You go to bed hungry like a punished child. You wake up starving because you denied yourself last night’s TV snack. You start clock-watching at 4 p.m., hanging on until dinner with a hammering headache and growling stomach.
But it’s worth it because you’ve got to feel ravenous to lose weight, right?
Not so, says Audrey Johns, cookbook author and weight-loss guru. She found that starving simply didn’t work. So, she decided to eat her way to a better figure by cooking healthful yet craveable foods. She’s lost over 100 pounds and kept them off for nearly a decade.
Johns has appeared on “The Rachael Ray Show,” the “Today” show, “700 Club,” “The Taste,” and HarperCollins has recently released her latest cookbook: “Lose Weight By Eating: Easy Dinners.” It tells readers that dinner is the most important meal of the day and also the time when dieters are most likely to completely blow it.
In these days when many of us are preparing most of our meals at home and still gaining weight, we decided to chat with her and glean some cooking and dieting tips. Here’s her take on why cutting calories to the bone doesn’t work and how it’s a lot more fun to eat your way to a thinner you.
Q: Recap your story a bit for readers who haven’t gotten a chance to know you. You were starving and not losing weight?
A: I had tried pretty much every diet out there and nothing ever seemed to work for me. At my breaking point, I was having like two Lean Cuisines a day and seven diet sodas. And I was surviving only on that. I wasn’t even having a thousand calories a day and I was actually gaining weight. (This was back before Lean Cuisine changed everything and was all preservative-laced.) I was basically filling my body with preservatives and fake sugars and it was having quite the adverse reaction. Not only was I having weight gain, but I was having horrible migraines and all kinds of other health issues.
Q: What made you change your diet?
A: I actually came across clean eating, and this was way before clean eating was a thing. I read some articles on it and I thought I’m going to give up Diet Coke just one week and see what happens. I switched over to water and a whole lot of coffee.
Q: Yeah, because otherwise, caffeine withdrawal headaches. Did it work?
A: That very first week I lost 10 pounds just from giving up diet sodas. Oh my God. So, I’m like, OK, this is something.
Q: Then what?
A: It turned out that one little change in my diet changed my whole life. I started removing all of the preservatives, going for healthier options, and it just became easy.
Q: What was the turning point?
A: My daughter was getting close to age 2 and I realized, this is how she’s going to remember me. She’s going to remember me at 295 pounds which for me is unhealthy. I’m not being a good example to her and I wanted to change that so that she would never remember me as the heavy Audrey. I wanted her to always see me as self loving, and doing good self care. And so I really changed it all for her. I mean, all of this has been for Sophia really when it comes down to it.
Q: What’s your approach now?
A: I still eat real foods. I just stay away from the preservatives and the fake sugars and the weight has been off for almost 10 years now.
Q: I like when you say eat to satisfy your cravings, because a lot of us have lived through a million diet plans that say shove those cravings way down inside. Forget about them! Distract yourself from them! Don’t listen to that inner voice!
A: I’m really into health and nutrition obviously, but I also love my food and I don’t want to have cardboard pizza. I want to have something delicious. I want to make food that’s low in calories and nutritious, that tastes as good as the full-fat version. And if it doesn’t, then I just recommend that people have their onion rings once a month, you know, the unhealthy version as a sometimes treat.
Q: Can you explain how the recipes work?
A: I try to pack them full of metabolism-boosting vegetables, metabolism-boosting proteins, metabolism-boosting fruits, all of that. I try to shove as many fat-burning ingredients into a recipe as I can so that the recipe actually does the work for you.
Q: Give us an example.
A: So for instance, with my Pad Thai recipe, I added in bell peppers. I added in extra onions. I added in chicken which is a great metabolism booster. I try to beef up — beef might not be the right word — but I sort of beef up these recipes with vegetables that will help boost metabolism so that you can have Pad Thai and lose weight or you can have mac and cheese and lose weight. That’s the whole philosophy because I love food.
Q: What else is in the book?
A: The Chicken Curry Soup is the most addictive recipe I’ve ever made. My daughter craves it, she begs for it.
Q: I like the title of that chapter “Kid Favorite Meals Adults Will Love.”
A. So many parents are having to educate their children right now, let’s take that opportunity to teach our kids how to cook. In the children’s chapter I give a guide for each age group and how to start teaching them once they are interested.
Q: This cookbook has date-night fancy recipes for mom and dad and family style dinners. So anyone can get a meal on the table fast.
A: We had to come up with some guidelines, like what makes it easy. So that’s in the introduction on page one. And we made sure that out of the four easy guidelines, every single recipe had to fall into two of them. And that was cooking in under 30 minutes, prepping in under five minutes, five ingredients or fewer, and then for crockpots just dump everything in and walk away.
Q: I loved that line. You use the air fryer for “fried chicken” sandwiches and the Instant Pot for a classic Beef Bourguignon, but you don’t have to buy. You give two sets of instructions for Instant Pot or crockpot; air fryer or oven.
A: When I sat down with this book, I thought, what if somebody doesn’t have an air fryer or if somebody doesn’t have an Instant Pot, I want to make sure that every single recipe in this book is accessible.
Q: So it’s time to stop torturing ourselves with calorie counting and complicated spa cuisine recipes. Any last words of encouragement?
A: Eat the foods that make you feel healthy and the weight loss will naturally happen.
FYI: To try out some of the recipes in Audrey Johns’ new book, as well as others, visit her website at Loseweightbyeating.com.
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