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Friday, January 5

Interview with Ellie Krieger

Ellie Krieger, host of the Food Network's Healthy Appetite, spoke with me about her new Food Network special 10 Days to a New You, airing this Saturday, January 6 at 9 pm/8 CST.

It follows the lives of three people battling various kinds of weight and health issues that typically affect most busy Americans. Over the course of 10 days, Ellie developed specific "action plans" for each of the participants and monitored them closely. Although the special covers their first 10 days on the plan, Ellie continued to check in with the participants after they were done taping. When 30 days had passed, Ellie was "amazed" at how well they were all still doing.

Me: Whose idea was it to do this special?

Ellie: It was essentially [the Food Network's] idea and they came to me with it, but the show itself was mostly unscripted and spontaneous. I spent 10 years doing private nutrition counseling, so they relied on my background and philosophy.

Me: Can you describe the process of filming this special? How much time did you see the three participants?

Ellie: I followed each of them closely for 10 days. The attempt was not to completely change yourself in 10 days—more like an accelerated running start. It was neat to be able to follow up after 30 days because I knew change would happen, but I was really amazed at how profound they all changed. It was beyond what I could have hoped for.

The producers found the three participants: John, who works 60 to 80 hours a week and lost 40 pounds a few years ago and has since put them, and more, back on; Angel, who says she has been either dieting or binging for nearly her whole life; and Jackie, a two-time breast cancer survivor and working mother of two who found solace in pasta when going through chemotherapy.

Ellie was given a complete profile of each individual with nutrition and medical questionnaires before the series began—much like the ones she worked with while doing private counseling.

Ellie: I was able to pinpoint some things I thought were happening [in the participants' lives]. When we met on day one, I developed specific "action plans" for each of them.

Throughout the process Ellie met with the participants to check in on their progress, but also assisted them through calls and e-mails. During these conversations, Ellie would give them additional tips and troubleshoot problems, while also presenting them with additional challenges to see how they would cope.

Me: This special is airing right when many of us are just starting (or already giving up) our New Year’s resolutions. Why do you think, when it comes to food and being healthy, it’s so hard for people to stick with them?

Ellie: It’s so many things and it's different for everybody. One is the whole diet mentality. We set ourselves up to believe we’re either doing well or not— this whole sense of deprivation or splurge. What I try to lead people toward is a middle path where we're constantly enjoying food and loving it in a healthy way. Never really dieting.

So much of the pressure is from our environment. We're constantly bombarded with food in our face at all times. We're pressured to eat!

Ellie references Yale professor Kelly D. Brownell's theory of a "toxic food environment" when referring to this pressure, which describes the unparalleled exposure to unhealthy, inexpensive, easily-available, supersized food.

That's why having a show like Healthy Appetite on the Food Network is so important. While we love to watch Ina and Paula throw an extra stick or three of butter into their cake, cookie or coffee recipe, you can't really eat like that every day. At least you shouldn't be!

Me: One of my favorite parts of your show is when you take something we all love—like chocolate chip cookies or banana cream pie—and turn them into a dish that’s actually healthy. Are you constantly looking for new inspiration for these types of dishes?

Ellie: Definitely. I usually think, "What am I craving— something like 'I want a meatball hero'—and I figure out how to do that."

I also made sure to ask Ellie how someone sort of young like me who can't (or shouldn't) be going to Whole Foods everyday to pick up healthy (and expensive items) can stay healthy when the dollar menu at McDonald's is so tempting. Ellie told me to think like a peasant!

Ellie: Peasant food is some of the healthiest you can get. For a long time I was freelancing and had to be really careful with money. I would turn the air conditioning on for a half hour at a time! I still managed to eat really healthily. Rice, beans, fresh or frozen greens—food traditionally for peasants—is not expensive and doesn't have to come from a fancy store.

Me: Did you enjoy doing a special like this one?

Ellie: I loved doing [10 Days]. It shows a different side of me that you don't always get to see just by watching Healthy Appetite. It was hard work but so gratifying. I really hope we could do another special like it.

In terms of Healthy Appetite, Ellie told me she was "cooking away" right now on a third season! That show airs Saturdays at 1 pm/12 CST.

Me: I'm sure you gave a lot of tips over the 10 days, but is there one basic one you can give us to help us keep our resolutions?

Ellie: Set reasonable goals and make them specific. Don't just say "I'm going to eat better." If you currently only eat 2-3 portions of vegetables each day, say you will eat 4-5. Ask yourself, "Is this doable?" Think of the difficulty of your goal on a scale from 1 to 5. You don't want it to be too easy, and you don't want it to be impossible to accomplish. Try to put it in the 3-4 range.

Thank you so much to Ellie for speaking with me. Her new Food Network special 10 Days to a New You, airs this Saturday, January 6 at 9 pm/8 CST.

FYI: I wasn't able to record the interview. Ellie's responses are based on notes taken during the interview.




At 1/06/2007 2:08 AM , Anonymous Harry Martin said...

Congratulations on the interview -- hope there will be more in your future.


At 1/06/2007 8:34 AM , Blogger jrs said...

Thanks, Harry. And thanks for being such an avid reader!

At 1/07/2007 9:05 PM , Blogger Matt said...

What a great interview! I really enjoyed reading this and getting some insight on Ellie's show.



At 11/13/2011 10:13 AM , Anonymous sex life said...

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