Beth Aldrich's Real Moms' Strategy: Love Food & Lose Weight!

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Is it possible to eat the food you like while still making healthy choices? Beth Aldrich of Real Moms Love To Eat believes it’s not only possible, but can become a way of life! Her new book on the subject, officially released today, presents her upbeat and sane approach to recalibrating your food intake, even if you’re juggling a busy, on-the-go life.

Beth Aldrich and her son

Thanks to Beth, I’ve actually made and drunk my first two green smoothies of my life—one yesterday, and one this morning while working on this post. I’m not a Mom, but the strategies she lays out in the book make a lot of sense to me, and I’m giving them a try! I had a chance to interview Beth over the holidays to learn more about the book and her approach.

Genie: I think my favorite thing about the book is how the focus is on *adding* food and behaviors that are healthy, rather than (for the most part) eliminating anything from what one eats. Why do you think this approach is so effective?

Beth: I’ve discovered my busy mom clients do so much during the day that when you start giving them a list of "nos," it's not as effective as saying, "What do you like? In fact, what do you love?" Then, you get their attention. They have a personal interest vested in the "plan" that you want them to follow—a plan that gradually (and that’s a key word) introduces healthier aspects and slowly weans them off the not-so-good stuff.

If someone were to tell me that I had to eat one ounce of quality chocolate everyday, I'd say, "Where do I sign up?" It's all about balance. If we can find that fine line between pleasure and healthy eating, then we not only have a growing population of happier moms, but we end up with moms who begin to understand that it IS OK to enjoy food AND look and feel fantastic. They will experience no more guilt, which can sometimes lead to frustration and overeating.

You mention a Real Mom's Notebook for the lists that you recommend each reader make. What else goes in your notebook? How does it help you stay on track?

I love my notebook. I won't show it to you, because it's mine—and all Real Moms should guard theirs too. If Real Moms treat their Real Moms Love To Eat (RMLTE) notebook with love and respect and really use it, it will shed some light on interesting discoveries about their love affair with food. When I eat a light breakfast and skimpy lunch AND crave everything in the kitchen at 3 pm, I can see why. When I eat a carb-filled breakfast, skip lunch and try to coast through to dinner, I see why. When we put pen to paper and jot down our food choices and reasons why, we start to unlock the secrets to our eating patterns. I even have clients jot down their mints and gum because chances are, they're getting a shot of sugar, which leads them to eat less at lunch and POW, extra gravy at dinnertime.

I even write down recipes in my RMLTE journal. When I find something good, I jot it down in the journal and then I can reference it later and even share it on my blog.

It's become my little support system, too. When I'm disappointed in how my restaurant meal looks (I mention this in the book-how my husband hates when I complain at restaurants), I simply write in my notebook and then remember NEVER to order that again. Recently, my son ordered something at one of our favorite restaurants and when he didn't eat it, I reminded him that he didn't like it the last time we were there, too. If he had his notebook, I bet that wouldn't have happened.

I even jot down my exercises and feelings or frustrations. Holistic Health is much more than food; it's relationship health, spiritual support, career or vocational balance and exercise. As a Certified Health Counselor, I use all those elements to season my client work. When someone is not happy in a relationship or a job choice, it often shows up on the dinner plate, and in this case, hopefully in our journal so we can discuss it and remedy it with life changes.

What was the most fun part of getting to write this book? What did you enjoy most about working on it?

I've loved working with busy moms as clients, trying to crack the code of what works and what doesn’t. What I've discovered is everyone really IS different, and advice and support has to come in all shapes and sizes. That was the basis for this book—the best research one could ever have. We're all similar in some ways, but our likes and dislikes are vastly different. This book really helps moms pinpoint what works for them.

That's why the journal is such a useful tool, because together, every Real Mom who reads this book will be working with me to "write" her own personal "diet" or healthy eating plan. How cool is that? It's amazing all of the different ways Real Moms can live healthily.

I also LOVED working with my co-author, Eve Adamson. She is a true gem. She has had such success with her writing and has worked with such amazing people that every day interacting with her was a gift. She taught me so much about myself and gave my confidence such a boost with her feedback and advice. The two of us are foodies, Real Moms and women who care about helping others find their "rhythm" for eating—a dynamic duo, for sure.

You primarily concentrated on eating (and drinking water!) and nutrition in the book. You do touch on exercise briefly along the way, but did you consider including any more focus on exercise as you were pulling together the book?

I LOVE to exercise! I've qualified and run the Boston Marathon and now I swim all the time and I highly recommend it to everyone; but given my degree of expertise and certification, I felt that a book dealing with our love of food was the first piece to the puzzle. You can run 100 miles a week and still feel crummy or not lose a pound if you're eating the wrong things. By slowly discerning what is right for YOU, you begin to get in sync with how your body responds to everything—from food, to exercise, relationships and even your vocation or career. When you eat right, you'll soon discover that you have more energy, you don't overeat (because you feel satisfied with what you're eating) and food is a pleasure. The exercise piece is definitely something we're considering for an upcoming book, however.

Do you adjust the recipes in the book at all to meet your kids' taste preferences, or are they enthusiastic eaters of most everything you put on the table?

HA! A girl can dream, can't she?! My sons have tried literally everything that I’ve prepared and some they like, others they don't—and that's OK. That's what I love about this approach: it's forgiving and flexible. The 100 pages of recipes in part three of the book are meal suggestions, not requirements.

In the beginning of the book, I have a section where I ask you to list your 10 most favorite foods and then 10 foods you just can't stand. I ask you to do this because I want you to have a clear picture in your mind of what you really love about food. I, for one, can't stand mushrooms. Sure, the little button ones are so cute and chubby sitting there on the plate, but let's face it, if I were to eat one, I can't guarantee the outcome! Ever since I was a little girl, I couldn't stand them. Maybe a childhood (bad) memory...I'm not sure. All I know is if there's an eating plan that requires mushrooms, I'm out!

With the five weekly assignments that I recommend in my book, readers can start to build a personalized (or what us Holistic Health Counselors call bioindividual) plan where they begin to look at food in a whole different way. The smell and sound of bacon sizzling in the pan will never be quite the same, when you translate your earlier childhood memories to Sunday breakfast that "Dad would always make..." It's all about preferences, and my son's preferences are much different than mine. I try to cook what they like, but I also like to stretch their palate and offer new tastes and flavors once in a while.

The only time I noticed a direct reference to alcohol was when you were talking about ordering a margarita when you go out for Mexican food. What role do you see alcohol consumption playing in a Real Mom's nutritional strategy?

Well, I'm not a huge drinker, by choice (the next morning is never really that great after drinking), but my husband and I do love a good red wine on occasion. We spent our honeymoon in the California wine country, and I must say, there's nothing like experiencing wine at the wineries. Real Moms are busy—they have to balance the plates on their nose while folding laundry, making doctor's appointments and running the household, so I'm not sure when or where, exactly, they'd have time to lap it up on a regular basis. However, Mom's Night Out or date night with hubby seems like an appropriate place to enjoy a cocktail. Either way, no judgement here.

I added that element because I've had clients in the past that were concerned that I'd restrict all alcohol from their week and that's just not the case. Like a piece of chocolate cake, moderation is the key. You wouldn't eat an entire cake, nor would you drink an entire bottle of wine; and I'm sure cake is not on the daily menu, either. There is plenty of research that suggests red wine helps boost your brain capacity and helps lower cholesterol and that it contains the antioxidant, reservatrol, however there are plenty of food sources that can do the same thing, so I don't suggest that clients go out and tie one one every night. What I do suggest is that an occasional glass of red wine is just fine.

Your voice throughout the book is so upbeat and encouraging. That said, I'm certain you must have days when you struggle with eating exactly as you want and need to. What are your coping strategies when that happens?

Great question (as I nibble on a cookie)! It took me a couple of pregnancies to let go of some of my vanity, but proudly, with baby number three, I finally said, "You know, for going through three births, many sleepless, vomit-filled nights and various tantrums, spilt milk, crumbs in the couch, and stains on every beautiful blouse I own, I look darn good!"

Sure, I've had my share of mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets like the next mom, but what I've discovered is if you finally decide that you just aren't going to eat that junk anymore, you won't. No book in the world is going to permanently make you give up snacks forever. Sure, you'll stick with it for the designated three or so weeks, to lose the weight you think you need to lose, only to find yourself gorging on a Snicker's Bar in the parking lot of the grocery store the day after the diet out of sheer starvation (I know this from personal experience).

Here are a couple of strategies that I use to cope with my I-ate-that-cookie-then-some-chips-and-a-scoop-of-ice-cream kind of days. First (I kid you not), I pull out my Vitamix and whip up a green smoothie. Nothing says, "Real Mom Feels Better" than some kale, frozen banana, frozen berries and some water (and a drop or two of Stevia sweetener) blended beyond recognition to a liquified sweet-fruity taste. I get an instant boost of energy and skip in my step.

I also take some time and quietly think about it. Would I really feel that much better about myself if I were 10 to 15 pounds lighter? Would it make me a better person? Would I be happier? Probably not. So a few people comment, "Oh, you look so good" or "What have you been doing, have you lost weight?" Does everyone else's approval really make your day? Ok, maybe temporarily, but in the long run, you have to FEEL good, and by default you WILL look good. Gradual changes that are naturally good for you will get you to where you want and need to be. You may not be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but you will look good in the body you are meant to have. When Real Moms accept who they are AND eat right, they will become the size and shape they were always meant to have (or just realize they're already there).

Lastly, if you look at a day full of pigging out as just one day, it's easier to say, "OK, get back up on that horse and try again." Life is a long time and there are plenty of do-overs allowed. It's after many failed attempts that some Real Moms think there's no hope. There's always hope. There's always today. That's why the Real Moms plan works. It's forgiving and supportive. It helps moms help themselves, and still enjoy dinner at the table with their family.

In the book, you mention how much you love getting popcorn at the movies. I, too, have a ridiculous weakness for movie theater popcorn, even though I know it's absolutely devoid of nutritional value. I love your strategy of eating something with real butter and salt before you go to the movies—I'm going to give that one a try, for sure—but do you have any additional suggestions for avoiding the popcorn siren song for someone like me who doesn't like candy?

SO glad you asked that because we're going to the movies tonight! I MAY just have a couple bites. Here's my take: First, try bringing salted nuts. They fit nicely into your purse and no one's the wiser (unless they read this article!).

I also try to eat beforehand. Last week, I was clear that I was GOING to have popcorn at the movies and sure enough, one side salad with dinner sealed the deal—I was totally full and walked away (with my empty hands in the air), with no popcorn in sight. The aroma was killing me, but I just kept visualizing myself rolling around in bed later that night, holding my stomach, and the urges passed!

My third tip is to get a kiddie-sized bag of popcorn and just use a little bit of topping, because every Real Mom knows that the stuff tastes terrible without SOME fake butter. It has to be a choice. If you dedicate yourself to looking and feeling better, you'll stick to a healthy eating plan with only a few treats a week, however just think how special those treats will be. They're not a treat when you have them every day, right? Hope that helps!

Beth Aldrich starts her tour in support of Real Moms Love to Eat with an appearance at the BookMark Shoppe in Brooklyn tonight at 7 pm. Visit her tour page for information on all her stops across the country—she’d love to connect with her readers along the way! You can also find Beth at her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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