choices, eating in a post-school environment becomes very easy. The only thing that’s changed really is that I eat for my job now – but how can I complain about that?! Cooking for two just means that I get to try new and exciting dishes more often.
Do you have any healthful eating tips for young women on a budget?
Choose how to spend your money wisely. I wasted a lot of money on produce like fresh berries and lettuces that go bad very quickly. It can be inconvenient, but you’ll save a lot of money only buying what you need for a couple days at a time so you don’t throw anything out. You can find inexpensive organic frozen fruit that lasts a long time in the freezer and is perfect for smoothies and shakes. I buy things like lentils, beans and brown rice in bulk because they store well and come out to pennies per serving. And eating seasonally makes a huge difference, especially if you can shop at local farmer’s markets where you’ll get the benefit of having nutritionally dense food grown in season and generally locally, meaning you won’t be paying for expensive shipping, preserving and storing costs.
What should women in their twenties be doing now to prevent aging? Are there any super foods we should be eating to maintain a youthful appearance?
Make sure you take your make up off every night with a good cleanser. Leaving toxins on your skin may contribute to the aging process, plus it’s likely to lead to breakouts you don’t need.
I use pure organic coconut oil and it works like a charm. Just rub about a teaspoon between your fingertips to warm and liquefy, then massage it all of your face and closed eyes to take off everything from waterproof mascara to foundation. Remove with a warm, wet washcloth and follow with your favorite cleanser, toner and moisturizer.
Coconut oil is packed with natural fats that will help lubricate the skin and won’t strip it’s natural moisture barrier, and it is a natural antibacterial and anti-fungal to help prevent future breakouts. Even better, it’s free of any harsh chemical toxins.
I’m a big believer in using as few chemicals on my skin as possible, since it’s the bodies largest organ and absorbs whatever we put on. Especially considering you probably have a daily routine of using the same products over and over, take a look at the ingredient label and see if you really want to be absorbing all those things day after day.
Eat plenty of antioxidant rich food – think dark fruits and veggies – to help boost your body’s natural defenses again aging, and add in a cod liver oil or essential fatty acid supplement to lubricate from the inside out. I also take a daily probiotic to make sure my digestion functions optimally so I am better able to absorb all the nutrition coming in through my food.
You and your parents founded Health Corps, an organization devoted to combating obesity and mental resilience. Why is it so important to stay in shape and eat healthfully?
My parents and I created HealthCorps when we realized how basic information about nutrition, stress management and personal responsibility can have a positive lifelong impact if presented in a way that is both accessible and attainable to young people. Ultimately, we wanted to find a way to help teach our students how to create a life geared towards health and happiness simultaneously by making health a priority and not an obsession.
So often, we are overwhelmed by too much information, some of it contradictory, or we are presented with facts in the wrong vehicle or at the wrong time. We end up confused and without direction. What HealthCorps seeks to do is take recent college grads who are delaying entry into medical school or advanced science degrees and engage them to present health curriculum to middle and high school students on a peer-to-peer level, giving the lessons new life and new relatability.
As young people, we are much better at translating information into action because our habits are not yet set in stone. Staying in shape and eating healthfully is the basis of creating a healthy lifestyle that will help us avoid unnecessary disease, spare healthcare costs, and enjoy quality (not just quantity) of life, and young people are on the front lines of guiding America towards the goal of making health access widely available and affordable to everyone.
We have to be the ones to use our voices and consumer power to demand change to our food system so that health becomes the easy choice, and from there to become experts in our own bodies so we can achieve the life we want. HealthCorps is educating young people to be the beacons of these new health goals and to spread this information to our communities and loved ones.
SUPERFOOD BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE
By Daphne Oz
½ cup yogurt, plain or sweetened with sugar
1 cup fresh fruit of your choosing, plus at least ½ banana
1 tsp honey, if needed
1 tbsp psyllium husks
1 cup ice (or use frozen fruit and skip ice)
yield: 2½ cups
Directions: Whirl all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.
Optional: Add the contents of 2 Ester-C capsules along with a capful of an algae or chlorophyll supplement (any health food store will have one) and one serving bee pollen for an extra energy boost and an easy way to get some of your vitamins.
Psyllium husks help clean your digestive tract and expand with water, so that you’ll be nice and full. And if you add the optional vitamin supplements, it packs a powerful vitamin punch.
Nutritional Information: calories: 435 total fat: 4.5 g fiber: 11.8 g protein: 8.8 g
Excerpted from The Dorm Room Diet, by Daphne Oz
Copyright © 2010 by Daphne Oz