After 37 years of teaching audiences how to cook, camp and craft, Dian Thomas’ latest innovation is reinventing herself. Her 125-pound weight loss is described in her new book, Tipping the Scales in Your Favor: Small Steps That Make a Big Difference in Your Health, Weight and Happiness. Along with help from a wellness coach, the woman who Tom Brokaw once called the “First Lady of Creativity” used her ingenuity to lose weight for good.
Dian weighed a healthy 170 pounds in 1975, the year she laughingly instructed Johnny Carson how to start a fire with flashlight batteries and steel wool and how to fry eggs in a paper sack. Her 16-minute Tonight Show appearance helped her camping classic, Roughing It Easy, soar to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. Along with an eight-year gig as a Today Show regular, her success generated a fast-paced lifestyle as a Kraft Foods and Procter and Gamble spokesperson who was invited to many dinners, lunches and parties. She was on the road up to 300 days a year. “I was frequently invited on food editors’ trips that included opportunities to feast on the most incredible delicacies,” Dian says. “I didn’t want to miss a bite.”
By 2003, Dian tipped the scales at 326 pounds. “My knees hurt so much that I began using a walker to get around the house,” she says. “Fitting in a regular airplane seat was a huge challenge.” As a disciplined, hard-working person, she lamented how she let her body get in such shape. “I decided that more than all the delicious food I encountered daily, I wanted my health back.”
With a lot of resourcefulness—and patience—she succeeded. Her skills in the kitchen certainly helped. “Because I portioned and prepped most of my food in advance, I could make a meal in less than 15 minutes, less time than it takes to drive to a fast-food restaurant and order at the drive-through,” she says. Innovative dishes, such as a cottage cheese sundae topped with three different fruits, helped reduce her craving for sweets. In six years, Dian lost 125 pounds.
Today, Dian enjoys the results of her weight loss success—feeling and looking better, and having lots more energy. In one week, she completed a 480-mile bike expedition across Iowa, riding 100 miles in a day. She fits just fine in an airplane seat when flying to China to lead tours. Her wellness coach, Jackie Keller, is thrilled with Thomas’ success. “Dian has evolved into a different person. She doesn’t feel deprived at all,” she says. “It’s such a joy to work with her, because you see a new person who transformed herself in more ways than just physically.”
During her journey, Dian discovered these secret weapons that helped her curb calories while continuing to enjoy delicious food.
2. Ultra Gel.This instant corn-based starch thickens liquids without cooking. It gives homemade salad dressings body without adding many calories and transforms fat-free broths into deliciously “legal” soups and sauces (http://www.cornabys.com).
3. Miracle Whip Fat Free Dressing.If you like the flavor of Miracle Whip, you will like this product. There are only 15 calories in one tablespoon. Dian uses it mainly to moisten egg salad and salmon for sandwiches.
4. Newman’s Own Lighten Up Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing.With only 35 calories in two tablespoons, this dressing adds flavor and zing to salads and vegetables. Some salad dressings contain as many as 150 calories for the same amount. “When I eat out, I often take this dressing with me in a small bottle,” Dian says. ”It does have a lot of sodium, so I watch my portion size.”
5. Smart Balance Light.This light spread is a flavorful blend of oils, including olive oil and flaxseed oil. It contains 50 calories per tablespoon, compared with 120 calories in butter and margarine.
6. 8thContinent Soy Milk Light Vanilla.At 60 calories per cup, the flavor of this milk is even better than skim milk, which is 100 calories.
7. Ezekiel 4:9 Cereal. A half-cup portion of this whole-grain blend provides a complete protein, which you don’t get when you eat one-grain cereals. “It is very filling and I rarely feel hungry an hour after I have eaten it.” (http://www.foodforlife.com/product-catalog/ezekiel-49/cereals/255C6-Whole-Grain-Flourless-Cereal-Original)
8. Canned Salmon. Canned salmon makes a wonderful quick and easy sandwich spread, which Dian takes as a traveling lunch. Since airlines provide few food options on flights, this sandwich, with a few fresh vegetables, makes a perfect portable lunch.
9. Cornaby 10-Calorie Spreadable Fruit. This fruit spread tastes delicious on whole wheat toast or stirred into unflavored yogurt. It is sugar free and contains about 85 percent fruit, while traditional jams are 65 percent sugar. “With only 10 calories per tablespoon and lots of fresh flavors, I can afford to splurge,” says Dian.