Between celebs who shill for diet pills, rumors of miraculous weight loss aided by hormone injections and various “proven” supplements, and gimmicky workouts, it can be hard to parse out exactly what is true, and what is not. But here’s what, according to author Kathy Freston (and common knowledge) is always true: you kind of can’t go wrong with a healthy diet, and mindful eating habits. That’s the basis of Freston’s latest book, The Lean: A Revolutionary (And Simple) 30-Day Plan For Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss–which sounds a bit like a “diet book” but is actually, it turns out, basically just a book of good advice and awesome vegan recipes.
Freston, who is also the author of books like Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World, is super-busy–not only does she have a new book out, she is so pragmatic and honest that she is basically always on every important talk show in the country–but she did take some time out of her crazy schedule to answer some questions I had about the book, about being “vegan-ish,” and about how health–not diets, not fads, and not starvation–really is at the root of feeling and looking great.
I’ve just finished The Lean, which seems more like a book of sound advice (drink water, eat nuts and apples, clear out your cupboards) than what many women may traditionally think of as a “diet.” Do you find that it’s easier for women to digest and incorporate tips like these, rather than trying, say, a rigid diet plan?
When I think of the word diet, I think of white-knuckle discipline, where you force yourself to eat super plain food that you don’t like, and you go to bed hungry. And it usually lasts only a few months at the most, and then you cave and go back to your favorite foods (which make you gain weight). I don’t like diets, because they are no fun, and they’re not sustainable (and many of them are really unhealthy for you, like the high protein, low carb ones). But when you take the pressure off yourself and simply leeeeeean into little changes, and introduce all sorts of delicious, fiber rich food, it’s not that hard. You feel fulfilled that way; you are getting all kinds of hearty and satisfying food, so you don’t feel lacking. You find your way, without all the hardship and rules. And you get to enjoy all your favorites – like burgers and burritos – but just healthier versions of them. Life is to be enjoyed after all, and I believe we should all celebrate our food traditions with friends and family, but just upgrade them a little.
How were you able to pick out just 30 or so healthy steps toward a better life? Were there other steps that you’d wished you could add to the book?
Actually, the 30 steps are what I have found to be the exact right mix: there are little tweaks you make to your daily eating, and then gradually you move to a few bigger ones. But you don’t get to the bigger ones until you’re ready; that way, the shift isn’t difficult. You are ready for it. And also, within the 30 steps are some emotional exercises that profoundly change the way you think and act. After all, eating is not just about physiological chemistry; it also has a lot to do with our psychology. We address all of that stuff in The Lean.