Make room in your purse, murse or briefcase; you’re going to want this with you at all times. Judy Weitzman’s “How to Eat When Life Gets in the Way” is the perfect quick-reference guide to life’s everyday food challenges.
Before you hit the Back button to find a story suggesting you do something other than read another tedious healthy-eating book, hear me out: It’s only 106 pages, paperback and light — ideal for throwing in a bag to have on the go. And it’s not meant to be read front to back, necessarily; Weitzman, also known as “Diet Judy,” suggests keeping it next to your Zagat book so you can read one or two of the restaurant-relevant pages before going out to dinner.
The first half of “How to Eat” breaks down what to eat and what to avoid at restaurants, no matter what your fave cuisine. It covers everything from Italian to sushi, Chinese, Mexican and fast food. You might be thinking, "wait, didn’t ‘Eat This, Not That’ already do that?” But this is a totally different and much more applicable concept.
Instead of listing specific dishes at restaurant chains X, Y and Z, “How to Eat” provides you with tips that could apply to any restaurant on the planet. For example, Weitzman suggests eating your food in calorie order: low-calorie foods like vegetables first, grains second and protein last. Stay away from tempting but caloric margaritas at Mexican restaurants. Use chopsticks at Chinese and Japanese restaurants since people tend to eat more slowly this way. Whether it’s an Olive Garden or a local independent hole in the wall, these tips will help you eschew the excess calories — and the guilt that comes with them.
Important disclaimer: This is no diet book.
You could be 25 and thin or 65 and wanting to shed some pounds; “How to Eat” is about making sensible eating decisions to promote a healthy lifestyle. It could help you drop pant sizes, or it could help you maintain your current weight. This is not a guide to torturing yourself, like Atkins or South Beach. There’s no eliminating food groups. In fact, Weitzman says she doesn’t believe there are foods you can’t have. “I think chocolate and wine are major food groups, and you should have them in your life,” Weitzman says. “You just have to eat in moderation.”
And that’s what the second half of the book is about: how to exercise portion control and avoid overeating or mindless eating — whether you’re traveling, wondering if you should eat popcorn at the movies, entertaining guests or celebrating a holiday. And Weitzman doesn’t discriminate; she made sure anyone could benefit from the book, no matter what the reader’s age, religion, weight or interests. "How to Eat" provides self-control tips for temptations that arise from Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Passover, Halloween, birthdays or sporting events, and just everyday life. “Life always gets in the way,” Weitzman says. “No matter what you’re doing, there’s always going to be something that’s going to trip you up when it comes to food or drink.”
I actually started making some changes to my own food regimen after my interview with Weitzman. Instead of keeping vegetables in the veggie drawer — a fridge feature she described as “so dumb” — I now keep the junk in that bottom drawer and place the healthy foods on the higher shelves in plain view. As Weitzman says, “You’ll always find the junk, but you never look for the other stuff."
Some of Weitzman’s other strokes of genius include:
1) Allow one to two hours when you return from a grocery trip to prep for the week. Cut up all your veggies. Create your own salad bar. Have them in clear containers ON THE SHELF so when you open the fridge, those are the first things you see. If you’re going on a trip or just heading off to work in the morning, you can put those veggies in baggies and toss them in your bag so you can have healthy snacks with you at all times — an important way Weitzman avoids the convenient, less healthy solutions (e.g., those damn peanut butter cups in the vending machine) during the day.
Weitzman even cooks up caramelized onions, one of her favorite meal additions, in the beginning of the week because “you’re not going to stand there for 15 or 20 minutes making them when you come home from work exhausted.” Stick them in the fridge, and when you want them, you can throw them on a wrap, on a sandwich or in a salad, or add them to a meat or fish dish.
2) My favorite of Weitzman’s ideas: hummus deviled eggs! She recommends making the hard-boiled eggs in the beginning of the week when you’re prepping everything else. When you want one, take it out of the fridge, slice it in half, pitch the yolk and fill the inside with about 1 tablespoon of hummus. It has the texture of a deviled egg but without the calories of the yolk or mayo/mustard mix. At only 42 to 52 calories, depending on what hummus you use, it’s the perfect snack — or do what Weitzman does and have one before going out to dinner so you don’t overindulge.
3) Enjoy your chocolate. Weitzman says she teaches her clients how to eat chocolate: Break it into little pieces. She recommends Green & Black’s chocolate that you can find at Whole Foods and other markets. This chocolate is already separated into little squares of about 20 calories each. Break off three and break those in half, and you’re left with six tiny pieces. Put ONE piece in your mouth, and resist the urge to bite it or chew it. Just suck on the chocolate until it dissipates. “The beauty of it is you really enjoy the flavor and the texture,” Weitzman says. “And the cool thing is, you turn around, and there’s still five more pieces. I still get surprised.”
Weitzman has been working in the weight-loss industry for 30 years. Six years ago, she founded Chicago-based Diet Coach Judy LLC, where she helps numerous clients lose and maintain a healthy weight through behavior modification. For more info on her and her book, and to buy the book, visit DietCoachJudy.com.