Jonathan: Hey, everyone. Jonathan Bailor back. I’ve got to tell you, my face is a little bit sore right now. I know that sounds odd, but I’m already smiling excessively just pre-chatting with today’s guest on the phone. She is an individual who is just a ray of light when it comes to helping people to be inspired and just to pursue a happier, healthier life. She’s all over the media, she’s on The Chew. She’s on The Dr. Oz Show. She’s writing books, she’s written the book Relish, she’s smiling, and she’s here with us! Daphne Oz, welcome to the show!
Daphne: Thanks, Jonathan. Thank you so much!
Jonathan: Well, Daphne, let’s just start right from the get-go. You wrote a book called The Dorm Room Diet and I’m curious, because so often we hear college is this very potentially unhealthy environment. How did you combat that when you were at university?
Daphne: Well, it’s funny. I actually reached 180 lbs when I was 17. So I really saw college – and that was my junior year, I was senior of high school – and I really saw college as the beginning of my adult life, the beginning of this opportunity to experience total freedom; but with that freedom, came responsibility. For me, that responsibility was to harness my health and to get my health back on track, to be able to live my optimum life, to not feel held back or restrained by anything, let alone my own insecurity about my weight. So I vowed that college was going to be this incredibly fun, full experience. I wanted to have the late-night pizza. I wanted to go out and get beers.
I wanted to do all that stuff, but I also wanted to lose 30 lbs and the way I was able to reconcile those two desires was to develop the healthy lifestyle plan that I talk about in Dorm Room Diet, which is basically, kill the fad diet. I mean, end those now! I tried every single one of them, except Atkins, when I was in high school, and you know what? They all work for about two weeks and then as soon as you go back to eating like a normal human being, all the weight plus some comes right back. More importantly than that – for me, it really established a very unhealthy relationship with food.
I grew up with my mom being Irish-Italian and she’s a great cook and I would come home from school, we’d pick out a great recipe, we’d go food shopping together, we’d make up dinner, we’d be snacking the whole time, and then I’d sit down and eat a giant meal for dinner, and I just packed on the weight because I looked to food for love and bonding and connection with my family. Then when I was doing all the fad diets, I looked at food as this taboo item that just had so much unnecessary power and control in my life.
So when I was in college and figuring out this healthy lifestyle plan, I vowed never to go on a fad diet again because I never wanted food to be in the power position. I wanted to be in the driver’s seat and I wanted to be the one making all the calls and really figuring out, “This is going to be a smart place to indulge.” “This is going to be where calories count.”
I really think about it as indulging for a good cause. I skipped the stale, store-bought brownies – that so many of us are tempted by at the office and certainly they were all around me in the dorm – in favor of being able to totally guilt-free enjoy delicious dessert out at a beautiful restaurant with my husband or a birthday cake with my friends – whatever it is – where the calories are actually going to mean something and the experience of indulging in food like that is actually going to help me feel like I’ve experienced my life more fully as opposed to eating something because of proximity.
I think what’s neat about the way that I have come to think about health is it’s very un-black and white. I think that certainly people like me who have struggled with their weight will relate to this. We’re taught to think that either you’re healthy or you’re unhealthy; either you’re being good today or you’re being bad today. I think that what I had to break the cycle of was feeling like everything’s all one or all nothing because truthfully what I want is healthy food that still feels indulgent, it still feels decadent; because if it’s not delicious, I don’t care if it’s healthy, because I’m not going to stick with it long-term. I need things that are going to be easy, convenient, affordable, and delicious. The way that I balance that, is see if I can find an easy way to swap something into a meal or change a certain ingredient that will provide a lot more nutrition to my meal – that’s a great thing!
Certainly, there are days where I try to eat cleaner because maybe I’ve had a big week – like, I’m down in Texas this weekend and I fully intend to go out and enjoy some delicious barbecue. I went to breakfast this morning and had an awesome blackberry muffin and Migas eggs and I’m totally getting in there and indulging – which means that, on Monday and Tuesday and maybe even Wednesday, I’m going to try to eat a bit cleaner, cut out the simple carbs, steer clear of some of the white sugar, and really try to get my body back on track. That for me is a much more productive way of not only living my life, but enjoying my life – which is the whole goal.
Jonathan: Daphne, I heard two things in there that really, really resonated with me and I want to highlight. The first is, you talked about the distinction between a conscious indulgence and an unconscious indulgence. I really think that unconscious indulgence – that’s the insidious thing. My mom used to always tell me, “If you’re going to do this, make sure it’s worth it.” Right?
Daphne: Yes! Think about it. You never feel guilty if you’re out to dinner and you get this gorgeous piece of whatever your favorite dessert is. For me, if I can find a great banana pudding or a great homemade donut, something that really just sings when it’s on your plate, you don’t feel guilty about that. You have a bite or two, you feel satisfied, you enjoy that experience. You feel guilty about the stale, store-bought Entenmann’s brownies. You feel guilty about the stuff that you could have any day of the week that you indulge in totally, like you say, unconsciously, purely because it’s there or because people around you are eating it or because you don’t know how to set yourself up for success or get out of your own way or just remove the temptation. Those are the places I really see limiting my exposure to them actually was the first step because sometimes your willpower is at a low and the only way to make sure that you don’t cave to temptation is just to get out of dodge. And beyond that just to release giving yourself even just…I do this thing where I count to my age before I eat, which for me, it gives me 27 seconds to make a conscious choice of ‘this is something I want’ or ‘this is something I actually can do without’.
Jonathan: The other thing that I think is so profoundly beneficial – because this seems really, really simple but just about everyone I’ve ever worked with who does this, who just says, “I’m not going to give up indulgences, but I’m only going to indulge when it’s good stuff.” Is that good stuff generally does not have the really, really – for lack of better terms – toxic, artificial substances that cause the brain inflammation and gut bacteria mutations that we are only starting to understand. Even if you have this – you’re at a high-end restaurant, and you have this beautiful dessert that was made with eggs and cream and a high-end cocoa and not with re-formulated, re-bigulated, dedexteridrospluv [unsure spelling 07:32]. So it’s even better on that level, too. Right?
Daphne: Absolutely. Your body is so smart. When I was doing research for Dorm Room Diet and was reading on all the nutritional papers that were coming out at the time, one of the things that stuck with me was this research that was coming out about why diet soda can cause so much inflammation but, more importantly, can be so toxic, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Your body is smart. Your body knows that if it’s craving energy, if it’s craving nutrition, it knows exactly the kind of nutritional models it needs that complete its nutritional profile for the day. If you have something sweet coming into your mouth, like soda. There are no calories that are actually packed with the nutrition that your body expects to get when it has sugar coming into the body. So your body’s sitting there thinking, “Well, when is the nutrition coming? When is the nutrition coming? All these calories are coming in with no nutrition in them, but I still need to keep eating because I know I’m supposed to be getting something that’s not coming in with this soda.”
It actually tricks your brain into telling you to eat more because your body is sort of hunting for all the nutritional value that it doesn’t get in something like a diet soda and the same is true with artificial desserts versus ones that are made, like you say, with really high-quality ingredients – basic ingredients that your body understands how to metabolize and that are rich with the nutrition your body expects to get when it tastes those things. You will be satisfied with one, two, three bites of something really made from pure ingredients versus the things made from artificial ingredients where your body knows it’s strictly getting value nutrition but because most of what you’re getting is chemical or man-made or totally artificial, it tells you to keep eating because the nutrition is not coming in.
Which I think is such a fascinating way of thinking about indulging for a good cause and indulging in the right way because if you’re going to do it right, you can do it in a way that, on the one hand, I think is actually way better – you’re in such a win-win because you’re getting so much more delicious and so much more satisfying, but it’s also something your body really understands how to metabolize, how to digest, how to break it down, and what to do with it once it’s in your gut.
I watched your video and I loved what you talk about with the way that gut-brain and the way that what you eat directs the whole flow of nutrition and metabolism in your body. I think that you don’t need to sacrifice the efficiency of your body and your body’s ability to burn fat and to stay healthy and to reach its proper equilibrium weight by indulging in desserts; you just need to indulge in the right desserts.
Jonathan: It’s so critical, Daphne, and it seems obvious on the surface, but when it’s Sunday night and you’re maybe feeling a little bit anxious about the week, it seems like sometimes what seems simple and what seems common sense leaves, but what we’re talking about here – correct me if I’m wrong – is that your body is smart and the bottom line is that if you’re going to eat something, the reason you’re eating it is to be satisfied. If what you’re eating will not satisfy you – and to be very clear – there are edible products which their whole marketing play is that they won’t satisfy you. Like, ‘once you pop, you can’t stop’, ‘there is always room for X light beer’. The whole point of light beer is so that it does not satisfy you! So, all we’re saying is if you’re going to indulge with the intention of feeling satisfied, indulge using actual food that will actually satisfy you!
Daphne: A 100% percent! A 100% percent. That is why I cook with coconut oil, but I also cook with butter. I don’t cook with margarine or with some kind of processed, whipped, oil substitute that is, like you say, not going to satisfy you, not going to fill you up; it’s going to keep you feeling light throughout the day. My goal is not to feel like I’m hungry all throughout the day. I want to feel satisfied at points; not stuffed, not fit to burst and needing to lie down, but at a point where I feel really satisfied.
The thing that I think takes a little time and a little skill – but is our most basic skill and we just need to tune into it – is learning to listen to our body. Our bodies are smart. When you’re craving something – unless you’re addicted to sugar, addicted to caffeine – chances are your body actually needs something, so listen to that and listen to when it’s satisfied. Part of the issue is, we don’t pay attention to what our body eats. We eat almost around all the things that our body actually is craving, so we’re never properly satisfied. Then once we are eating, we’re eating so ravenously and we’re so out of touch with the enjoyment of the meal and the creation of that meal that we don’t actually recognize when we’re satisfied and we go so far beyond that point.
Then you realize, twenty minutes too late, that you’ve overeaten and you feel sick. What I’m so jealous of is the sort of cultures around the world where there’s a premium put on the time that we are given to our…to spend eating and there’s a premium put on having a relaxing environment around the eating experience because I think it’s that mindset of mindfulness, conscious choices, and really indulging in quality as often as you can, home-cooked food, that’s where the secret to health lies in my mind.
Jonathan: Isn’t that an exciting role to live in? What I heard you just say is, the ‘secret’ to long-term satisfaction; having a body that you’re happy with, having health that empowers you, is to truly – the key word, I think, is truly – truly enjoy food. Actually, there are two key words – ‘truly’ and ‘food’ – because it seems like what we often do is don’t really enjoy non-food.
Daphne: Right. Well, I’m a real person and I have real demands on my time and there are moments when the only option is to go and get some convenient food item – I don’t even call it proper food because a lot of the time, it’s so far processed and so far gone and so man-made/machine-injected before I even get to it that it really can’t be called actual food – but that is your life and your life will throw you curveballs and your life will get complicated and occasionally, when you haven’t either planned ahead or set yourself up for success or crowded out the bad options as they’re always the rules that I try to live by to make sure that I don’t fall into this pitfall – you are left with no other options.
My goal is to, as frequently as possible, make my eating experience around real food, around things that look like they did when they came out of the ground, around things that my body for 10,000 years has been evolving to understand how to eat. What freaks me out is that so much of our food source has so markedly changed over the last 50 years that our evolution as humans can’t keep up. I mean, not only the quantities and the quality of foods, but even the types of foods that we’re eating now is so dramatically different than the kinds of foods and the way that our ancestors ate that you can’t blame your body – and all of our bodies – for reacting the way that it does when we have information, we have responses in the body that’s not normal digestive responses. We can get allergies, we have things that are not even associated with your diet, things like constant headaches or nausea or fatigue or bloated-ness or congestion – all these things are intimately linked to the nutrition that you take into your body every day.
Someone said to me, “Every bite you take becomes part of your biochemistry.” I think when you are forced to realize that, every bite of chip that you take, every bite of hot dog that you take, every bite of something that you know is not good nutritionally for you, you know is not fuelling your body properly, it starts to weigh on you, like, “Wow! This is a choice that I have to make because this bite will become part of what my body is, essentially.” I’m not a stickler. I don’t live by strict rules. I’m totally flexible with myself because at the end of the day, I want to be happy and I don’t want to be neurotic, I don’t want to have a big struggle, I don’t want what I’m eating every moment of every day to be the only focus of my life. I have a lot of really cool, interesting things going on. But I think it’s important that at some level, we realize that how we see ourselves is how other people will see us, so build that self-confidence for yourself, build that self-love for yourself, and that’s what you’ll project. Beyond that, how we feed ourselves is how we’ll function in the rest of our lives. I think, for that reason alone, food and good eating and looking at food as the medicine of the people and the way that you can treat your health and preserve your health long-term should be our number one priority and our number one focus in terms of creating health long-term for our society.
Jonathan: Daphne, I very much appreciate that you brought up this food permeating every aspect of our life and also not living a life of neuroticism around food, but as someone who has been on both sides of the story – and what I mean there is, you described how you were very unhappy with how you felt and with your own appearance back when you were 17 and now you seem quite delighted with that and certainly now, you are taking more steps and spending more time ensuring that you are putting nutritious foods into your body. Often times, people seem to think that they can either choose to enjoy food or choose to enjoy their health and how they look, but can’t you have both? Because it seems like that’s really what we’re talking about – just put a little bit of time into it and then you will be happy at a much deeper level than the ephemeral happiness that might come if you’re not on-guard at all by what goes in your body.
Daphne: You can absolutely have both! That’s the premise of my new book, Relish. It’s called Relish an adventure in food, style, and everyday fun. What I did was address exactly that need. Which is people are trained to think – we all are – we’ve been brainwashed to think that healthy eating means bland, flavorless, deprivation, taking away all the things that we love, a joyless life. That has never been part of the way that I thought about health. What I try to do with this book was convince people and show people very manageable, easy, practical, fun tips and tricks that we can all use in our everyday lives, how to marry healthy food with decadent indulgence because that, for me, is the nexus of….
In the book, I use maple syrup, I use honey, and in very small quantities, I use even granulated sugar, I use butter, I use eggs, I use whole milk and cream, I use things like that sparingly throughout recipes mostly as a way to complete recipes, to give that mouth feel of indulgence, that sensation and experience of decadence; but I don’t base the whole recipe around them and I look for ways to bolster the nutritional content of the recipe in other ways, whether it’s making pancakes that include whole wheat flour and ground flax seed along with other items that make it feel like a regular pancake and it is totally indulgent and decadent with banana and pecans and grapes. I would make a bourbon maple syrup that goes alongside it, that I think just takes it over the top. Things like that that you would never look and say, “Oh, wow! This is a ‘healthy recipe’!” But it is a way that you can make a recipe you know, recognize, enjoy, love, indulge with quite a bit healthier for you so that you’re committing both to enjoying your life and to fuelling your body the right way.
I think the big problem is that we spend so much time cutting to do one or the other and we haven’t been able to figure out the right way to balance both and I think the best way to balance is to see what we do most of the time is what really matters. So yeah, a lot of the time, I am eating beautiful sautéed greens and big salads and lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables and complex carbohydrates; but the time that I choose to actually do just what my mouth wants, I’m not going to go sort of the low-fat, low-cal, sugarless version of the same. I’m going to go for the gold and I want it to really count for something. So that’s how I try to look at balancing my desire for health by making it a priority and not an obsession and I think that that was a huge turning point for me.
When I give talks on the subject or I talk about Relish, that is something that sticks with people because we don’t even realize it’s become this fascination, become this obsession for us, where every minute of the day, it feels like, is being dominated by this, “Oh, what am I eating for breakfast? What have I already eaten today? What have I eaten yesterday? What am I eating for dinner tonight?” We’re inundated with advertising and even, like we were talking about earlier, the idea of foods that won’t really satisfy, that frankly has been engineered to work with our biological needs, to tell us to keep eating, keep eating, keep eating. Like, one of the research items on Doritos, for instance, was talking about the way that the flavoring of the chips actually tastes better after it’s left your mouth than it did while you were chewing it, so the memory of the chip is better than it is when you’re eating it, which means you keep eating it to get to the memory, which is just….
It’s so interesting. I mean, these companies are so smart and have invested so much money in developing products that really you almost can’t resist because the product is so smart in the way that it plays to our biological needs for sugar, for salt, for fat. The idea being – get rid of those items. Don’t fall prey to items that are going to trick you into overeating. Instead, go back to the real deal and make it a priority and not an obsession.
Jonathan: Daphne, it becomes very, very interesting to be kind as we start to see more and more how ‘edible’ products are moving away from… Like, it’s always ‘calories are evil’, so let’s not have any calories and let’s have all these chemicals that cause addiction. True. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about. They cause addiction.
Daphne: Yeah, absolutely!
Jonathan: We’re talking about something that doesn’t have calories and causes an addiction. Hmm. What do we call those in other areas of life? It doesn’t have calories and it causes an addiction.
Jonathan: Or just drugs in general, right? I mean, it’s something that is causing an addiction and is not nourishing the body and then we take a step back and we say, “Oh my gosh! We’re selling these in schools. We’re advertising these to children.” How do you think we turn the tide against that because certainly that seems just insidious? That seems inexcusable. What do we do about that?
Daphne: I think the biggest, or at least the most imminent fight of our generation is going to be through transparency. It is going to be the fight, not only to make healthy living affordable and convenient for the vast majority of our population, but also to make it the obvious choice, to make it the easy choice, because what we’ve done is essentially mortgaged our health in the future by making unhealthy ‘food-like products’ – to use Michael Pollan’s language – the only choice in many places, and certainly the most attractive choice when it comes to kids, when it comes to people on the run, when it comes to what you’re sort of going to grab-and-go with.
I think what we need to commit to is understanding that we’ve been played. I mean, we really have been had by an industry that is creating foods in that lab that really understands, like what we were talking about before, our biology, our biological needs, and the ways that they can create food-like products that play to those needs, manipulate those needs, outsmart our own bodies in a way that our bodies would typically tell us we’ve had enough and these foods are tricking it into not telling us that fact or not signaling that in our brains. I think that that fight, unfortunately, has been taken to our kids at this point because they’re in vending machines on school campuses, if you look at school lunch, it’s a pathetic display of the lowest form of pandering to big business, in terms of literally tomato sauce on pizza is considered a serving of vegetable; not to mention, tomato’s a fruit. I mean, the whole thing is so warped and crazy and what I think will eventually…..
We’re already seeing it happening. People vote with their wallet three times a day and the more educated consumers we have who know that you’re either going to spend your dollar at the check-out counter at the cafeteria, supermarket, wherever, or on the operating table twenty years from now when your body is suffering the abuse of twenty years of poor eating and the more we have educated consumers who recognize that dichotomy and choose to preserve their health by making an investment in smart, healthy eating now. The less capable, but also the more incentivized big business will be to actually provide healthy food. The less capable they will be of selling unhealthy food, I should say, and the more incentivized they will be to provide affordable, accessible, healthy food once we have a large population of people demanding that.
I think the issue right now is that we have somehow made healthy eating feel like it’s an elite activity and it’s not. It’s the most democratic and egalitarian way of achieving health that we know of because frankly, it’s something we all have to do. We all eat three times a day. We all have to get food into our bodies and that should be our first sign of defense in long-term health. I think, growing up in a really medical family – I have doctors left, right, and center of me – and so I took for granted the fact that I had a lot information on hand and I had a lot of medical know-how to really bounce ideas off of and to use when I was looking to lose weight, but the biggest thing they would always say is that food is where medicine starts. What we see as the healthcare crisis and what we see as people arriving with diabetes and with heart failure and all these other sort of lifestyle-related diseases earlier and earlier and earlier on in their lives. All of that links back to our food source being one that doesn’t make it easy for people to make the healthy choice and I think that process is going to be the fight that our generation wages and hopefully wins.
Jonathan: I’m encouraged, Daphne, not only by people like you out there, fighting that on the frontlines, but also because, I think, at our very core, people often highlight America as the country that’s struggling the most with this, but America is also a country that prizes freedom. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave and what we’re talking about here, I think, is really taking back our freedom because a lot of our choices about what we’re putting into our body, in many ways, we’ve lost a little bit of freedom there.
I can’t tell you how many people have come to me and said, “Giving my child a snack of Go-Gurt and apple juice, I’m giving them a healthy snack. That is a healthy snack.” Because the way it’s presented to them and they’re busy and they don’t have a PhD in nutrition, is that this is a healthy snack. I feel like that’s almost like our freedom has been taken from us – the freedom to have informed consent. I mean, you know, you’re from a medical family, informed consent is so important, but if we’re not informed, if we just go by default, if we don’t have that freedom to make an educated choice, if our education is coming from the back of a cereal box, as my initial education was, well then, we’re not really set up for success. So I think it’s wonderful that we are doing all that we can to put the power back into the people rather than having our choices dictated by monetary and corporate interests. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Daphne: No, no, I honestly couldn’t agree with you more. I think that you’re absolutely right. It’s not a choice anymore because real people; you’re working with a limited budget, with limited time, with limited ability to run around to eight different grocery stores to find the best deals on all the different items you want to have in your family’s pantry, and the choice isn’t there anymore because your choices basically already have been made for you. If you have any kind of economic concerns, based on how much things cost, if you look around supermarkets, the really sad reality is, “Yeah, things that spent twenty hours being pre-digested by a machine and showing up to you in a neatly-wrapped little box that looks nothing like what they did when they came out of the ground costs less than a potato or an apple!
I mean, the fact that you can get a bag of chips for the same price as you can get an apple when the bag of chips has gone through so much mechanical processing and so much manual labor and so much transport and everything else that went into creating that bag and then you offer me the same amount for something that was plucked off the tree, perfectly, exactly the way it was supposed to be presented to you is mind-boggling. I think that that’s something that we can all get behind because you’re absolutely right. It’s distinctly American. It makes us powerful again.
My whole message is about ‘take power back’. Re-balance and re-calibrate the power of the ‘eater’ – you – versus the ‘eaten’ – which is your food – and I want you to be in the driver’s seat because that’s where you’re going to make the best choices, that’s where you’re going to be the one in control, that’s where you’re going to be the happiest, that’s where you’re going to feel the most productive. The best way we can do that is by, like I say, voting with your wallet three times a day. Don’t buy the processed junk when you can afford it. Don’t buy the things that incentivizes producers to keep churning it out. The only reason they do it is because they know that’s what we’re going to buy. Be the rebel that you want to be and actually choose health. Choose something that’s good for you and the more of us that do that, the more monetary that will be for big corporations to actually make that their priority – healthy food that preserves our integrity long-term.
Jonathan: Hear, hear! Hear, hear! I’m applauding. Daphne, certainly, you hit the nail on the head there and I’m sure you continue with the insight and the wisdom in your newest book, which is called Relish. Folks, check it out and obviously of course you can see Daphne on The Chew. Daphne, what’s next for you?
Daphne: Oh, gosh! Well, Relish is really much more of a lifestyle book. There are about eighty recipes and there are my all-time favorite, fail-proof, healthy-but-indulgent recipes. I took this attitude about food and about eating, which is ‘How do I balance what’s convenient, what’s affordable, what’s practical, with healthy, with what’s beautiful and delicious and fun?’ and I applied that matrix to my food first and foremost; but then to the style of my life and my wardrobe and in my home, to my relationships, my family, my friends, my husband and then to my career and my playtime; really, to establish this whole ‘fill your life with fun’ idea that I had.
That was what Relish was about. It is just maximize every moment, fill every moment with fun, enjoy this time, and really make sure that you’re using it to its full potential because what I didn’t want to keep doing was living a placeholder life, biding time, waiting for real life to kick in. I really wanted to seize this moment. I think next I’m going to do a proper cookbook, a proper ‘this is how real people eat, this is what we can actually get behind and enjoy and sort of kick back and love our food and make sure our food is loving us right back’.
Jonathan: You know, Daphne that I love the global paradigm – not just for food – which you reflect, which is ‘take in so much good’. This isn’t just for food, right? It’s for everything. ‘Take in so much good that you don’t have any room for the bad’. That’s really all we’re talking about here.
Daphne: Yeah! I love that!
Jonathan: Daphne, I’m so excited to see what you do next. Please keep spreading the good word. Folks, again, if you want to learn more about her right away, you can, at her website, which I will spell for you – because if you’re like me and you misspell Daphne every time you type it into a search engine, here’s some help for you – it’s D-A-P-H-N-Eoz.com. Daphne, thank you again for joining us. It’s absolutely been a pleasure!
Daphne: Thank you so much, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did. Please remember, this week and every week after – eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.