Most Valuable Motivator: Daphne Oz

Featured Article, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on June 7, 2013

Claim to fame: Daphne Oz is a healthy living expert who co-hosts ABC-TV daytime talk show The Chew. She is the eldest child of Dr. Mehmet Oz. While studying at Princeton, Daphne wrote The Dorm Room Diet, which became a bestseller, and the companion Dorm Room Diet Planner. Her latest book, Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style and Everything Fun is also a bestseller. Daphne has a chef’s degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Health philosophy: Practice “healthy indulgences.” Daphne says she always adds a bit of indulgence to her meals and recipes—a well-cooked steak on top of a salad, or a fancy dessert split with her husband. “The knowledge that you were able to eat what you wanted, but you’re not relying on that as the substance of your meal, is what will keep you from overeating,” she says. “Long-term it’s about what you do most of the time—and it’s not about deprivation.”

RELATED: One-on-One With “The Chew”‘s Carla Hall

Workout routine: One hour of cardio (running or Spinning) 3 times a week, yoga twice a week, plus walking everywhere. “I also developed a 10-minute workout routine that I can do every morning,” she says. “It’s basically jumping rope interspersed with lunges, sit-ups and push-ups. It sets your day off on the right foot!”

Favorite healthy meals: Veggie bean chili, or fresh fish with homemade salsa on top and brown rice or quinoa

Favorite healthy snacks: Mashed avocado on toast, hummus and veggies, olives, almonds. “I’ll also snack on a small Greek salad—a few cucumber rounds, cherry tomatoes and a crumble of feta cheese with homemade vinaigrette.”

Secret weapon: Daphne has a “two-bite rule” for the food they cook and eat on The Chew—she never cleans her plate! “I never have to say no, but I also don’t have to feel guilty—which is the best of both worlds!” she says.

Five Minutes With Daphne Oz

Spry: You typically tape two episodes of The Chew in one day. Does that throw a wrench in your healthy living plans?

DO: Yes, certainly getting up that early, the only thing you want to eat is a bagel and cream cheese, you know? I gained 15 pounds during the first season, because you put a free plate of Mario Batali pasta in front of me and what am I going to do? Put it back? But this season, I’ve been pretty good about sticking to my two-bite rule. So I’m not eating eight full meals again.

Spry: Are you still a vegetarian?

DO: No, I grew up vegetarian, but I stopped in college because it was too challenging for me to eat no animal protein and still meet my basic nutritional needs. I didn’t feel like eating white rice and pasta, which were usually the vegetarian options in the dining hall. Now I eat meat in moderation, and as a treat or a side dish. I’ll add a little bacon to a dish to add a ton of flavor. But I’m not using a whole slab and I’m not having it be the featured item—it’s more of a sprinkle on top than a main dish.

Spry: In your book, you talk about losing 30 pounds in college. What was the first step you took?

DO: I hit 180 pounds when I was 17, and people are shocked to hear that because they assume that when Dr. Oz is your dad you could never have a weight issue. It’s funny because anyone who has ever struggled with their weight will tell you, and you probably know this yourself, it has nothing to do with information and everything to do with emotion. So when I was young and trying to lose weight, I realized that I’d equated food with love and bonding and celebration. Because I would come home from school and cook with my mom and we would create these gorgeous meals together. We would all sit down and enjoy these dinners together. It was a family experience and I didn’t want to give that up, which is why food was such a central player in my life.

What I had to commit to was not making any food taboo, not getting away from all the fat diets because they don’t work—as soon as I say they are a taboo, it’s the only thing I’m thinking about. As soon as I recalibrated that relationship with food, I was able to lose the weight and I did it in a permanent and very healthy and gradual way. It probably took me maybe a year or two to lose the 30 pounds but I haven’t gained them back, and it’s 8 years later now.

Spry: What kind of healthy habits did your dad instill in you?

DO: My dad really has always led by example. He’s lucky in that he really doesn’t have a sweet tooth or cravings like I do. He loves ice cream and ribs and certain indulgent foods. But he’s not going to go out and order ribs off the fast food menu and he’s not going to eat ice cream out of a container that has freezer burn on it that has been in the fridge for two months. He’s going to wait and really get into a dish that’s perfect, like specially prepared on the menu or a special experience. And I think learning how to say no to things so that you can say yes to other things is totally a testament to him.

Spry: Your book includes a lot of lifestyle advice in addition to recipes. Why did you want to approach it that way instead of doing a more traditional cookbook?

DO: The idea for me was to create a fun life—to fill my life with fun. And for me that began with food, but then I found that I could take that attitude about food—the idea of balance—and apply it to my style, my home and my wardrobe, to my career and to my relationships. And what’s so cool about Relish—and the reason I was partly so nervous and partly so excited that people had been responding to it so well—is that it’s such an intensely personal book. Every piece of information is something that I gathered around The Chew table or around the dinner table, and through my own successes and failures. I put it through my own personal filter, and only the things that have really worked for me are the tips and tricks that I included in Relish. I think the idea really is that we all are already doing a lot of things right, and creating a better life for yourself doesn’t need to be a struggle. It’s not about getting rid of everything and starting from scratch. Because for a long time that was my biggest problem—I didn’t want to start any new project until I felt like I could do the entire thing. You know, I wouldn’t decorate my home until I felt like I had every single piece of furniture that I wanted. If you wait for that, you’ll live in a white box apartment like I did for years. The idea is about doing what you can do now, looking for small meaningful ways to make improvements, maximizing this moment and not waiting for “real life” to start without making any meaningful changes that will get you to the life you envision for yourself.

RELATED: Dr. Oz Answers Top Health Questions

Spry: I think that does often apply to people wanting to lose weight, who think,  “Well, after I lose 20 pounds or 50 pounds, then I can do this.”

DO: It’s about enjoying the journey as much as the destination. Because we’re so used to thinking of things in black and white. So things are either healthy or not healthy, you’re either fat or your thin, you’re either happy or unhappy. There has to be a gradient, and you have to be happy and comfortable and excited about that progress and that transition and not just down on yourself all the time. So if your goal is to lose 20 pounds, reward yourself after 5 pounds. Make it worth your while to go the extra step.

Spry: Let’s talk a little bit about The Chew. Do you have a favorite show or most memorable guest?

DO: We had Hugh Jackman on in the first season and he was this big Hollywood star and we were all sort of star struck. He came in and he was the most insanely wonderful gentleman I’ve ever met, but also like incredibly talented. You know how sometimes you worry that people aren’t what they seem or their skills are being exaggerated? He could dance. He could sing. He could cook. But it also opened my eyes to the fact that celebrities can be cool normal people just like us.

Spry: It must be funny to be cooking with celebrities, because you don’t see them in that capacity.

DO: Yes! That’s the beauty of our show is that, on one hand you take people out of their comfort zone, because they’re not doing the same media spiel that they have been doing for everyone else’s shows. But they are also in a comfort zone because around food people just loosen up. They get happy, comfortable, they’re eating, they’re talking, they’re enjoying new food and learning something. So you get to see a side of a celebrity that you may never have seen before.

Spry: We interviewed Carla Hall last year and she mentioned how many healthy cooking tricks she’d learned from you. Is there anything you’ve learned from her?

DO: Carla is my big sister on the show! She said to me something that just stuck to me for so many reasons: that she finally became the woman she wanted to be and had been pretending to be when she hit 40. I think that was so powerful. And she has more energy than anyone I know—she’s such a kid at heart. I read a quote recently that said something like, age is just a number and you only get old when you stop being excited about living life. Carla is such a testament to that: Be happy, be here in this moment, love every minute of it and learn from it.

Spry: Have you ever felt pressure to succeed because of who your dad is?

DO: No, I think every child feels like they have to succeed and wants to make their parents proud. What my parents want for me is to be happy and to feel fulfilled and feel valuable like I’m contributing something important and meaningful and that I’m helping people. I’m so lucky to be doing it in a way that is very true to me.