Suzanne Somers - Get Skinny On Fabulous Foods
Suzanne Somers, actress, Las Vegas entertainer, entrepreneur, nutrition guru, has starred in three hit television programs: Three’s Company, Step by Step and Candid Camera. She is the author of six books, her latest, Get Skinny On Fabulous Foods (Crown Publisher $33.50) is now on the New York best seller list. Somers is also responsible for the wildly successful Thighmaster fitness product, selling over ten million around the world. Other entrepreneurial endeavors include her own line of jewelry, loungewear, video and audio tapes, and Face Master of Beverly Hills, a computerized facial fitness system, which she sells on the Home Shopping Network. Raised in a family with an alcoholic parent, Somer’s personal journey and growth is documented in two of her books, Keeping Secrets and Wednesday’s Children. She lectures on substance abuse for the Suzanne Somers Institute for the Effects of Addiction on Families.
MM: Describe your own personal dieting struggle that led you to create your own nutrition program called “Somersizing”.
SS: I was born with a perfect metabolism, as so many of us are. Yet at age 40, my metabolism betrayed me and I put on 20 lbs. On my small frame, 20 lbs. looked like 50 lbs. It was a crisis for me because I’m in the fitness business. You can’t deliver the message without living the message yourself. I would diet and lose the weight, go back to normal eating and put the weight on again. I was on a roller coaster. In the meantime, my husband and I had been going to France every year for the past 17 summers. I looked at all these skinny little French people, who are my friends, and I would think, “We’re the same age, what are you eating?” They would always have a chicken, meat or fish entrée and some beautiful butter or mushroom sauce or wine reduction with their vegetables that were tossed in some other kind of yummy sauce. They would have cheese, a glass of wine, a little chocolate, and I thought I would like to eat like that. I recognized what they were doing on a subliminal level was the principal of food combining.
MM: What is food combining?
SS: Food combining has been around since the 1800’s, and I adapted it to my eating in the 1990’s. I started losing weight like crazy. It took me two months, but all of a sudden, it was like a whole me had melted off and I had my old figure back, but actually better. There was no fat left anywhere, yet it fell off evenly all over, so I didn’t get that gaunt type of look that people who lose weight too fast have. A lot of people kept asking me, “How do you eat so much and stay so thin?” So I started writing out my nutrition principles and handing out copies. It became clear to me that I should write a book because the people around me, who I was putting on the same program, were losing weight, so I called it “Somersizing.” I talked to over a hundred nutritionists and they all said that nobody can really scientifically back up why food combining works, but it does. The theory is that a protein, which is meat, chicken or fish digests at a different rate of speed than a carbohydrate. When you put a protein with a carbohydrate, it creates a halt in your digestion, so the body holds onto the food. You get tired; you lose the energy. You feel bloated. What’s happening is the combustion from protein and carbohydrate trying to digest together, which they really don’t want to do. So all you have to do with my theory is go to any restaurant or at any meal that you make for yourself, just decide what you want, a protein meal or a carbohydrate meal and then choose accordingly.
MM: With North America besieged with the “fear of fat,” why do you believe eating fat is important?
SS: That’s the new, exciting, thrilling information. Fat is your friend, sugar is the enemy. The foreword in my book is written by renowned endocrinologist, Dr. Diana Schwarzbein. She explains that we are made up of cells as human beings. Our cells need protein, fat and carbohydrate to reproduce themselves. Without one or more of these nutrients our body, being the incredible machine it is, will continue to reproduce healthy cells up to a point. Much like a car needs gas and oil, a car will run on low oil, it will even run for a while on no oil and then eventually it will just croak. The same thing happens with our cell reproduction.
MM: How much fat can you eat when you “Somersize”?
SS: You cannot over eat fat when you’re eating this way. You don’t have to count fat grams, or calories or portion control. This is the part that makes people skeptical, yet there are over a million people Somersizing and we all can’t be wrong. If I put a chocolate cake in front of you, you would be able to eat that whole chocolate cake. You might feel sick after, but you would be able to physically do it because there’s no food in that chocolate cake. Your body is always trying to gather nutrients for healthy cell reproduction, so your body takes a bite of the chocolate cake and says, give me more because I didn’t get what I wanted. However, if I put a whole bowl of butter or olive oil or sour cream in front of you, you wouldn’t be able to finish it. You think it’s because it’s too rich, but really what happens is an internal trigger that says, “Okay I got what I need for healthy cell reproduction, I don’t need anymore”. So you can have Roquefort on your salad, you can have sauces on your meat; you can have cheese, if you don’t have a dairy intolerance. It’s a most incredible way to eat. You can have fat with meat, chicken, fish and vegetables, when you’re not adding the carbohydrates. Your body takes and extracts what it needs for healthy cell reproduction and flushes the rest through. So what you’re doing with Somersizing is retraining your metabolism to work at its optimum.
MM: How do you do that?
SS: Here is the key. Our cells store fuel in the form of the carbohydrates and sugars we eat. When your cells are loaded with all the fuel they can handle and if you stand naked in front of the mirror, whether you are thin or heavy and you are thick through the middle that means you have an elevated insulin level. Your cells are chock full of all the sugar it can hold in the form of fuel. From this moment on, any sugar that you add to your system will be manufactured into fat and stored in the fat cells and the liver will take the excess and manufacture it into cholesterol.
MM: So what can you do?
SS: Cut out sugar. For Somersizing purposes, what I’m trying to do is empty all these cells of the stored sugar. The way you’ll know it’s working is when you finally stand naked in front of the mirror; you’ll see your waistline again. Now your cells are empty. Here’s the fun part of this and why you can do this for the rest of your life. Now you start adding the sugars that you miss the most. I miss a glass of wine or two every week. I miss one or two sinful desserts, and that’s where I cheat. Some people say that what they crave is the bread. So you cheat and your body will tell you when you’re overdoing it because your pants are tight again and that means my cells are loaded up again. So it’s a constant process of eating and cheating. When you’re on the weight loss phase, you’re eating bacon and eggs, you’re eating steak and lots and lots of vegetables, but instead of no sauce, you can toss them in butter or toss them in olive oil and garlic.
MM: You’re saying eggs and sausages are a healthy breakfast, where conventional wisdom tells us, that’s a quick route to heart disease.
SS: I’m saying that the low-fat, high-carb diet which came out about a decade and a half ago was based on one lone short-term study. The media jumped on it. On the average, North Americans are 8 lbs. overweight. People who gave up red meat, fat, went on a low fat, high-carb diet gained an average of 8 lbs. eating pasta, because what they’re eating is sugar. What I’m saying am, eat meat, chicken, and fish. Eat lots of vegetables, but make them flavorful. Do wine sauces; do butter sauces because you won’t over eat the butter, the sauce or the olive oil. Your body extracts the nutrients it needs from the fats and flushes through the rest. For me, it washed away cellulite.
MM: Why do so many people suffer with the “yo-yo” effect of dieting?
SS: Dissect the word. Die-et. Diets don’t work. Diets put you on a rigid regimen of deprivation. All diets are deprivation. You do it, you labor through it, and you torture yourself. You lose the weight, you lose it too fast and you get that gaunt look, then at the end of the diet you reward yourself by going back to normal food and gain the weight back, plus a little more. The reason is the theory behind how concentration camp survivors survived. If you only give your body a small morsel of food everyday, the body would say, if it could talk, “If that’s all you’re going to give me, Okay, I’ll readjust my metabolism and I’ll start eating off my fat reserves here” A body can exist for a long time on little food because you can eat off your own fat reserves, but when you go back to eating normally, your body, if it could talk, says, “Wait a minute, I’ve already readjusted, I can live on much less food, I’ve slowed down the metabolism, so you know what I’ll do for you, I’ll store it for you,” on women in the reproductive area which is the hips, stomach, thighs and butt and for men, in the gut. And that is where that beer belly comes from, because beer is all sugar. According to Dr. Schwarzbein and several other recent studies, the theory was that it was fat that manufactured cholesterol. What they have found now in the new physiology is that it is the sugar manufacturing cholesterol. When you ingest sugar the pancreas secretes insulin. If your cells are full at elevated insulin level the body manufactures that sugar into fat and the liver takes that excess and manufactures it into cholesterol.
MM: Any tips for grocery shopping and eating out?
SS: When you go shopping, don’t go in the center of the store, shop on the perimeters, where you find the meat, dairy, fresh produce, fruit and vegetables. If most everything you buy is from the periphery of the supermarket, you are pretty much eating the right way. When you go to any restaurant, look down the menu and make the choice. Do I want a protein meal or do I want a carbohydrate meal and then order accordingly. When I’m in a restaurant, I generally choose protein, fat and vegetables, because there is rarely a whole-wheat carbohydrate entrée. Rarely do they serve whole wheat pasta. I don’t like to eat pasta or any carbohydrates for dinner because the likelihood of burning that off as fuel is nil and you’ll go to bed and even a whole wheat dinner will be converted to fat.
MM: What about dairy foods?
SS: If you’re lactose intolerant, then cheese as a snack, wouldn’t work for you. Have a piece of fruit, not a lot of fruit. Fruit is recognized by the body as sugar. What you are trying to do, if you are thick through the middle, is take care of the elevated insulin levels and the only way you can do that is by emptying those cells of sugar. While you are losing weight or while you want your cholesterol to go down, cut out all sugar and fruit, although it has it’s benefits and should be eaten in moderation.
MM:What’s your exercise regimen?
SS: I’m 5'5" and weigh 116 lbs. I exercise moderately, 3 times a week with my son in law, who is Mr. France. He comes over for 35 minutes, 3 times a week; he’s not fanatical at all. In the good weather, my husband, Alan and I hike a lot and we have a tandem bike that we ride up and down the beach. I just don’t believe that bodies were meant to have to work out 2 or 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. You have to do a little something everyday. Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
MM: What is the connection between food and sex?
SS: When you feel good about yourself, and your body image, you feel sexier. There is no doubt about that. When you’re eating right and have the right nutrients, you have a lot more energy. Eating this way keeps you hormonally balanced. I don’t mean it replaces hormones, but it keeps your chemicals balanced because you’re getting the proper nutrients, which, in turn, is great for the libido.
MM: You’re 52, looking as delicious as those desserts you show us in your book. What’s your secret?
SS: I don’t know why we’re programmed as women to start thinking that 50 is when we start coming down the other side of the hill. I find I came up to the top of the hill and all I see is another big hill. I have taken a deep, fearless moral inventory of myself, looking at the part that I have played in the drama of my life. How did I contribute? It’s not that there was anything I could do about growing up with a violent alcoholic father, but I could do something about the way I responded to it. When you are a child it is impossible to understand that, but as an adult you realize what you’ve taken out of that childhood, both good and bad, keeping what you like, and start correcting the things that were negative. I really needed to get to the bottom of that, and find forgiveness for this horrible disease, alcoholism, that took so much from me, my father and my family. In doing that, this process changed me as a person. It lightened me. I was filled with the overwhelming feeling that the worst was over and that I had survived, so from here on in, the worst that could happen to me was to take risk and fail. I also now know that I can survive failure and that made going after all the things that I wanted in my life pretty easy. I sit here at 52, the halfway mark in my life, and I feel good about myself. I feel proud about my accomplishments on a personal level. The professional part is icing. I explored in depth that period of time when fame first came to me and I became my accomplishment. When my TV show Three’s Company was ripped out from under me, it felt like, in my own eyes, I was nothing. That’s when depression came, for almost a year, after being fired for doing nothing more than asking for a raise and asking to be paid what men in the industry were being paid. Who would have thought that Chrissy Snow was the first feminist, but I was the first one on television to take that stand. About a year into my depression, I couldn’t get a job in television. I sat there and I said to myself, “There are two ways you can look at this, Suzanne. You can continue to be a victim once again and look at what you don’t have or I can look at what I do have,” which is what I chose to do. What I had was enormous fame and visibility, even though it had a disastrous end. That is when I decided to reinvent myself. Alan went to Las Vegas and sold me as a nightclub act. That was a new beginning. I’ve been on a long personal journey. I have the perspective today to make sense of all of it. I feel real peaceful and serene and best of all, this wisdom thing starts coming at this age.