Talk a little bit about your book, The Dorm Room Diet. It addresses young women at such a complex and vital time in their lives – how do you feel it has helped contribute to the conversation on healthy behavior and habits towards food and body image?
“I know firsthand what it’s like to feel your body is not ‘the right one’. I struggled with my weight throughout childhood, getting heavier and heavier every year until I hit 175 pounds at 17. The more I fixated on needing to lose weight, the more I turned to food for comfort and the bigger I got. In desperation, I tried every fad diet under the sun, hoping for a quick-fix solution. Of course, none of them worked, and the repeated failure only made me feel more powerless. I convinced myself that my body was simply not designed to be attractive or feminine, and yet I kept searching for ways to reach the ‘ideal’.
It took me a long time to realize that I was the problem, but not in the way I’d originally imagined. It’s not that there was anything wrong with me or my body; I had simply allowed—and reinforced—a completely distorted relationship with food to take hold. So many young women fall prey to the thinking that controlling food means being in control. Sadly, it is exactly the opposite: the more we fixate on food, the more we elevate its power in relation to our own. Fad diets reinforce this warped relationship between eater and eaten by creating a necessary power struggle between the foods that are off limits and the dieter who is tempted by them. Different fad diets might change up the list of friend and foe foods, but the only real unknown is: how long can you last?? When we’re fighting ourselves, we simply cannot win.
As I learned, success is only possible when we give up ‘dieting’ for good, and commit instead to a permanent healthy lifestyle. I wanted to rebalance my relationship with food so that I would always be in control. To do this, I created a healthy lifestyle plan that got rid of deprivation—ironic, I know. Sometimes, the less tightly we hold onto things, the easier they are to control. Instead, I devised simple methodologies for making smart choices (including when to indulge and how make it count), eating consciously and giving myself the freedom to create the rules as I went along. Once I stopped wasting my energy fighting with myself, I was able to devote it to losing thirty pounds permanently without ever dieting again.
I wrote about my experience in my national bestseller, The Dorm Room Diet. This book offers young women a vision of what it looks like to be empowered and to make health a priority but not an obsession. Most importantly, I want women who struggle just like I did to see that commitment to long-term health is about balance: it means having good eating habits, but it also means being flexible so you can really and fully enjoy your one, precious life. The whole point is to learn to trust ourselves. Replace the strict rules we think we need to guide us with two simple, empowering, freeing reminders: 1) be conscious, and 2) have fun. Welcome to the new, strong, beautiful you.”
Can you give us an easy go-to recipe that you find yourself returning to time and time again?
“Lentil Soup. It is my go-to for hearty comfort food, and so easy to make (a one pot wonder!). Even better, it lasts a few days in the fridge, so it’s the perfect Sunday night meal that becomes lunch for the first few days of the week. You can give it a ton of different flavor variations depending on what you like. One of my favorites right now is made with red lentils, Aleppo pepper and finely diced sweet potatoes… I want.
Creamy Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup
- 1 cup yellow onion, small dice
- ½ cup carrots, small dice
- ½ cup celery, small dice
- 1 cup sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cups red lentils
- 8 cups water (can sub 1 cup white wine)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Sauté carrots and celery in olive oil until softened, about 4 minutes. Add onions, a pinch of salt and spices and continue to sauté 3 minutes. Add bay leaf and garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add lentils, sweet potato and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and partially uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until soup is creamy and lentils and potato are cooked through. Throughout simmer, skim any foam that rises to the top and discard. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.”