Q&A with Joy Bauer on her new weight-loss cookbook
If you watch NBC’s “Today” on weekday mornings, you’re probably familiar with Joy Bauer. She’s the show’s diet and nutrition expert, and for the past four years, she has introduced viewers to inspiring people who have lost incredible amounts of weight, anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds, on a regular segment known as the Joy Fit Club.
There is much to be learned from members of the Joy Fit Club, and Bauer profiles 30 of them, including Lexi Majors, a 25-year-old who dropped 122 pounds, and 43-year-old Anita Mills, who lost 242 pounds, in her new book “The Joy Fit Club: Cookbook, Diet Plan & Inspiration” (Wiley, $17.95). As the title implies, the book is also full of recipes for healthy dishes.
We recently interviewed Bauer, a registered dietitian, to find out more about her book and get some diet and exercise tips.
Q: There are so many people who want to lose weight. Is there a particular segment of the population that this book is for, or will people of all sizes, no matter how much weight they want to lose, find it valuable?
A: This book is for everyone! The strategies and diet plan in this book can help you lose weight efficiently and effectively, whether you have five pounds to lose or hundreds of pounds to lose, like the members featured in the book.
Q: Why are so many of us overweight to some degree?
A: There’s no simple answer to that question. There are a lot of factors at play. For one, we are living in a toxic environment where food is everywhere. And the food that we’re eating is high in calories, fat, sugar and salt: all the wrong things. On top of that, we are more sedentary than ever before, not getting enough physical activity. And in some cases, genetics are working against us, too. These are all contributors and help explain why today two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.
Q: Many people want to lose weight so that they will look better or be able to wear certain clothes. Do you think people are cognizant of the health effects of slimming down? And what kind of health transformations have you seen among the members of the Joy Fit Club?
A: Of course you’ll look and feel better, but that’s really just the beginning. Losing weight can help increase your energy and mood, and it also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes, improves sleep quality, alleviates arthritis aches and pains.
Members of the Joy Fit Club have gone from taking five, six or more different pills a day to being completely medication-free. They’ve gone from having sky-high blood pressure to healthy, normal blood pressure. They’ve lowered their cholesterol by 100 or more points. They’ve reduced knee pain and turned around their depression, and they’ve added years to their life.
Q: How important is it for people who want to lose weight to have a hand in preparing their own food as opposed to eating out at restaurants all the time or relying on frozen food?
A: You can still lose weight if you eat out a lot, provided you make the right choices. I always say that it’s about what you eat not where you eat. That said, by making most of your meals at home, you control what goes into your food and what stays out. They’re low in calories, sugar and bad fats and provide the right mix of protein, fiber, high-quality carbs and heart-healthy fats to help you feel satisfied and full. And they’re easy to prepare and completely delicious. You’re not sacrificing anything.
Q: What do you say to the person who says, “Oh, but I don’t know how to cook, or I don’t have time to cook?”
A: I totally get it. We’re all dealing with hectic, overbooked schedules, juggling a million balls and totally exhausted by the end of the workday, and none of us have time to prepare gourmet, three-course meals every day. That’s not realistic, and you’ll never be able to make that stick. So I made sure the recipes and meals laid out in this book are easy to shop for and cook and don’t require a lot of prep. So you can throw them together any day of the week, and once you’ve tried the plan and decided which meals are your favorite and the easiest for you to prepare, you can repeat them as often as you like.
Q: Do you have to give up dessert to lose weight?
A: Definitely not! I like to allow people one splurge meal per week when you can enjoy a dessert or any other special foods you enjoy. I even provide some “slim-style” dessert recipes in the book, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth without derailing your diet.
Q: Can you lose weight by simply eating healthier, or do you also have to exercise?
A: If you are really tight with your food intake and follow the plan carefully, you don’t have to exercise to lose weight. But I definitely recommend fitting in some form of physical activity most days of the week if you’re physically able and can make the time. Exercise helps you burn calories, boosts your mood and confidence and puts you in a positive mindset. Walking is my preferred form of exercise. It’s free, you can do it almost anywhere, it doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s easy on the joints. It’s really the perfect form of exercise.