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From Me to Oprah: Weekly Tips for Managing Weight & Life: Week #1

December 8, 2009

Several month ago, I was fortunate enough to meet and spend a few minutes with Oprah. Meeting her and speaking with her was a lifelong dream of mine, and I am still overwhelmed that we had the unique opportunity to stand face to face.

As both a long-time fan of Oprah and her show, and as a registered dietitian who was once overweight and now enjoys a healthy, active lifestyle (and a sane, sensible relationship with food), I feel tremendous empathy towards Oprah. I know what it feels like to have food call your name, to overeat, to always think about food and what my next meal is, to feel like I have no control over how much I eat, and to not like my body or be ashamed of how I look. While these may not be Oprah’s exact thoughts or feelings, many people feel badly when they’re overweight and sometimes it’s hard to know how to break the cycle and turn an  unhealthy way of eating and living into a more healthful one. Through hard work, education, and persistence, I was able to lose weight and keep it off successfully, permanently, and healthfully. Through all the writing and other work I do, it has been and will always be my goal to help others find their own way towards overcoming food and diet-related struggles that prevent them living–as Oprah always says–their best lives.

Like many of my colleagues and friends (and others who work in healthcare, and/or have lost weight and kept it off themselves), I would love to share my expertise and experience to help Oprah work out her weight and food issues once and for all. But while I may never be lucky enough to see Oprah again (not to mention work with her), I decided to take the ball into my own hands and start a weekly blog entry called “From Me to Oprah: Weekly Tips for Managing Weight and Life.” Through this blog post, I will share my thoughts, feelings, and ideas about how to manage weight and life. While it is my not-so-secret hope that somehow, someway, Oprah will read TheZiedGuide blog, these posts are also meant to help, inspire, educate and empower anyone who has struggles when it comes to eating, exercising, and living a healthful and fulfilled life.

Today, I’ll share with you my thoughts about dieting. Dieting is undoubtedly one of the public’s favorite pasttimes. Some of us who work in health-related fields might smirk, grimace, or even get downright upset when we hear about the latest popular quick-fix fad or best selling diet book (especially if it promises great, fast results). People oftentimes cling to these new plans or programs especially when anyone they know–friends, colleagues, family members, or even mere acquaintances– have had success with them). But while I may not personally agree with or like the concept of any particular diet–giving up favorite foods, consuming too few calories, or avoiding particular foods or food groups, I think it’s safe to say diets are truly here to stay and as a registered dietitian, I need to accept that but continue to work with others to help them steer their own course in the diet maze.

As a registered dietitian and former overweight teenager and young adult, I have learned to think of diet not as a four letter word but as a way of eating. To me, the word “diet” has come to mean what I eat every day. It encompasses the foods I choose, and in what portions, each day to keep me energized, to feel strong, and to get the key nutrients I need to maximize my health. For me, the word diet is not negative, but positive. Through the years, I have learned how to create my own personal diet that I can enjoy and sustain. It may not be perfect, or ideal for anyone else, but it works for me, and helps me maintain a healthy body weight and have energy to do all the things I want to do (which includes running around with my 11 and 7 year-old boys).

When people ask me what diet is right for them, or they ask about a new diet book they read or heard about, I ask them a few key questions: Does the “diet” 1) include real foods from all the key food groups; 2) provide enough calories to keep you energized throughout the day; 3) include regular physical activity and exercise; 4) sound like a flexible plan they can “go on” and stay on not for a finite period of time but for life (and adapt as personal needs and preferences change over time). If the answers to these 4 questions are all yes, that’s a great start. If one or more of the answers is no, then I usually recommend adapting the plan to their personal lifestyles. There are parts of all diet plans that can be helpful to many people in their quest to lose weight and keep it off, and as a registered dietitian I try to help people find and create their own personal way of eating that not only helps them lose an appropriate amount of weight for them, keep off their weight, and at the same time stay healthy (not to mention be pleasant for others to be around as well!).

So Oprah, if you’re reading this, I know that when you’re truly ready, you will find a “diet” that’s right for you…one that’s flexible, takes into account your personal tastes, food preferences, and eating style, and that you can live with. Making food choices does not and should not cause anyone to feel stress or guilt; instead, making food choices should be positive, and be seen as an opportunity. Food can and should be enjoyed and respected, and used as a means for helping you get and stay where you want to be both physically and mentally. I know you can do it, and so can any of you who truly want to change your life in a more healthful, positive way.

Sources: My Oprah Encounter: http://bit.ly/3TYrM8

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